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.

It’s been a chaotic year for conference organisers. And whether you’re planning a physical, virtual, or hybrid event, you’ll want a way to make the process more efficient. From the complexities of abstract management to cross-checking whether your presenters have registered (and paid), academic conferences are tricky beasts to handle. So, it follows that there’d be heaps of conference management tools out there to help you make the most of your time.

Ad that links to Ex Ordo (2) main page

Finding the right tools to plan your conference can be a complicated process. To help, we’ve sussed out the top conference management tools for academics and associations. So, whether you have one event or ten to plan this calendar year, climb aboard…

 

1. Eventbrite

Eventbrite makes event ticketing easy

Eventbrite is one of the world’s most renowned ticketing platforms. They work with all types of events, ranging from music festivals and pop-up events to academic conferences. As the return to in-person events occurs, ticketing is an issue on many conference managers’ minds. 

Some conference management tools have a connected registration platform added on. But Eventbrite is a great choice if you are organising a small conference with low-cost (or free) entry. While it is not connected to other tools, it does give you a centralised place to send delegates to register. It’s also great for finding new audiences by targeting attendees who have registered for similar events. 

Eventbrite —the best conference management tool for ticketing small academic conferences.

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? 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. In 2020, Ex Ordo even built an integrated virtual conference platform to support online events. Unlike a lot of conference management software, Ex Ordo’s abstract management isn’t simply an add-on, it’s the system’s core functionality. 

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 virtual platform or mobile 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 booking caterers, choosing your online event provider, and building your conference programme, planning academic conferences takes a world of organisation. Managing tasks on Trello makes it easy to glance at where your conference treasurer is on finalising the budget – or see which venues or virtual platforms your local chair has contacted for a quote.

Trello gives you a bird’s-eye view of what’s going on with your conference. You can create multiple boards to manage your entire list of conferences (including all your to-dos). 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. So, Twitter is a pretty great way to get your conference out to the research community. And Hootsuite is a pretty great way to manage your Twitter accounts. It allows you to save time by scheduling your posts in advance and bringing all your conversations into one manageable space. Watch hashtags that relate to your conferences, and track mentions of your events. You can even 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.

So, whether you decide to have an individual account for each of your conferences or promote your conferences from just one account, Hootsuite can help you get a handle on all your social media streams.

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.

Ad that links to Ex Ordo (2) main page

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 staff you’ll need to help your stage manager ensure delegates get the best experience on your virtual stages? It can be easy to misjudge numbers if you’re planning a new conference. Or maybe you’ve simply decided to shake things up at a long-standing event by adding unique breakout sessions or networking. 

Super Planner is a conference management tool that combines a catering calculator and a 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. It’s especially useful if you’re managing a team of event planners and are 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 it’s high time to 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 association and academic conferences. You’d have to look hard to find a conference planner that hasn’t considered using a mobile app for their event. 

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

While some of your members may prefer the traditional printed programme, many of them have spent a year getting used to a digital one. More and more event planners are going for the greener option of providing 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 organise your events and your team. With the right range of conference management tools, keeping things on track has never been easier.

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.