Planners: do you want to know which low-cost tech tool can instantly transform company data into a professional quality infographic, or what free app can help schedule a virtual meeting time convenient for workers scattered across the globe? Beth Ziesenis, a technology guru and self-described “nerdy BFF,” can tell you.
Informative and humorous, Ziesenis is a popular public speaker who presented at the recent ASAE15 in Detroit. She is author of Nerd Know-How: The 27+ Best Apps For Work and Release Your Inner Nerd: Apps, Tech Tools and Tips to Get Organized, Get Creative and Get Ahead. Endearing, engaging and chock full of practical tips and suggestions, Ziesenis shares 14 of her favorite low-cost tech tools for event planners below.
14 Low-Cost Tech Tools
Microsoft has created an alternative to its own PowerPoint program. The free presentation app is a more engaging way to tell a story than its flagship product. In Sway, users can build sliding web pages that contain not only text, but videos, links and pictures. The program allows individuals working on a group project to collaborate online, and changes are saved instantly. The intuitive search engine will suggest free Internet content that can be added. Two other great alternatives to PowerPoint are Haiku Duck, which has a clean and simple interface and Prezi, which offers zooming navigation.
Let’s say you need a new logo or want an animation for a company video. Log onto fiverr.com and you can gain access to thousands of sellers of creative and professional services. Fiverr is probably the world’s largest freelance marketplace, offering three million services in more than 100 different categories. In addition to graphic design, writing, translation, voice over and proofreading, sellers on the site can provide offbeat services such as a celebrity impersonation of Barack Obama or an image of your logo stenciled into coffee foam. The best news is that all services start at just $5.
Infographics are a more visually appealing way to share mathematical data or statistics. In the past, making an infographic took considerable time, money and graphic design skill. Easel.ly, a free program, makes it possible for anyone to design a dazzling infographic in just minutes. The site features thousands of templates and design objects that users can customize to create and share their ideas online. Users can upload their own mages and do a considerable amount of tweaking to the templates.
This fun, word-analyzing tool creates word clouds from text you import, giving greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. The size of a word in the finished product is proportional to the number of times it appears in the input text. Users can alter their clouds with different fonts, layouts and color schemes.
Time and Date AS is a private company in Norway that manages timeanddate.com. The site gives people free time and date-related information and services. This can help planners looking to arrange a video conference with workers located around the globe in different time zones. It can calculate the best time to schedule the call so that the least number of participants are inconvenienced. In addition, the comprehensive site has a sunrise and sunset calculator, moon phases, weather and astronomical data and a listing of holidays worldwide. Users can also set digital calculators and timers that will count down to any date or time.
This free program allows individuals to write, edit and collaborate on the same document, at the same time. Individuals can access documents anywhere and at any time from their smartphones, tablets or computers. They can edit in real-time, with chat and comment features. All changes are automatically saved. The program works with Microsoft Word, providing editing and styling tools for formatting text and paragraphs. Users can choose from thousands of fonts, and can add links, images, drawings and tables.
Next time you need to translate something from Armenian into Zulu, this handy app can help. Google Translate can translate 90 languages, in any configuration. The free website translator tool is straight-forward. It allows users to paste text, input audio, hear pronunciations and get definitions. For a more nuanced tool, the low-cost Translate API can be used to power web apps and translate website content.
This free product is a godsend for planners that want to create more interactivity during conferences. It allows them create real-time polling or voting using attendees’ smartphones. Attendees can also use the tech tool to ask the presenter questions. The app is available for all mobile devices, as well as laptops. It can be personalized to include company branding or logos. In addition to driving audience engagement during an event, all poll results can be uploaded to the company’s Facebook or Twitter profile.
GroupMe is a free mobile messaging app that planners can use to coordinate private chats among coworkers. It works on all device platforms. Users can chat on the go, or from their office computers or from tablets at home. It can incorporate pictures, emojis and videos, and has other features such as location sharing and direct messaging.
This free service from Ookla allows individuals to test the performance of their Internet connection. It can be helpful for planners arranging a conference in a remote locale. Planners can browse top bandwidth speed by country, or narrow down statistics to very specific locations. Performing more than 50 million tests every month, Ookla Speedtest is the global standard in Internet connection testing. It is available on the web and for iPhone and Android mobile platforms.
This deceptively simple app is available for iOS and Android. It allows users to instantly spot others in a crowded bar, festival or packed meeting room. The user simply chooses a color or color pattern, and holds up their phone, which will blink with the color or pattern. No need to shout, “I’m over here!”
Periscope is a live streaming app for iOS and Android that allows participants to explore the world through someone else’s eyes. Users broadcast live video from their phones, in real time. While it could be used to watch a demonstration through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine, planners could use it for a live interview that is then streamed to Twitter. During a conference, the planner could give those who could not attend a taste of what they missed.
Postcards are a nostalgic way to share a leisure vacation. Planners can use the Postagram tech tool to share memories from an event, or thank people for attending. The free app translates photos taken from iPhones or Androids into postcards that can be sent through the mail for $1 each. Users can also import photos from Instagram or FaceBook. By scanning the bar code on the postcard, the recipient can send an instant thank you or save the photo to his or her own phone.
PicPlayPost is a cool video collage tool combining video, photos and music that planners can use to tell a story about their event. The free app can be used on all platforms, including Instagram and Vine. Users choose the ratio and frame layout they want, or can easily customize any layout. They then choose the photos or videos to fill each frame, adding music if they like.