Event floor plan designs have been a fact of life in the events industry for decades, and for a few good reasons. Venues and caterers have used them to assist in their sales efforts; to help clients visualize event layouts; and to illustrate proper event setup for internal staff who are preparing for the event. And event planners have used them to ensure proper spacing and flow at their events and make sure the event design and layout are perfect for the occasion and type of event.
Regrettably, in the past, creating a professional event diagram by hand using a pen, colored pencils and paper was tedious and time consuming (not to mention required a deft touch and artistic flair). Thankfully, this is one area where technology and innovation have come to the rescue (especially for those of us who aren’t artistically inclined, like yours truly).
Event design software now takes all that sweat and artistic flair and marries it to easy-to-use features, collaborative displays and web-based drag-and-drop functionality so practically anyone who can use a mouse is able to create breathtaking event diagrams.
Before we dive into a discussion of the top event design software apps, let’s take a quick look at the big benefits from using event floor plan design tools like the ones we describe in this post.
What are the benefits of event floor plan software?
Automation and time savings
Taking a manual process like hand-drawing event designs and automating it with easy-to-use event floor plan software tools definitely saves time and improves productivity. However, another less discussed but just as important benefit is it also standardizes your event layouts so you are turning out consistently professional designs every time.
Easy visualization of ideas
Some exceptional people can easily visualize ideas that are quickly described to them, but for most of us we need someone to literally draw us a picture in order to really grasp a visual concept. Event floor plan design software enables you to express your vision for your event clearly so that prospects, clients, team members and contractors are able to share in that vision.
Revenue growth and cost savings
When prospects and clients can literally see their events start to come to life through colorful, to-scale event designs and virtual walkthroughs, it differentiates you from your competitors, paves the way for additional sales and add-ons and makes it easy to see the ROI of using event floor plan software. In addition, you will save copious amounts of time (vs. manually creating floorplans), which directly translates into cost savings through increased productivity.
Most event floor plan apps these days are cloud-based, so you and your clients, prospects and team members can coordinate with each other online, at any time, via any device (including mobile phones, tablets and computers). This way you can share information and ideas in an instant, streamline productivity and speed up decision making processes.
Single place to securely manage design data
Nothing is more frustrating than having to track down information scattered across lots of different applications, emails and computers. Online event floor plan software consolidates all your event layout data into one convenient place, making it easy to manage. In addition, most applications also offer backup redundancy and security features to protect your data from loss and theft.
Top event floor plan software applications
1. Planning Pod
Speed, flexibility and simplicity are three big reasons why Planning Pod’s comprehensive online event floor plan creator is the preferred tool-of-choice by event professionals. It boasts dozens of ease-of-use features (like snap-to grids, auto-layout of elements like tables, multi-object editing and smart zoom) that make laying out events a snap. And it has customization features for building your own library of custom elements (on top of their already extensive element library), branding your account and designs, custom color/font options and importing your CAD room outlines/files for an exact representation of your rooms and spaces.
Planning Pod also offers timesaving seating chart software tools that integrate with included guest list, RSVP and event registration features so you can easily place guests at tables and seats and manage attendee details. Rounding out Planning Pod’s features are tools for online collaboration and tracking on-site guest check-in plus (if needed) event CRM management, proposals, electronic contracts, invoicing, online payments, banquet event orders, menus and integrations with hundreds of other applications. It’s the ideal all-in-one software for event design.
This event floor plan maker bills itself as having an innovative take on event layout software. It offers tools for to-scale designs and real-time collaboration among users as well as a library of all floorplans that have been built on its platform. Interestingly, it also features a table and buffet builder that lets you create a tabletop layout, complete with tableware, glassware, centerpieces and linens. And its virtual 3D imagery of event setups delivers an interesting perspective on event layouts.
SmartDraw is a versatile design tool that positions itself as a competitor to Microsoft Visio (the Microsoft tool for creating diagrams of all sorts). It is a very capable application for drawing event floorplans as well as home floor diagrams, flowcharts, organizational charts and process flow diagrams. Offering an extensive element/symbol library, it integrates with CAD drawings, has a templates feature and can be integrated into MS Word or Google Docs documents.
4. Social Tables
Recently purchased by meetings software giant Cvent, Social Tables offers a combination of event layout software and lead management tools for event venues. Their online collaboration features stand out and include commenting, file storage, downloadable printouts and real-time editing. Their sales tracking tools also deliver a handy event CRM solution for managing contacts and tracking prospects through your pipeline.
