Why are so many planners looking for Social Tables alternatives?

What happened to Social Tables?

Given the inherent challenges of event planning, when a software solution that solves some specific pain points well emerges, it tends to become widely adopted. Event planners notoriously hate changing platforms frequently, not only for their personal learning curve, but also the inevitable need to onboard clients or teach new tools. While there are some all-in-one event management solutions available, full feature suites often command high price points that are tough for mid-market planners to justify for their limited budgets. That’s why solutions like Social Tables, a leading event diagramming and collaboration platform, become so popular.

 

Founded in 2011 with a focus on providing tools to ease and enhance the collaborative in-person nature of events, Social Tables counted clients as illustrious as Goldman Sachs, Hyatt, and Intercontinental Hotels Group among their users, along with thousands of event planners and smaller companies. Users often cited the intuitive event layout tools, networking features, check-in software, and more among the main draws of the platform. By 2018, Social Tables’ rapid growth was known well beyond the event industry – and that’s when Cvent came calling. In a $100 million acquisition in October 2018, Cvent integrated Social Tables into its own broad event management platform as Cvent Event Diagramming.

 

While Social Tables as an independent entity has been gone for over 5 years now, the familiarity of the Social Tables tool suite brought many of its loyal users into the fold for Cvent as well. However, as Cvent’s focus has remained on drawing users to its comprehensive all-in-one platform, Cvent Event Diagramming has left many former Social Tables users disappointed. Caught between the tension of cobbling together a set of event software tools to simulate the same experience or dealing with a lackluster experience (at a higher price point than before), many event planners are wondering – what happened to Social Tables, and what do we do now?

Cvent alternatives? What alternatives?

You probably know Cvent or have attended an event hosted on the platform, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. The event software behemoth is celebrating its 25th year in business, and has continued to stand at the forefront of of event management companies through legacy branding, strategic acquisitions, and several massive funding rounds. The company went public in 2013 and quickly achieved a market cap of over $1 billion, and value only continued to be added over the ensuing decade. After a dozen years as a publicly traded company, Cvent made even bigger waves by announcing it would be taken private again by Blackstone Inc. in a $4.6 billion deal that stunned the event industry.

 

So how did Cvent achieve this remarkable growth that so many other event companies aspire to? Quite simply, by deciding to do it all. Because the events industry involves such a wide range of events and event planners, offering a comprehensive feature suite that meets nearly event need is both incredibly difficult logistically and incredibly expensive. In contrast, many event software platforms over the past decade have tried to carve out niches that they can own themselves (for example, Eventbrite’s ownership of ticketing and now event promotion). Thanks to their unparalleled brand footprint as a legacy of the dot-com bubble era, multiple funding rounds, successful marketing and promotional strategies, and more, Cvent quite simply acquired the war chest necessary to develop a suite of tools that surpasses anyone else in the industry.

 

Because of their position as the all-in-one solution, Cvent has also been able to charge a premium for their platform, a price point that limits out many casual or small-market event planners but offers incredibly lucrative contracts for the company to generate revenue. By controlling customization and reporting elements of events, Cvent also can artificially limit the software development needed to offer a practical all-in-one event management platform, allowing the company to reduce internal tech support overhead while still claiming a more comprehensive event planning experience than their competitors.

 

So, despite well-known grumblings and jokes in event planning circles about the frustrations of using Cvent, the company continues to simply acquire niche event companies to build out its feature suite via strategic acquisition and focus investment on their sales and promotional efforts to continue growing their customer base. Which is where the deal to acquire Social Tables came into play.

Why Cvent acquired Social Tables, and how it explains why some popular features have disappeared

Funded through its own growth and continued rounds of investment, Cvent has made numerous acquisitions since even before it went public. From event app developers (CrowdTorch, CrowdCompass, and Quickmobile) to booking platforms (Wedding Spot), Cvent has met the ever-growing demands of event planners by simply acquiring the competitors needed to add those features to its platform. Once it became apparent that next-generation collaboration and networking software tools were becoming an increasingly important part of event planning, finding a tool to fill that gap was a natural next step. Thus, Social Tables was a natural next step.

 

However (much to the frustration of loyal Social Tables users), Cvent’s goal in acquiring the platform wasn’t to simply provide the same experience seamlessly. A helpful metaphor here for those new to acquisition is “being sold for parts” – Cvent found significant value in some of the networking and event diagramming tools that were absent in its platform at the time, but in areas of overlap with existing Cvent software (such as registration and check-in), the company had no need to add a duplicate feature. Thus, in January of 2021, Social Tables stopped supporting check-in from its event services platform, moving the tool exclusively to a mobile app which has received little to no updating in the time since.

 

The sad fact for enthusiastic users of Social Tables is that some of the features they loved best about the platform were of little to no interest to Cvent when the company chose to make an acquisition. While users who relied more on the networking and diagramming tools are often still satisfied with the experience under the Cvent umbrella, users who had turned to Social Tables for registration and check-in have been particularly disappointed.

Where do loyal users find Social Tables alternatives now?

Social Tables aficionados have begun sharing a litany of frustrations with the new Cvent-owned experience when comparing it to pre-acquisition Social Tables, such as a more limited customer support experience offered by Cvent and the inability to customize their check-in experience to the same extent as before. This has lead to a search for Cvent alternatives that might offer an apples-to-apples experience, although options are limited because Social Tables had carved out the space themselves and Cvent now occupies it to a large extent (along with others).

 

For now, it appears that former users has two choices – stick with a frustrating Cvent experience, or consider packaging together affordable Social Tables alternatives to create a similar experience without the hassles.

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