Tech Thursday: An Event Planners’ Guide to Game-Changing Floor Plan Apps

Event planning is always a juggling act. And we know there are times during the planning process when all the balls you’re keeping in the air can seem more like flaming torches.

Savvy event planners have their radar up for any tool that streamlines their job — and as the industry’s tech solutions expand, they’ve embraced event floor plan apps. Accessible on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices, the best event floor plan apps simplify and accelerate floor plan design — an essential and often painstaking element of the planning process.

They’re also an invaluable tool for pitching services to potential clients. You can have a mock-up to share with them before your first face-to-face meeting, which helps clients visualize how the event would look in your hands and gives them confidence they’ve chosen the best venue.

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We’re not saying event floor plan apps put an end to the juggle (sorry!), but they can keep your team organized and on the same page. Most importantly, they save you precious time for other tasks, from marketing to logistics to vendor vetting, hiring, and contracting.

Read on to learn about top floor plan apps that facilitate layouts and make what was once a difficult task far easier — and even fun! We cover each app’s standout features, as well as which event types, organizations, and professional planners each app benefits most.  

5 Floor Plan Apps for Designing Outstanding Event Layouts

The floor plan makers below are either free or require a monthly subscription. Some are offered as stand-alone apps, while others are bundled with broader event software solutions designed for event planners, conference managers, and venues.

1. Social Tables

Social Tables website
Social Tables website

Social Tables (hand wave emoji!) offers exceptional free collaborative event planning software with diagramming and seating tools, photo-realistic 3D virtual walkthroughs, and state-of-the-art design. The cloud-based floor plan app is highly customizable so you can create distinctive designs for your go-to spaces, as well as venues you are using for the first time.

Pros

  • Intuitive design/ease of use
  • Streamlined, fully integrated attendee management
  • World’s largest library of to-scale floor plan templates
  • Frequent updates based on user feedback
  • Real-time updates keep multiple users on the same page
  • Photo-realistic 3D virtual walkthrough for client updates

Cons

  • Updates often enough that user education is sometimes needed
  • Design element library would benefit from an expansion
  • Photo-Realistic 3D can be difficult to navigate, and would be improved with new controls

Tool Integrations: Salesforce, Eventbrite, Event Booking, Certain, CaterEase, Event Management Systems, Reserve Interactive, hSP, Ungerboeck Software, Triple Seat.

Best for: Corporate event planners, event firms and venues of every size, and wedding planners.

Cost: Free

Bottom line: Social Tables’ floor plan helps users create floor plans in minutes for sales, event visualization, and client updates. The user-friendly interface and collaboration tools keep every member of your team on track and on the same page. The fully-integrated attendee management tools improve both the planning and day-of experience for guests and clients.

Learn more about Social Tables.

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2. SmartDraw

SmartDraw's website
Smart Draw’s website

SmartDraw is a diagramming tool that facilitates visual communications in business, including mind-mapping, flowcharts, data flow diagrams, and, of course, event design. Their software includes scores of templates you can quickly modify to your criteria, and a comprehensive symbol database so you can clarify furniture, catering setups, stages, A/V positioning, and even define landscape elements for outdoor events.

Pros

  • Cost-effective
  • User-friendly
  • Extensive floor plan templates
  • Extensive table, furniture, and symbol library

Cons

  • No check-in integration
  • The full suite of software is not solely event targeted
  • Out-of-date design
  • Customer service has not scaled to meet the challenges of its customers
  • Strong tendency to crash

Tool Integrations: Microsoft Office, G Suite, Atlassian (including Confluence and Jira), Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, Visio.

Best for: Valuable for smaller-scale event planning, from corporate meetings to weddings.

Cost: $9.99/month

Bottom line: With its intuitive (although dated) design, even tech newbies can create clear, shareable event floor plans. But those who get stuck should not expect prompt customer service.

Learn more about SmartDraw.

3. Vivien

Vivien's website
Vivien’s website

This event design CAD (computer-assisted design) software creates highly detailed event renderings in 2D and 3D, with photo-realistic elements and lighting design. The app is an excellent choice for venues and management groups who design large-scale, events with theatrical elements.

