The power of automation really can remove the worst event “headaches”

As an event organiser working for the Permaculture Association, Joe Atkinson was programming academic-led, residential conferences with complex agendas typically involving a hundred sessions in eight different locations, and on rare occasions even up to 300 sessions. 

Working off spreadsheets, his task was to organise the smooth running of the events, ensuring there were no overlaps between speakers or conflicts in what was, in his words, a scheduling “headache”. On top of that, he was having to issue requests for speaker abstracts and presentations, ensuring the content was checked and verified before going live on an event website. It was a laborious and repetitive process, prone to errors.

“I was having to schedule all this information into a spreadsheet, which was never going to tell me if I was doing something stupid,” says Atkinson, whose first qualification was a computing degree with a subsequent Master’s in eco-architecture.

Atkinson scoured the market for a tech-based solution to what he believed was a fairly common and recurring events problem that was eating into his productivity. “It was just taking up a lot of unnecessary brain power; I thought it was a something that could be done far better by computers,” he says. It was to his surprise, then, that after a far-reaching search of available events platforms, he couldn’t find a single one that met a simple need. “I thought there must be some software out there, but there really wasn’t.”

Atkinson then embarked on what started as a ‘side project’ but eventually took on a life of its own, creating a software platform, with co-founder Gordon Johnston, that could alleviate the “drudgery” of monotous tasks that so many events planners complain about. Two years on, and LineUp Ninja has secured industry recognition after beating over a dozen tech rivals to win Event Tech Live’s Launchpad Competition; since winning the award in November the founders, who have bootstrapped their own company, stand on the cusp of signing a big contract with an international events agency and have numerous other deals in the pipeline.

“It’s been really validating; it was a bit of a leap of faith but we were convinced it was a real problem and we’ve had feedback to the extent that people have said to us, ‘thank god someone’s come up with a solution,” he says.

The technology itself is leading-edge ‘tech stack’ with cloud-based work streams, which Atkinson says works on the same principle as Google Docs, allowing multiple users to work and update agendas and content in real-time. But crucially, it can be linked to other systems, providing essential interoperability between manifold events platforms.

And most importantly, it removes the risk of relying on emails, spreadsheets and sticky notes for a complicated organisational process that not only deserves to be automated but in the 21st century it really should be.