How to automate event planning?

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Exactly 2 years ago we started organizing a bi-weekly Mastermind group for highly motivated and success-oriented individuals.

At first, it was just a couple of friends but then some people dropped by and some new joined and it became harder to track who is coming and who’s not. To solve that problem we started using Eventbrite as it is just a perfect tool to gather data about event history. That created another problem. We wanted to have a meeting but we weren’t keen on investing the time into managing all the tools around it. After a couple of months of growing the event, we were using a few of them, with Google Calendar, Slack and Quickbooks to name a few.



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We decided to see if we can automate the entire process and minimize the very repetitive process of scheduling and managing the same meeting every two weeks.

After some googling, we came across a couple of platforms such as IFTTT, Zapier, and Automate.io. After some tests, we decided to choose Zapier.

I’ve heard about it in the past but somehow we thought it is good for integrating very specialized services that we typically don’t use. I guess we were wrong or Zapier doubled its integration portfolio since I last checked. Now Zapier is integrated with all major services out there, most importantly with all, I listed above.

Zapier works as a  hub that integrates all services together, even if they are not connected directly. The major added value is automation coming out of it. An event on one platform can be used as a trigger to start new action on the other. Information from one place can easily be pass on to the next platform without any manual effort. You set it up one and it just works. It all happens through the API’s, but Zapier’s interface makes it very intuitive and does not require you to know anything about API’s or have any IT knowledge whatsoever. Plus there are quite literally thousands of examples to choose from.

How many services we can automate?

The next question was how much can we automate. The answer was simple –  all of it! Let me get to some details.

 

Eventbrite and Slack

You can’t automate writing the meeting description, but if it is a recurring meeting you can copy/paste them. The only change you need to make is to set new meeting time and date and click publish.

Eventbrite can also create a facebook event for you if you connect to platforms, which is very easy and takes only a few clicks.

The great thing about event automation is that all necessary information is stored on a single platform. All meeting details are here, and whoever buys a ticket, his or her details are also stored in Eventbrite. This makes it super easy to integrate with Zapier as it does not store any data for you.

The first thing we wanted to automate was notifying group members about an upcoming event. As we are using Slack as our chat tool, we decided to connect it to our automation platform too.

Now everytime a new event is created in Eventbrite, Zapier grabs meeting specific URL address and posts it in Slack general channel. This way everyone gets notified and they can get back to this link just by scrolling or searching the feed.



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Google Calendar

As Eventbrite event contains all necessary information to create an entry in the calendar, that was the next automated action we’ve set up. Zapier sees a new event posted on Eventbrite and then creates a meeting in my calendar for that exact event with all the meeting details. After every meeting, we have a follow-up call, so we’ve added one more step to create that meeting entry as well. As it always happens 7 days after the main event, the formula was very simple and there was an example for it too.

 

Google URL shortener goo.gl

Sometimes we need to share the URL created by Eventbrite, but it is long and hard to copy on my mobile device. We solved that problem by connecting Eventbrite and Google URL shortener goo.gl. Now, each time a new event is created, Zapier grabs the URL and submits it to goo.gl to get a short link.

For the convenience, we’ve added one more step to this action and asked Zapier to post it on Slack as well. This way we never have to search for it.

 

Quickbooks

We charge a small fee for participating in our group meeting to cover administrative costs. For the bookkeeping purpose, we need to record a receipt for each participant. From the very beginning, we’ve been using  Quickbooks mainly because of its intuitive user interface. Even with the simplicity of use we always needed to spend 15 – 20 min to record transactions. Does not sound like much but it’s another repetitive task and wanted to see if we can automate it as well. I have connected Quickbooks to Zapier and magic started to happen.

Each time someone buys a ticket on Eventbrite, Zapier takes their email address and searched my Quickbooks client database. If there is a match, a receipt is created automatically.

Occasionally, when a new person joins us, we need to create an entry in Quickbooks in my customer database, but I am sure there is a way to automate that as well, I just could not find a ready example on Zapier for it.

And the cherry on the top is one last action triggered by someone buying a ticket. I have created a special channel in our Slack called “whos-coming”. When a new ticket is purchased, Zapier posts and update in that channel informing everyone about all participants for the upcoming meeting.


Conclusion

All automated action listed above were created using examples provided by Zapier.com. No special knowledge, no professional skills were required to set this all up. I find it amazing to see what can be achieved in 30 minutes of just playing around with ready templates.

Which got me thinking, how far can we take it? Turns out, Zapier has over 1000 different web applications integrated with it. If you want to capture those emails for any further marketing campaigns, that will be easy by connecting it to MailChimp. If you want to send text messages to your participants you can do that too using Twilio. The sky truly is the limit.

The most important part is the time saved by NOT doing all those tiny administrative tasks. The “to do” list gets shorter and we can focus on other aspects of our work such as customer service, working on new services and products. Introducing automation to our work helps us to stay consistent.

The challenge in automation we are facing now is how we can use Zapier for automated actions on our website, for instance, if automate updating link from Eventbrite for the call to action button.

If you have any suggestions or other great examples of work with automation tools, feel free to share them in the comments section.

 


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