Eventware: A Roundup of Software for Event Planning

The recent EventTech conference underlined the burgeoning event and conference planning industry, illustrating how valuable and important this category is becoming.

Services such as Yahoo’s (s yhoo) Upcoming and Meetup and Facebook’s Events, coupled with a decentralized and grassroots meetup and “unconference” culture have led to an explosion of event invitations in our various inboxes. That first generation of tools is looking a little creaky to today’s event planners, so here’s a roundup of the current generation of “eventware.”

The current generation of eventware all offer a mix of registration, ticketing, mailing list, analytics, payment and promotion features, but each is pretty distinct in its niche:

  • Amiando. launched in 2006, Amiando powers some of the European tech industry’s larger, more formal conferences, including Thinking Digital and Le Web. Though private events can be listed for free, public events incur an excessive €1 + 6 percent of the ticket price for each ticket sold. However, the service includes some unique features, including comprehensive Facebook integration and the ability to run an entire conference site from within the app.
  • Eventbrite. I can’t think of a week that goes by without receiving multiple invitations to Eventbrite-powered event (including GigaOM’s own conferences). It’s a great solution, with a very vocal and engaged development team constantly providing new features, though the interface can sometimes be a sprawling mess and it’s easy to forget how a previously completed task was completed. Eventbrite’s real power lies in the ability to quickly list and promote an event without too much effort.
  • Expectnation. Heavily utilized by O’Reilly Media’s conference team, what’s unique about this service is the ability to manage session proposals, calls-for-participation and manage a conference’s schedule and structure, as well as the sales and ticketing processes. It’s a pretty comprehensive solution, though the absence of pricing information suggests it’s a very premium choice.
  • OpenConferenceWare. Perhaps the most interesting development is the open-source OpenConferenceWare project where the creator’s motives were to offer a free and open app to empower others in creating events. It was most prominently utilized in 2009’s Open Source Bridge conference. Like Expectnation, OpenConferenceWare provides features to manage submissions and schedules, but also enables delegates to personalize custom schedules for their attendance (just like SCHED*, reviewed here). Unfortunately, as an installable app, setup requires some knowledge of Ruby and web hosts.

Amiando, Eventbrite and Expectnation are fully formed and comprehensive suites for event planners; albeit expensive. However, I’m intrigued by OpenConferenceWare’s philosophy; with the groundswell in this software category, could OpenConferenceWare evolve into the WordPress of its segment?

If OpenConferenceWare was as easy to customize and install as WordPress, we could see a sophisticated and proven free alternative to the big commercial solutions as well as a vibrant ecosphere of plugin and theme developers. Even a hosted, freemium service — like WordPress.com (please see disclosure at the bottom) — could outmaneuver larger competitors.

Which event planning and ticketing solutions do you use?

Disclosure: WordPress.com is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

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