We have all been there. You arrive at your conference and check-in lines seem to go on forever. There is limited signage and you cannot figure out what line to get into. Maybe you will make a few new connections while queuing, but in general you are frustrated with the experience. Not a good start to the day or great first impression of the conference. It does not have to be this way.
PLANNERS, BE PREPARED AND READY EARLY
Check-in staff must be prepared. The registration desk is not the place to assemble name badges and conference packages in full view of your attendees. The only function should be the welcoming of attendees, checking them in, and the distribution of the conference bags and name badges. If you plan on having registration open at 7:30 a.m., be ready no less than 30 minutes early. People will show up early!
Do not skimp on signage. Clear and easy-to-read signs are a must for your event. Attendees should be directed to the correct location and line as soon as they enter the facility. Signs should be at eye level or suspended above check in to insure they are visible from a distance. Should you have on site registration and an issues desk, have signage for those as well
It is key to understand your program and audience. For some events, audiences will trickle in, and other events will result in mass arrivals. Understanding your event and audience is the key to success. For example, if you expect 1,200 attendees, plan on opening your registration at 7:30 a.m. with the program starting at 8:30 a.m., you will have to check-in 1,200 attendees in 60 minutes or less. That is one every 3 seconds. In our experience as planners we would assign no less than 1 person per 100 attendees. For this event we would have no less than 12 people checking in attendees. We also employ a handful of hosts to navigate through the lines and direct attendees, answer questions and make people feel welcome. Longer registration periods will require less staff.
Are you checking in people electronically using a service such as Eventinterface, or a printed attendee list? If using electronic check-in, you must have dedicated Internet access for the registration desk. It is never a good idea to share bandwidth when attendees have access to the Wi-Fi at events. You cannot afford your speed to crawl to a standstill at the check-in desk. Read this post to learn about checking bandwidth at venues.
ONSITE SIGN-UP AND ISSUE REGISTRATIONS
It is key that you have a clearly marked area for walk-up attendees and issue event registrations to the side of the main registration area. This will allow check-in staff to focus on check-in and the issue desk staff to focus on processing onsite registrations and deal with all other registration issues.
Some planners will opt to use technology for attendees to self check-in. Here too the key is to provide ample point for check in, and the staff to guide people through the process should the need arise.
The bottom line is that attendee check-in remains one of the most labor-intensive parts of an event. It is the first impression attendees will have of your conference or event, and anything that goes wrong here will undoubtedly affect their mood. Be prepared and staff appropriately.