Pros

  • Extensive customization tools
  • Detailed 3D elements library
  • Digital mannequins or virtual attendees dressed for the occasion

Cons:

  • Expensive for small-scale operations
  • Though the CAD is simplified, the learning curve may still be too steep for some
  • Adoption is not extensive, so properties and planners rarely use it together

Tool Integrations: MS Excel, AutoCAD DXF, DWG CAD, AutoDesk FBX, Collada DAE, 3D Studio, Wavefront OBJ, AutoDesk FBX, SketchUP SKP.

Best for: Any event with complex A/V and theatrical elements.

Cost: Buy Vivien for download on PC or Mac for $1,994, or lease the program for $349 for 3 months, $599 for 6 months, or $999 for 12 months.

Bottom line: Tech-savvy event planners will love Vivien. The floor plans are customizable and atmospheric, and make an excellent sales tool for large venues and enterprise-level event planners. Switch easily between 2D and 3D layout views, and easily capture a 3D fly-through of event plans to share with clients. That said, adoption is low enough that planners will struggle to find events willing to collaborate with them in the software.

Learn more about Vivien.

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4. Planning Pod

Planning Pod software
Planning Pod’s website

Planning Pod’s floor plan software comes included with their venue management and event management suites, or as a separate product for planners who only need an event floor plan tool. Planning Pod’s app offers a comprehensive floor plan and seating arrangement tool for up to 100 events simultaneously, with up to 200 floor plans for each event.

Pros

  • Cost-effective
  • Extensive library of venue spaces
  • Confirmed guest and meal choice tracking
  • Stand-alone floor plan maker

Cons:

  • Does not work for wedding planners
  • Floor plan tool difficult to navigate
  • Insufficient customer support (no phone service)
  • Tendency to crash

Tool Integrations: Google, Quickbooks, Xero, Salesforce, MailChimp, among many others.

Best for: Corporate events, event management firms, meetings and conferences, university event planning, non-profits, and charities.

Cost: Plans begin at $49/month for the stand-alone floor plan app, billed annually. Free trial available.

Bottom line: While Planning Pod’s FloorPlans Plus plan delivers services well beyond floor plan design and seating arrangements, their support team has not grown to scale. There is no cap on the number of users and guests, and the floor plan app includes RSVP tracking and a check-in tool.

Learn more about Planning Pod.

5. AllSeated

AllSeated’s website

AllSeated offers detailed VR walkthroughs of event spaces designed through their floor plan app. The app keeps venues, event planners, vendors, and event organizers in the loop throughout the design process.

Pros

  • Photo-realistic virtual renderings
  • CAD tools
  • Room, venue templates for quick-start design
  • Add unlimited exact-replica furniture renderings on request

Cons

  • Significant learning curve for less tech-savvy planners
  • No stand-alone floor plan app
  • Upcharges for premium features
  • Only one user can work on an event at a time

Tool Integrations: CaterEase, Cort (extensive digital furniture library of CORT event furnishings).

Best for: Corporate event planners, event firms and venues of every size, wedding planners.

Cost: Subscription plan. Details not provided on the website. Free trial available.  

Bottom line: With drag-and-drop tools and an extensive venue/template library, planners can begin designing floor plans within minutes. The 3D viewing option is an excellent sales tool that helps prospective clients visualize events. But don’t be surprised if somewhere along the road they ask for an increased fee.

Learn more about AllSeated.

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What makes an event floor plan app stand out from the crowd?

1. Essential features

When choosing an ideal floor plan app for your needs, look for features that make sense for your small business, event design company, or corporate event management department.

Essential features include:

  • Effortless collaboration
  • Real-time changes
  • Quick-start event space and element libraries
  • Mobile device compatibility
  • Intuitive user (i.e., event planner) experience
  • Smart integrations

2. Reviews

Next, spend time reading online reviews of the various apps, paying particular attention to the people sharing their opinions. If you’re a wedding planner, and the reviews are coming predominantly from corporate event managers — this is a clue that the floor plan app in question may not be a good fit.

3. Ask your network

Finally, check with your professional network to discuss the pros and cons they’ve discovered while using various event floor plan apps. Call a trusted peer or mentor, cast a wider net by asking for opinions on LinkedIn, or take it face-to-face at networking events.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, take the plunge. Soon after, you’ll wonder how you planned events without backup from your trusty floor plan app.

Save more time within floor plan apps with essential features that let you swap layouts between floor plans, or customize chairs and other furniture for your event.

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