Building for Custom Event Management in Salesforce

Lab5
9 min readMar 29, 2021

While in-person event management hasn’t been happening much lately, over the next year we expect to see a return to regular programming. How can event and conference organizers use CRMs to step up their event management?

Even for the most organized person in the world, managing events is challenging. There’s so much to think about, from logistics to communication, to marketing and the actual event content. Then, for everything you’ve anticipated, there’s something else that pops up unexpectedly.

If you’re like our clients, you’ve cycled through countless tools meant to make the process easier. Stitching all of these tools together creates one big Frankenstein monster that doesn’t always do what you need. Wouldn’t it be simpler if there was one streamlined tool that managed every single part of the events process?

Clients kept coming to us with event management woes so we decided to do something about them. We built a custom event management tool on Salesforce.

When you’re already using Salesforce to manage your leads, customers, and opportunities — it makes sense to manage events there too. We put together the most common event management pain points that we’ve seen from clients, and how a custom Salesforce application was able to solve them. Then, we’ll tell you what you should think about before you move forward with your build.

Planning for a big event day (Photo credit: Unsplash / Campaign Creators)

You May Need Custom Event Management in Salesforce if…

A custom event management application in Salesforce can make managing events a lot easier. We’ve seen clients struggle with challenges in four main areas.

Logistics — How do you make sure your event space is ready for the event? From security to catering to facilities staff, there are many moving parts that need to align, and they’re usually time-sensitive. Plus, you may have a range of equipment coming into the space, from technical and A/V components to industrial kitchen tools and catering appliances.

Communication — How do you communicate with the right people at the right times? Your communications serve as the foundation of your entire event. Every event organizer’s worst nightmare is running an event where no one shows up. Every event organizer’s second-worst nightmare is running an event where a group of people get the wrong message and forget to show up / show up at the wrong time / go to the wrong place, etc. But with so many stakeholders, from staff to speakers to attendees, event communications are often more complicated than sending out the occasional email.

Marketing — Most event organizers don’t have a native place for event listings, so they use third-party platforms like Eventbrite or Splash or Eventzilla. These platforms are all perfectly decent, but they don’t allow for much customization. What if your event requires attendees to apply and be accepted only after their application is reviewed? What if you want to feature your logo or other partner logos prominently on the event listing? Marketing an event is more challenging when you’re unhappy with your customization capabilities.

Personalization — Every business is unique. You probably want to see your events info in the context of your leads, contacts, opportunities, etc. which means you’ll need to integrate any event management apps you use with your database. In doing so you might run into compatibility issues, certain apps might not be available in Salesforce’s AppExchange, or you might not have the resources on your team to build a custom integration if it’s needed. Ultimately, the time, effort, or cost of piecing together a bunch of different tools might not be worth it. Instead, it’s likely you’ll require some personalization that can tailor Salesforce to your business’ unique event management needs.

Meeting Your Event Needs in Salesforce

When you struggle with any (or all) of the above, it’s time to build a custom event application in Salesforce. When we have built event solutions for clients, we have tailored them to exactly what our clients needed.

Does this take more time than an app installation that you simply open up and start using? Yes. But clients ultimately favor the approach that solves their problems over a solution that doesn’t exactly work for their needs. Here’s how we’ve addressed their challenges using customized solutions:

Logistics

We built an event management app with features that help you manage event logistics. In doing so we focused on getting event staff in all roles (security, catering, cleaning, check-in) the information they need to make the event a success.

We gave the event manager the power to document all the requirements for the event. From setup of the room to security staff needed, in-house or external catering to AV requirements — and then, made sure that the folks in those roles only had access to the information they needed.

Using an integration with Google calendar, we were able to ensure that vendors and other teams could see this information without granting them access to the organization’s Salesforce database. For example, a security team might see Calendar entries for all the events happening in the space, the catering team could see the number of attendees and the catering needs. The AV team could see what equipment is needed for the event. But, any information about who is hosting, who is expected to attend, or personal identifiers can stay private. We’ve also been able to integrate with any internal ticketing systems different teams use to track logistics needs so events managers only need to input the needs in one place and we automatically create the right tickets for the right teams.

With our event management features we also tackled the challenge of checking in for an event. When the day of the event comes, most event managers are busy responding to last minute details. The last thing they want to worry about is ensuring a smooth check-in process.

That’s why we built a barcode reader integration with Salesforce. As an event happens, it turns phones into barcodes readers, so that each attendee has a QR code that can be checked against the reader. That software connects back to Salesforce, which can track attendees based on the QR code. Scanning these codes is quick and easy, preventing long queues at check-in.