5. 3D Event Designer
This event floor plan app touts itself as 3D CAD-like software for making realistic depictions of your event layouts. It is compatible with any device, offers reusable templates and even lets you pull elements from your own inventory if you wish. Similar to AllSeated, it offers buffet and beverage station design options as well as a seating chart maker, and it includes an embeddable widget for displaying designs on your web site.
6. Vivien Event Designer
Probably the closest to a true CAD layout program, this comprehensive event floor plan software tool offers many features for creating 2D and 3D floor plan diagrams. Its drag-and-drop convenience and wizards allow users to quickly create floorplans as well as timelines, graphs and charts.
Comparable to SmartDraw, this diagramming software offers tools for creating a variety of designs, from event floor plan diagrams to flow charts, org charts, Gantt charts and network diagrams. With a large element library, WYSIWYG downloads/printing and compatibility with Mac or PC computers, it provides tools for events and beyond.
What features are included in event floor plan software?
Standard features that are included in many event diagram software packages include the following.
Element / object library
Most programs offer a comprehensive library of floorplan objects, including furniture, tables, chairs, walls, stairs, architectural elements, audio visual elements, exhibit hall items and more. Customizable element libraries are a plus.
Seating arrangements and charts
Solid event design tools also feature seating arrangement software tools for integrating guest list tools so you can place attendees at tables and chairs in your floor plans.
2D and 3D diagrams
2D event layouts are the standard in the industry, with some applications offering 3D output options for cool visual effects.
Templates and floorplans database
Being able to create, save and reuse your own event floor plan templates will save lots of time over the long haul, as will being able to store your floor plan designs and templates in a shareable online database.
Email and live chat support are very helpful if you run into issues or have questions, and some companies also offer phone support and/or training options. Also, periodic updates, upgrades, innovations and developments to the software should be part of any software company’s offerings.
Being able to simply pick up and move or edit one or multiple items as well as have snap-to guides to assist in laying out floor plan elements is a must for any event diagram tool you are considering.
Capability of handling all event types
From banquet and wedding setups to conference room setups, meeting room setups and restaurant floor plans, the best tools let you create event floor plans for any kind of event, including galas, fundraisers, seminars, classes, parties, dinners, dances and theaters as well as weddings, meetings and conferences.
Compatibility with all devices
Now the expectation is for all software, including event management software tools like event design software, to be able to be used on all devices, including smartphones and tablets as well as Mac and PC computers. This means that floor plan programs should either be compatible with mobile browsers – that is, mobile friendly – or offer stand-alone floor plan apps.
Downloadable files and printing
Output is always necessary in order to show non-users your floor plan designs, so look for applications that offer downloadable files (PDF, PNG and/or JPG files) that are printable as well as shareable links to view event designs online.
Uploading current CAD or background room image files
Most venues and facilities have already had their spaces mapped out in a CAD software program, so the event floor plan tool you choose should be CAD compatible to allow you to upload those existing designs or images to serve as the template for laying out your event setups.
Indoor and outdoor compatible
It goes without saying that any app should allow for design of both indoor and outdoor event spaces.
Look for event floor plan software options that provide a live demo or a free trial so you can test drive the software on your own time.
What are extra features that compliment floor plan software?
Not all online floor plan design tools include the following extras, but those that do offer this kind of expanded functionality and convenience can make your work life easier.
- File storage – For storage of floor plan designs and floor plan templates as well as other types of files (documents, images, etc.).
- Guest check-in – For checking in attendees when they arrive at the event; often mobile compatible.
- Guest lists and RSVP capabilities – Includes tracking attendee details (like meal choices, headcounts, etc.) and RSVPs / registrations.
- Integrations – Ability to integrate with other programs and platforms (like CRM tools, email software, accounting software, etc.).
- Inventory – Although a rare feature, it does assist when being able to import into your event floorplans the precise items you have in inventory (so you don’t add ones you don’t actually have).
- Menus and meal management – Especially a useful feature if you run a catering business or restaurant or hotel that offers food-and-beverage services.
- Name badges and table tents – Usually downloadable files that output to Avery templates or something similar.
- Reports – Reporting can include downloadable seating charts, guest list information and more.
- Task management – Project management tool for tracking assignments, due dates and progress.
- Timelines and schedules – Great for event planners who need to build out detailed event schedules and itineraries for themselves and their team and vendors.
Who uses event floor plan software?
Typically the primary users of this type of tool include:
- Catering companies and caterers
- Corporate event planners
- Conference centers
- Corporate facilities
- Event hosts
- Event planning firms
- Event venues
- Hotels and bed-and-breakfasts
- Meeting planners
- Nonprofits and charities
- Reception halls
- Solo event planners
- Stadiums and arenas
- Universities, colleges and schools
- Wedding planners