The 8 best conference management tools

5 minute read

From an event calculator to conference management software, here’s our pick of the best conference management tools for associations and academics.

Conference management tools are indispensable when it comes to running a successful modern research event. From the complexities of abstract management to cross-checking whether hundreds of presenters have registered (and paid), conferences are tricky beasts to manage. So it makes sense that there’s lots of software out there to help you maximise your time and efforts.

If you’re someone who organises multiple events annually, conference management tools or software can help deliver the sort of thoughtfully planned events that will leave a big impact on your attendees. But even if you’ve only got one conference on your plate, the right tools can go a long way towards reducing your workload – and your stress levels too.

But finding the right tools to manage your conference can be a time-consuming process. If you’re not sure where to even begin, a conference planning guide can help you identify what you should be looking for.

Ex Ordo's Virtual Conference Platform

But we’ve sussed out the top conference management tools for academics and associations. Here’s our pick of the eight best ones out there that can help lighten your load. So whether you have one conference or ten in your diary for the year ahead, climb aboard…

1. PaperCrowd

Screengrab of homepage of PaperCrowd conference management tool showing conference search bar
PaperCrowd lets you promote your academic conference — and it’s free

When you’re planning an academic conference, one of the biggest issues you face is getting the word out. Emailing a traditional call for papers means competing with every other email in a researcher’s inbox (and researchers get sent a lot of emails). Yes, you can connect with your existing members through your newsletters, but in the age of increasing data privacy laws, reaching new audiences via email is becoming increasingly difficult.

Thankfully, academic and association event planners can avoid adding to inbox bloat by using PaperCrowd. PaperCrowd is a free research and academic conference directory that can help you get the word out about your conferences to more than your members. Adding your conference is free and, once it’s up there, researchers can find and follow your event.

PaperCrowd — the best conference management tool for promoting a conference.

2. Ex Ordo
Screengrab of Ex Ordo conference management tool showing dashboard and mobile schedule

Ex Ordo is custom-built for academic and association conferences

Single- or double-blind? One- or two-stage review? Topics or tracks? (Or both?) When you’re managing submissions for an academic conference it can feel like you’re facing an endless march of admin. This is where good conference management software can save you days of work.

Ex Ordo is your all-in-one abstract management software, conference programme, registration system and mobile conference app. And unlike a lot of conference management software, Ex Ordo’s abstract management isn’t an add-on, it’s the system’s core functionality.

So you can track reviews as they happen to spot which reviewers are falling behind, see which presenters have registered to attend (and which haven’t). And share accepted abstracts and sessions with delegates through the Ex Ordo mobile conference app. Not bad.

Ex Ordo — the best conference management tool for managing your association or academic conference.

3. Trello

Screengrab of Trello conference management tool showing complete and incomplete tasks
Trello gives you a visual overview of what needs doing

Between managing all the regular event tasks (like booking caterers) and the tasks required in building your technical programme (like creating a marking scheme), planning academic conferences takes a world of organisation. So it’s very useful to be able to glance at where your conference’s treasurer is on finalising the budget. Or see which venues your local chair has contacted for a quote.

A task management tool like Trello gives you a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on with your academic conferences. You can use Trello to create multiple boards to manage your entire list of conferences, manage all your to-dos from deciding conference programme themes to confirming keynote speakers or shortlisting conference management software suppliers. And Trello’s ability to mention other users and tick off tasks means you won’t waste time sending emails to your events or executive team when you could be getting real work done.

Trello — the best conference management tool for handling tasks.

4. Hootsuite

Screengrab of Hootsuite conference management tool showing tweets, mentions and followers
Hootsuite allows you to bring your social media conversations into one space

In a survey conducted at Canberra University, 83% of the academics surveyed said they use Twitter for their academic work. Twitter is a pretty good way of telling researchers about your conferences. And HootSuite is a pretty great way of managing your Twitter accounts. Whether you decide to have an individual account for each of your conferences or you promote your conferences from just one account, Hootsuite can help you get a handle on all your social media streams. 