We also built physical kiosks for event managers who did not want to rely on physical staff at check-in. When an attendee comes to the event space they stop at the kiosk, choose the event they are there for and check in. A ticket gets printed as their events pass and they are free to proceed to the event.

When it comes to events, there are two constants: the fast pace, and the multiple competing priorities. A Salesforce customization can tackle these constants by performing several functions simultaneously.

Communications

Each organization’s communication needs are unique. The right system can accommodate a very detailed communication schedule, style, and level of segmentation. Communication is often the thing that takes the most time, so it’s important to automate wherever possible.

When we built our event management app in Salesforce, we ensured that users could send out emails based on a variety of criteria and scenarios. For example, automated emails could be triggered to go out when a participant registers, their application is accepted, or they cancel their ticket to the event. Additionally, time-based emails can also be scheduled to ensure that reminders go out to the right people at the right time. Through custom email templates, our clients can build fully branded email templates with different merge tags, so that they never worry about a user’s name, an event time and date, or the correct room or location.

We also built custom functionality for feedback forms, with the option to pull in the right questions based on the event criteria to ensure you’re able to capture your event’s impact. If your event is a sales session for a particular software product, all feedback is tracked from the beginning of the event to the end. How well did a facilitator run the sales session? What did people get out of it? Are they learning? Are they likely to convert into customers? All this is at your fingertips making it easier to continue the relationship with prospects or customers and ultimately achieve your business goals.

With custom communications functionality, we have been able to turn a client’s event communications from a reactive scramble into a proactive, data-driven approach.

Stand out in a crowd (Photo credit: Unsplash / Clark. Tibbs)

Marketing

Marketing events is another area where our clients have craved efficiency. Rather than spending countless hours copying over event details to your native website CMS or a 3rd party event marketing platform, we built custom solutions to automate this data transfer so events data was always up to date.

For clients with a website with an events listing, we built an integration that passes through all the right event details prospective attendees need. Event managers can tailor exactly what is seen by their audience directly in Salesforce and that is immediately available on their website. Do you have to make a last minute schedule change to your event? No problem. Any changes are immediately passed through the integration. Attendees are also able to access the registration link directly from the website so they can sign up and that data is immediately available in Salesforce.

For clients without an events listing on their website, we created the ability to generate custom events landing pages directly from your event in Salesforce using public Salesforce Community pages. With immediately up to date event details like event name, description, map coordinates, etc.,, your own branding and custom imagery for each event, and embedded forms that are integrated with your Salesforce event, you immediately have a public website to send your prospective attendees to for more information on your event. This way you can still publish the landing page link on any 3rd party events management sites to get more exposure, or on your native website while maintaining a custom branded, always up to date website for your event.

Event managers don’t need to waste time transcribing information from one place to the next. With a custom Salesforce application, all participant data is captured and sent back to Salesforce.

Taking The Next Steps

If you think you want to address your event management pain points through Salesforce, there’s a lot to plan before you take action. It helps to map out all of your event management needs. Thinking through the following checklist can definitely help:

Logistics — how does a room get set up? What does cleanup entail? What needs to be moved around? What needs to be installed? What are the event requirements and how will you communicate it to everyone that needs to know?

Vendors — is there catering? Do you have temporary event staff onsite and what directions will they need to make the event a success?

Equipment — from livestreams to audio to visual displays to seating — what equipment do you need?

Communication — how will you communicate with event stakeholders? With attendees? How will you follow up?

Sponsors and Speakers — who are your partners? Who are your VIPs? How will you make sure they feel supported all the way through?

Registration and Ticketing — is there a custom registration and application process needed? Do you have templates with standard form-fills, or is customization required? What happens when there is a waitlist? How do you track attendees?

Levels of Access — from logistics people to vendors to event managers to security, how do you ensure that everyone can access the information they need to do their jobs? What information should remain private?

Feedback — How do you evaluate your event? What does success look like and what questions do you need to ask and to whom to measure success?

Ultimately, optimizing your events management comes down to one thing: how should you be using your valuable resources? Where are you spending the most time and money? What is working well, and what needs to be improved in order to free up time and money?

If you’re interested in building out a custom event management platform in Salesforce, ask someone who has already done it. We’d be glad to answer your questions and tell you more.

Get in touch.

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Lab5

Lab5 works with companies around the world to make their CRM programs successful and their employees’ jobs easier.