The technologies around event, and more specifically film festival, planning has come a long way over the years. However, many planners still do not incorporate the technology into their events. At the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, we’ve found several great internet tools that help streamline and manage the Festival planning and execution process and maximize our efficiency. I offer my suggestions and reviews on a few of these tools that events of any size can take advantage of.
The first and foremost tool is ticketing. This is probably the most critical one since ticket sales are a major revenue source for events. Not considering the high-end ticketing solutions such as Complete Ticket Solutions or Ticketmaster, CSAFF chose Eventbrite as the their ticketing tool. It has an easy-to-use interface, several customizable features (e.g. customize the ticket page to match your website, add custom questions upon checkout) and has great reporting tools to analyze your ticket sales. Additionally you can check people in at events using Eventbrite’s iPhone and Android app which simply scans the bar code on the e-ticket and ensures a smooth check-in process.
Several events have onsite and point-of-sale purchases such as “day of” ticket purchases, merchandise and auction sales. We’ve found Square Up to be an exceptional and convenient tool to collect credit card payments. The device allows you to process credit card payments via your Smartphone and have receipts emailed directly to the customer in a matter of seconds.
Moving to the website front, a quick way to launch a simple event page is to use LaunchRock. This allows you to create a simple landing page and collect email addresses as you develop the rest of your site. At CSAFF we use WordPress as our backend website and content management system (CMS). Installing it does require a little technical savvy-ness but once it’s up, it’s easy to maintain and you can add pages and blog posts quite easily. Even adding banners and widgets such as a Twitter feed or image carousel can be quite easy depending on how much you’re willing to delve into WordPress. Finally a tool we find invaluable at CSAFF is Unbounce. We routinely use it to create contest landing pages for giving away tickets or promotional products in exchange for audience data such as email address, or other demographic information.
For marketing, the two industry leaders are Constant Contact for email marketing and Survey Monkey to capture audience surveys. Of course any long term event should leverage the power of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google Adwords as part of their overall marketing strategy. Speaking of Google, the Google Apps offerings of email, document storing, calendar, and contacts is invaluable as a primary method of communication and organization. Nonprofits should additionally take advantage of Google Grants where Google offers $10,000 of free Adwords advertising a month plus several other free apps and features to enhance your organizations communication and outreach prowess
Specific to Film Festivals is Without A Box that allows filmmakers to submit their films and film information (e.g. stills, press kit) online rather than mailing them in. Though YouTube may be an intuitive choice as one’s video hosting and sharing platform, at CSAFF we use Vimeo due to their higher quality players. Of course, YouTube’s reach is far greater but if you’re looking for the best in the industry, you will want to check out Brightcove video platform services.
So there’s a glimpse of some easy-to-use yet powerful tools that can take any small scale event and turn it into a truly world class event. For examples on how we’ve integrated these tools together check out www.csaff.org. See you at the Festival!
Amit Rana is the Festival Director at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival