Years ago, CPAs began adopting technology to streamline their practices and improve communication with clients. Today, they are turning to technology to launch effective in-person gatherings for staff, clients, prospective clients, referral sources, and other influencers.
We have entered the age of sponsored group meetings: seminars, forums, workshops, lunch and learns, etc. The underlying commonality is that firms are organizing and promoting in-person group events for loyalty building and general marketing purposes. How the event is announced and marketed, how attendees are invited, the registration process, and the general "feel" of the affair are all as important as the event's content. Here are a couple platforms to consider when you decide to jump into the in-person event pond.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Eventbrite is an event-registration platform where you "create" an event, including the name, purpose, venue, date and time, FAQs, etc. Events can be public, private, or private and not searchable, accessible only by direct invite. The platform then spawns an event page that allows attendee registration, attendance tracking, etc. The registration process can gather as much information as you choose. The platform will handle all the details.
Events that are free for attendees also are free for the organizer. When tickets are sold for a fee, Eventbrite collects a percentage. If the tickets are sold, registrants can pay via credit card or PayPal, for which Eventbrite charges handling fees. Tickets can be offered at a discount for early registration, group registrations, etc. You also can track the registrations and payments, and issue refunds. You can promote the event through social media, send out invitations, and choose to make it searchable via most search engines.
This platform focuses on the invitation's appearance rather than details about the event. Simple, no-frills invites are free while more elegant designs are available for purchase. As with most web platforms, users create an account and begin the design process. Search for a design by theme, style, color, etc. The platform includes hundreds of choices. The interface walks you through each choice step-by-step.
Many cards are free, but you must pay for the premium designs and options such as the background or envelope. Paperless Post uses a "coin" system in which you buy coins in packages. The more you buy, the cheaper they are — from 25 coins for $10 to 1,000 coins for $100. As you design your card, the system reports the per-recipient cost in coins. When you're satisfied with the design and the related cost, you enter the guest list with email addresses. Paperless Post will even print and mail physical cards via a partnership with a third party.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While Eventbrite and Paperless Post are both solid offerings, they excel at different things. If your event is by "open invitation," you don't know exactly whom to invite and you're counting on social media and a microsite, or if you're charging an admission fee, then Eventbrite is your choice. If you know whom you'll be inviting and an elegant look is important to you, then Paperless Post is probably best.
Greg LaFollette, CPA/CITP, CGMA, is a strategic adviser with CPA.com, the commercial subsidiary of the AICPA. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Jeff Drew, a JofA senior editor, at Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com or 919-402-4056.