Thursday, August 11, 2011
We're about a week away from Biz2Beach, CallFire's first executive networking conference, and frankly, it's overtaken my life. I go to bed still thinking about invitation lists, to-do's, and logistics. It's given me a new appreciation for wedding planners, event coordinators, hotel staff, and producers. In the process of organizing an event like Biz2Beach, tools that help to streamline event planning become indispensable. Some of tools we've been using include
  • Eventbrite - for ticket registration and payment processing. PROS: Easy to use, with a lot of nice features like discount codes, ability to set different ticket tiers and early bird dates, and email functions. Free to use if your event is free. CONS: Among the more expensive ticket platforms if your event is not free, some attendees reported difficulty in registering and paying (which makes me nervous that some people may show up and I don't know they're coming), and some features I would actually like to use (like printing a check-in list of attendees or printing name badges) are buggy.
  • MailChimp - for email promotion and communication. PROS: Integrates with Eventbrite and gives you more flexibility than the basic email functions in Eventbrite, ability to create groups and segment lists has been awesome for me. Nice UI and free up to 2,000 contacts. CONS: I wish there was a plugin or something that allowed me to instantly move someone from a status like "Invited" to "Confirmed attending" when they RSVP'd. Right now I do that manually. Also, just as an aside, it was a pain to get our account approved to use MailChimp because our initial list of email addresses was so large.
  • Google Forms - for collecting info on people who were interested in attending. PROS: Free and simple to use. CONS: Not enough flexibility in the design/layout of the form itself, and sometimes I had to re-copy and paste the same embed code whenever changes were made.
These tools are all very well known, so I won't take more time expounding on them. But what about CallFire as a tool for event planning? Turns out, there's a number of things that our own software can do to help make event planning easier.
  • Use the Cloud Call Center for personalized telephone outreach.

    For instance, we wanted to invite customers who have been most actively using our system. So we logged into our CRM system, exported a report based on certain parameters, and then uploaded the contact list into CallFire. For the invitees, getting a phone call from CallFire's CEO Dinesh is a much more personal touch than an email, even an individualized one. But the Cloud Call Center also made it easier on Dinesh's part to make the outreach more efficient. The autodialer meant that he didn't have to dial phone numbers by hand (potentially mis-dialing in the process), and he automatically skipped over any bad phone numbers or busy signals. You could also use the Cloud Call Center if you're contacting large lists of vendors, venues, or potential sponsors. Create a target list (an Excel spreadsheet or .csv), and include any relevant info that would be helpful as you make each call. For example, if you're calling potential venues, you could include a link to each venue's website so you can quickly access it as you're speaking to the contact. Then, if you need to ask a standard list of questions, create multiple-choice or open-answer questions. Once you've finished all your calls, you'll be able to sort through the answers you've collected more easily. An example multiple-choice question might look something like this:
    Multiple Choice Question
    To learn how to set up a virtual call center with CallFire, watch this video.
  • Use text messaging to send updates and reminders.

    This is especially helpful on the event day, when attendees, staff, and volunteers aren't in front of their computers or regularly checking email. This month, for instance, the largest bike ride in LA, Critical Mass, plans to use CallFire SMS to send riders notes like "We'll be leaving in 2 minutes" at the start of the ride. You can also include a link in your text message, such as maps or directions.
    Event Text Message
  • Create a simple IVR for quick RSVPs, follow-ups, or to confirm volunteer registration.

    This video will show you everything you need to know:
  • Other ideas for using CallFire for events? Throw'em in the comments! And don't just take my word for it....
    "My company has been using CallFire for a couple years now. We use the Voice Broadcast campaigns to announce upcoming events to previous customers and send reminders to registered attendees. At a recent trade show, I had an attendee approach me and say, 'Thanks for the phone call reminder - keep it up! I would have forgotten all about your event were it not for the call.'" - Carol Hill, On Time Media LLC
    "I LOVE CALLFIRE!! My customers do too! Our dealership holds an event every Saturday and we utilize CallFire to get the word out! Customers personally thank us for giving them a call notifying them of upcoming events and specials. I have also saved a ton of money by using CallFire in place of my direct mail pieces. Great product!" - Erika Harris, Adventure Harley-Davidson
    "CallFire was the fastest and cheapest way to get the word out about special events at our retail store. I love it and refer my friends." - Aliki Gable, Aliki Yamani Creations