by Mike May, CMP | January 01, 2014
Leading app developers have super-cool demos that showcase flashy features.  It looks so easy: Tap this icon. See the agenda. Tap this. See your personalized schedule. Point here and get the venue map. But we often overlook something with new software -- the behind-the-scenes time investment required to provide and fine-tune the data that is needed to do all those cool things.

Content Management System
To make that slick demo work, an event marketing manager has been loading, formatting and updating lots of content using a content management system, or CMS. Using the CMS tool, an administrator must manually enter event details for each module. The first challenge is learning a new CMS lingo. Meeting planners must channel the mindset of their favorite web developer, because software programmers use different terms, such as fields, layouts, permissions, templates, widgets, media library and HTML tags.  

The second CMS challenge would be edits. It's easy to open the master schedule in Word, make a few changes and save it as "schedule version 12." But in this case, the meeting manager must make the same updates to the app (12 times if you've reached version 12), and every edit takes longer in a CMS system.

Fortunately, updates can be uploaded in batches -- if you know how -- using comma-separated value files (CSV) or Excel spreadsheets. Some event apps have an API (application program interface), through which back-end registration systems can update the app automatically.

Content Lesson Takeaways
Ryley Norrick, a senior meeting specialist at Spear One, created this list of lessons learned after managing numerous apps:

1. The initial build is going to take longer than what the person who sold you the platform said. Keep that in mind when scheduling meetings, lunches, time to sleep, etc.

2. Acclimate yourself with the CMS platform before beginning. An hour-long launch webinar is wasted unless you know the questions to ask. Poke around a little, design a test application and get familiar with the CMS before you start.

3. Get to know your builders, the app support department. They will become your best friends. Work out a schedule with them, especially if there is a time difference in your respective locations.

4. Try to have as much of the content details nailed down before beginning the building process. Nothing is more frustrating than having to redo work.

5. When making updates on the back end, do a test run. Make one update, then double-check that you did it correctly before implementing that edit across the board.

Mike May, CMP, is the president and owner of Spear One (, headquartered in Dallas. The company specializes in full-service meeting planning, group incentive travel, incentive programs and engagement campaigns.