Apps that make events easier

Putting together a networking night? A conference? A drinkup? Here are the apps you should have on hand.

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Danimal Cannon at TEDxBuffalo 2013

Photo by Tricia Marcolini.

TEDxBuffalo 2013 happened on Tuesday, and I am just now lifting my head above the trench to see if the coast is clear. Most events swallow people up in anxiety, decision fatigue, and lost time, because events are made of people, and most people can not be spun up and deployed like AWS instances. I thought I might offer some suggestions on using binary technology to manage clusters of extremely variable people.

Basecamp instead of email

Most of TEDxBuffalo was organized with Basecamp. Basecamp is a simple, web-based-but-email-friendly tool for managing discussions, files, to-dos, and calendars. Along with making it easier to contact the right people and search out things people told you long ago, Basecamp saves everything in one place. If the entire TEDxBuffalo team was sucked up into that inter-dimensional vortex that appeared at the end of The Avengers while helping Iron Man get that nuke out of America's richest city, the people who take our place would have most of our stuff, some idea of what we talked about, and important dates and contacts.

Basecamp has a nifty mobile web view and an iOS app (which a friend had a lead role in developing). There are many, many, many group productivity tools you might use to organize the people running an event, but, please, do not use email and its attachments to do so.

Square and Square Cash for reimbursement

Event planning and the day-of scramble involve a lot of pizza, last-minute grocery and Office Depot runs, vendors demanding checks, and other things for which people must quickly pay out of their own pockets. When it comes time to pay people back, you experience outbreaks of ATM Syndrome: wallets with $20 bills and not much else.

I wish we had used Square Cash (Android, iOS) to pay each other back, rather than relying on memory, receipts, and rounded-off amounts. Square Cash is the person-to-person cash transfer app from Square, the company that makes the simple little credit card tool for small business. It doesn't require authenticating a bank account, just a debit card.

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