Event Management 101: URI Simplifies Planning

Planning and managing large events is a complex and challenging task. Scheduling sessions, preparing brochures, overseeing registrations and payments, and addressing myriad other tasks can overwhelm even the most sophisticated organization. At the University of Rhode Island (URI), which hosts major conferences, symposiums and meetings, a staff of five must process a steady stream of registrants and hundreds of thousands of transactions. “There is a huge demand on staff and resources,” said Joseph Pittle, director of conferences and special program development at URI.

As a result, the university has turned to specialized software, RegOnline by Lanyon, to address the complexities and nuances of overseeing various sessions, participants and attendees. The software application ties together an array of discreet tasks, including event planning, marketing, managing data and measuring results. Pittle said that the system makes it possible to produce a functional site with full registration capabilities within a few hours. “It has introduced a level of performance, flexibility and oversight that did not exist in the past. It also has produced enormous cost benefits.” Overall, the application saves the university about $45,000 a year.

In the past, manual processes bogged down workflow and introduced huge obstacles. “Event planning was an arduous, cumbersome and labor-intensive process,” Pittle said. Now, at any given moment, staff can see how many people have registered for an event and what stage of the registration or payment process they are at. “One of the biggest challenges of event planning is managing all the variables,” he explained. “When you are dealing with a hotel environment that works out to around $250 per person for food and beverage, you can’t go out on a limb.” The system automatically generates e-mails that let registrants know deadlines a few days before they occur and lets staff book meals and other amenities more precisely.

URI has also realized other benefits. “Today, the registration process ties into call-for-proposals or abstracts directly at the site where people register for the event. Reviewers receive a link and they can see the abstracts in real time from anywhere in the world.” This eliminates manual and disjointed processes that in the past led to errors, problems and enormous workloads, Pittle noted. Event planners can view reports and snapshots that display key insights and trends.

“We’re able to view every variable in real time and understand what sessions people will attend, whether they are paying by credit card or check and tune into other factors. This makes it easier to allocate the appropriate resources.”

URI has built in a mobile component. Staff can use iPads and iPhones to check in attendees or view information, he noted. In addition, they are able to access reports and data while at events. In fact, Pittle said that the university now uses the RegOnline software to manage all internal and external events, including those beyond the direct scope of the event planning team.

“We are able to engage the community and have complete confidence that we are creating highly satisfied customers while accomplishing our goals,” he said.


Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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