HootSuite allows you to save time by scheduling your posts in advance and bringing all your conversations into one manageable space. So you can watch hashtags that relate to your conferences, and track mentions of your events. And you can use Hootsuite as an author or delegate support hub – a place to monitor conversations and answer questions about anything from submission deadlines to membership benefits

Hootsuite — the best conference management tool for your social media.

5. IFTTT

Screengrab of IFTTT conference management tool showing different connections to be made
IFTTT (pronounced to rhyme with “thrift”) cuts out repetitive conference tasks

IFTTT (aka If This Then That) gets your apps and devices talking to each other. It’s a great event planning tool for conference managers who find themselves spending time on repetitive tasks.

Academic conference planners can use the free tool to create chains of simple conditional statements known as “recipes”. These triggers set off corresponding tasks — so you don’t have to. For example, you could use IFTTT to do things like get a notification every time someone  Tweets your conference hashtag or email your committee meeting notes to a shared Google Drive folder. So get exploring and free up your time to work on other aspects of your conferences.

IFTTT — the best conference management tool for automating repetitive tasks.

Ex Ordos Virtual Conference Platform

6. Super Planner

Screengrab of Super Planner conference management tool showing room capacity and catering calculators
Super Planner helps you and your team do the catering maths

Do you know how many cloakroom staff and waiters you need for your conference banquet? Or how many bar staff you’d need at a small ice-breaker event for your senior members? It can be easy to misjudge numbers if you’re planning a new conference or you’ve decided to shake things at a long-standing event by adding interesting breakout sessions or networking events. 

Super Planner is an event calculator that combines tools like a catering calculator and staffing calculator in one handy app. Use this planning tool to help your academic events stay on budget, well stocked, and appropriately staffed.

Super Planner — the best conference management tool for crunching your numbers.

7. CamScanner

With CamScanner you can create PDFs on the fly

CamScanner transforms your phone into a scanner. This little app is incredibly useful when you’ve got contracts and receipts you need to turn into PDFs and send to suppliers or your organising committee, fast. And it’s especially useful if you’re managing a team of event planners and you’re the one responsible for reconciling expenses at the end of each month. 

CamScanner lets you capture documents by phone, remove busy backgrounds and generate high-res JPEGs or PDFs. This software helps you cut the clutter and stop worrying about keeping track of receipts and papers when managing your academic conferences.

CamScanner — the best conference management tool for generating PDFs on the fly.

Ex Ordo Online Conference Software

8. Guidebook

Screenshot showing the possibilities of Guidebook as a mobile conference planning tool

Guidebook lets you update your event programmes on the fly

Mobile conference apps have quickly become a core piece of software for managing modern conferences. You’d have to travel far and wide to find a serious association conference that isn’t considering using a mobile app. 

Guidebook’s aim is to make it simple to create and manage your mobile app. You can manage your conference’s mobile app from your phone and do handy things like update your programme on the fly when the usual last-minute changes crop up, and send instant notifications to delegates’ phones. Guidebook’s app also gives savvy conference managers an opportunity to earn some extra revenue too, by giving your sponsors in-app ads. 

While some of your members may prefer the traditional printed programme, more and more of our customers are opting for the greener option of only having a mobile app at their conferences.

GuideBook — the best conference management software for taking your event mobile.

Using conference planning tools to boost your productivity

Being a professional conference manager is one of those jobs you either love or you get the heck out of. The pathway to a successful conference can be a bumpy one with a lot of surprises. And even the most effortless-looking events take painstakingly intricate planning and thought.

So make sure you’ve got capable online conference software to help you manage your events and your team, and keep things on track.

Brian Campbell

Brian helps researchers find conferences on PaperCrowd. He enjoys entertaining his baby nephew, playing an insane amount of sport, and being wildly competitive at party games. (He’s a pass-the-parcel champion.) Previously, he worked as the admin of an international entrepreneurship research conference.