An event registration strategy evolves around much more than price. It takes a well-thought-out plan to successfully attract paying attendees to your conference or event. It is about creating a first-class experience that will set the tone for your event.
As a contract planner I participated in many pricing strategy conversations. Once an agreement was reached the client would move on and never speak about registration again. There is something wrong with that process. Registration isn’t just about setting a price; it is about creating an experience that will attract an audience to your event.
The registration experience will most likely be the first opportunity you have to connect with the attendee. It’s the first impression and one that sets the tone for the lifecycle of the event. Think about making a hotel reservation. Does the hotel reservation experience reflect the expectation you are having of the hotel? Why not the same thought process for an event? With this in mind I am sharing top tips to get the experience right for your event.
Pricing is indeed a discussion to have early on in the planning process. Define the strategy early. Decide on early and late registration, any discounts or special incentives. Define what will be included in your registration fees and what will require an additional fee. Think through your strategy and stick with it through the planning process. Simple pricing strategies are often best.
THE BUYER EXPERIENCE
Next, you will need to think about the buyer experience. How easy will it be for an attendee to purchase a registration? Does the solution you use offer the tools to collect the data you need? Does the solution allow you to share important event details as part of the process? Does the solution reflect the brand of the event you are producing?
Work though the questions you need answered from your attendees as part of the sign up process. Will you require contact information, emergency contact details? Will you require information about meal restrictions and allergies? Any ADA and special need issues? Flight information and transportation requests?
It is key for planners to realize that when asking questions, attendees will have an expectation that their requests will he honored. Again, keep it simple. Don’t offer ten different meal choices if you know the venue and event staff may not be able to deliver on the requests.
It is key to work through these questions before creating your event registration portal and materials.
Price is set and the buyer experience defined. Now it is key to design the messaging around your event. How will you tell the story? How will you get people to come to your registration site? What do you need to share with prospect attendees in order for them to sign up? How will your marketing campaign address all of this?
Now that you are ready to start accepting registrations, you will need to think about the solution you will use to create the online registration portal. There are great products on the market to manage simple registrations, and end-to-end meeting management solutions that can help with the management process and increase efficiencies.
Opt for a cloud-based or SAAS solution, most are affordable and offer the latest in data security and features. Selecting a solution, it is key to understand the cost implications, features, limitations and support.
The earlier in the planning process you can get your registration portal online the better. Events and conferences are expensive to produce and the sooner you can start accepting registrations the faster revenue is being generated to support your planning process.
As mentioned earlier, the registration experience will be one of the first touch points an attendee will have with your event or conference. You must insure that the process is tested before going online to offer an error-free and seamless experience.
Insure that all of the needed data to make a decision to attend is easily available, alongside information to make hotel reservations, program details and other key information important to your audience. Clearly spell out what is included in your registration fee and what is not.
Make sure your confirmation and receipts contain all of the information needed for the attendee to make it to your event or conference unscathed. Share where the onsite registration desk is located at the venue and when the registration desk will be staffed.
THE ONSITE EXPERIENCE
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 can’t 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, however it doesn’t 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 nametags and conference packages in full view of the attendees. The only function should be the welcoming of attendees, checking them in, and the distribution of the conference bag and name badge. 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.
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.