Event management software can potentially make an event planner’s job more efficient. But when the right software doesn’t exist, planners are left to fend for themselves, often lacking solutions. In July, we discussed this exact issue in the episode, Why is there no good event software? Will and Brandt discussed what features the industry desperately needs and how companies can offer solutions. Two of the most important missing features included tools for budgeting and understanding profit margins.
In this episode of the Event Tech Podcast, Will and Brandt welcome a special guest who brings a new and inexpensive solution to event management software, Rob Vaas. Rob is a co-founder and director of a new software company called Joi, a planning and scheduling software with unique features, including budgeting solutions that might be just what the industry needs.
What Does Joi Bring to Event Management
Prompted by Will, Rob starts today’s conversation by sharing his background and what led him to co-found Joi. “I started in discos and lighting in London,” he says. “I ended up in corporate events running an agency from Australia that was creating events all over Asia. While running that agency, I was frustrated by how much time I spent planning, basically stuffing data into spreadsheets. And that led to the genesis of Joi.”
Pivoting to what Joi can offer event planners, Will asks where the event management software is today. “What features does Joi have right now?”
“When looking at event planning software, you’re looking at something that will help you deliver a better event,” explains Rob. “So the features we built into the software are really to help people not miss anything in the process. The other thing that frustrated me was that existing software didn’t integrate your program or agenda into the actual run schedule. Every time there was a change in the program, you had to update documents manually. Having those programs and agendas sent with the schedule takes a lot of the painful stuff away.”
Brandt emphasizes the rarity and importance of scheduling features like this. Planners often need software they can use in the beginning stages of event planning, not just when a schedule is finalized and polished. “This is one of those surprisingly rare features. I’ve seen some online platforms that want you to fill things out thoroughly. Whereas, sometimes, I just want to say, ‘I know we’re going to have a keynote here and a panel there.’ With Joi, can you rough things out in the early days of your schedule and then go back?”
Rob says you can do precisely that. “It’s brilliant for that because it’s all drag and drop. Typically, you have an event with multiple sessions. People start planning by listing all the sessions, and as you work out your event, you organically say, ‘I’m going to have that happen in that room…actually, no. I want it happening over there.’ And it takes two seconds to change. When you’re happy with it, you send the speaker a link, and they can fill in their session details, their bio, all that stuff, which feeds into the published program and your schedule.”
The Future of Integrations for Joi
In July, Will suggested that existing tools can use open API to give users more functionality customized to their specific needs. While Joi doesn’t currently offer an open API, it does boast a certain flexibility with integrations, according to Rob. “We don’t have an open API, but we work with people if they contact us and want an integration,” says Rob. “By nature, tools are easy to integrate.”
For Will, custom integrations can make a huge difference in event management software. “It’s all great to have software you build a million plans in, but it only helps you save time if it bridges that to the execution portion,” explains Will. “You can build a beautiful agenda that drags and drops, but if Joi can’t take that and throw it into the right integration, you end up doing copy and paste work anyways. You end up having that dual location data issue, and that’s why custom integration with software could be huge.”
Rob agrees. “Absolutely, and we definitely want to get there. We’re really sensitive to making things as easy as possible for people. Similar to integrations, you can embed Joi’s program or agenda into your event website. Then when you update Joi, hit a button, and you update your website too. Those things, where you don’t need any technical ability whatsoever, just make it as easy as possible.”
“You can also download your agenda in CSV,” continues Rob. That covers some people’s needs. “But some event management platforms don’t even take a CSV file, so you have to work around those.”
Joi’s Budgeting Tool
Next, Will moves to the budgeting tool Joi has lined up for release in the near future. “Workflow Max does something that a lot of tools don’t,” says Will. “I can input costs in terms of time, vendor expenses, and flights. Based on the revenue coming in, it can spit out the ultimate profit margin for that event. This is important because I need to make sure I have healthy margins. What’s your philosophy on this? And what pain points have you seen around budgeting for events?”
To answer this, Rob covers four important features of Joi.
- Cost and revenue pages
- Multipliers in budgeting calculations
- Built-in communication with suppliers and the ability to adjust quotes
- Cash flow representation
“The basic principles we took were, one, you need a cost and revenue page in your budget,” explains Rob. “On the cost page, you have every cost you can think of. The revenue page might be similar or entirely different depending on your relationship with the client and how you quote them. When you put anything in, you can put it as an estimate or an actual. Not only will you get the profit margin on the summary page, but you’ll see what percentage of that is actual versus estimate.”
The second major component is multipliers. “Many people who’ve looked at budgeting tools can’t use it because they don’t have the second multiplier,” continues Rob. “For example, you have a technical producer on site for three days. You know it’s $3,000 per day, for three days, with a quantity of one. You need that multiplier. That was a fundamental thing to get into the software.”
Similar to sending speakers a link to put in their info, vendors can also receive a link. “They fill in a summary of their quote in the link, and you can link that to your cost page. If it changes, they can update that link, you’ll get a notification the info has changed, and you can accept the updates, automatically updating your cost page. You can then link that to your revenue page.”
And finally, cash flow. This is especially important for large events managing large budgets or a lot of vendors. “When your vendor gives you a quote, they also put in their payment dates, feeding through to your cash flow for the event,” says Rob. “When you look at the summary, not only do you see the dollars you’re making on your event, you see when you pay out and when you’re getting money from your client.”
Why Aren’t More Companies Creating in This Space?
As Will wraps up the episode, he asks Rob one final question. “You mentioned earlier that one of the reasons event management software has been picked on is because people fall into their habits of doing things. Is there a reason why you think companies aren’t building this too?”
For Rob, the answer is easy. “One, people spend money on the customer-facing side of things, and we’re not so customer-facing,” Rob responds. “Two, making an event planning tool that can work on any event and is intuitive is hard.”
And that wraps up this episode. Both Will and Brandt think Joi is shaping up to be an incredible tool. If you’d like to try it, check out the free 30-day trial! Even if 30 days isn’t long enough for you, the $20 monthly plan allows for up to 5 active events, giving you a low-cost way to continue testing the software.
“And audience, remember, we really do read our emails. We take audience feedback seriously. Next time Will goes on a rant, contact us and let us know your thoughts! Tell us what Will is wrong about,” concludes Brandt. We’ll see you here next time for another episode of the Event Tech podcast.