Connecticut Event Planners Soar with FileMaker, Inc.
Wings Unlimited’s custom app keeps company’s data at the ready
At one event, participants cling to the deck of a yacht during a team building regatta. At another, an aerial performer suspends herself on red silks half a dozen feet off the ground. At yet another, attendees experience the latest in technology in an actual, custom built half of a connected car.
These are the kinds of events that Wings Unlimited loves to create: fantastical reprieves from normal life, brought to life by expert planning. The company engineers meetings and events ranging from high exposure programs to training seminars, with attendees ranging from as few as 20 to as many as 1,500. The planners at Wings Unlimited take pride in knowing everything, all the time, so that their clients don’t have to.
“Sometimes, someone will stop you at a dinner event and say, ‘What time am I supposed to leave on my flight out tomorrow morning?’” said April Riordan, the company’s director of business operations. “And it's certainly a help to have that at our fingertips through our app … Our clients want everything perfect. We help them achieve that.”
The events start in the realm of the imagination. Clients work with Wings Unlimited to conceptualize their ideal employee or customer experience. Then the reality begins to come into focus. Where will the event be held? What’s the budget? Who’s invited? Who can attend? Can the keynote speaker make it in time for the welcome dinner? That’s when planners turn to their app and start researching.
Access to critical data in ever-changing situations
Answers emerge as the event takes shape. But throughout the planning process, and during the event itself, there are constantly shifting variables that require attention. Flights are cancelled. Lecture sessions fill up beyond capacity. A storm begins to brew when an evening meal is planned for the beach. When that occurs, carefully made plans need to be adjusted. Wings Unlimited uses FileMaker, Inc. to store incredibly detailed data — the who, what, when, where and why — for each event. With that information at their fingertips, they’re prepared to handle whatever curveballs come their way.
An app to find the perfect event venue
Wings Unlimited now has two custom apps. The first is used to store, sort and find detailed data on hotels venues — something that planners use from the very first stages of a project. The app stores profiles on over 3,500 potential locations — from hotels to rooftop terraces. The profiles include the venue’s address, the number of rooms (if any), its amenities, fees, details about past events that were held there, internal rating information, photos and any other relevant information.
Using helpful search functions on the app, the planners are able to quickly sort through the 3,500+ spots and identify which might be right for a specific client or type of program. Then, planners send a request for proposals to their preferred locations and prepare a customized detailed report with options for their client’s approval.
This process includes so much information on each location that the company’s app, powered by the FileMaker Platform, is an essential time-saver. In fact, it was a computer glitch and a lost client presentation that convinced Erin McMurray, the director of sourcing at Wings Unlimited, to code an app for the company 15 years ago. After she spent hours frantically re-entering data for a client meeting, she promised herself it would never happen again and started looking for a better system.
“At the beginning, we didn’t know how to build our own FileMaker Platform beyond our attendee database app,” McMurray said. “But as it was getting updated, becoming better and better, and we realized it was something that we could use for our site research. So, I basically took a starter solution and customized it to make it useful for our business needs.”
Every detail, every event
After creating the app for venues, McMurray began customizing their other app (with the help of a professional developer) that could securely store all the information about an event and it’s attendees and give planners easy access to all the information at any time.
With their app in-hand, planners can instantly see the number of people who are scheduled to be at meals, hotel room assignments and meeting room bookings, travel information, the event agenda, contact information and a host of other facts. That way, when something changes, they’re ready for it. The app becomes especially essential at large events. It keeps track of 1,500 individuals so the planners don’t have to.
Sometimes, Wings Unlimited even tracks the event cadence in conjunction with the small details so no touchpoints are missed. This is especially important for events with numerous moving parts and VIP handling. It’s part of the way they harness big data to create a rich, personal experience.
According to Riordan, the efficiencies that the apps provide are “immeasurable.” “(If we didn’t have an app) it would take us longer to respond to our clients, which could cost us future business,” Riordan said.