When you first start to wrap your mind around a large scale event, you usually begin by thinking big. Venue tours, entertainment options, food selections, room layouts, and more. As planners, we often fall in love with the larger event aspects that make up the bulk of the event experience you are giving to attendees. The things that bring in the much sought after “wow” factor. With that being said, you have to be very careful to ensure that the behind the scenes (but equally important) items don’t get marginalized.
In this ongoing series, we’ll look at some of the behind the scenes details that have a big impact on your event. Previously, we addressed event security, and in our second post on this topic, we’ll be taking a look at registration.
Improving your registration process & attendee experience
When should registration start? As soon as it makes sense. If it’s an annual event, open registration for next year at the current year’s event. If it’s a standalone event, open registration as soon as you have secured details or speakers that will entice your audience. Keep things fresh with a sliding cost structure that rewards those who register early and/or in large groups. Beyond cost, is there a special experience or amenity that could entice your potential attendee? A number of attendees are spending company money, so a price discount might not be enough of an enticement. What are some unique things you can do for them? Plan to sell out the event and get some good FOMO going.
A longer registration period allows you more time to organize, budget, and plan accordingly. It also allows you to engage your audience for a longer period of time giving added value to your program and your potential sponsors.
Have one or more people on your team dedicated to communicating with registrants. They will be there to help troubleshoot the process, answer questions, and keep a running log of registrants (and their important info) updated and available in real time. They can be supported by an FAQ page on your website or app. The person in this role can reply to questions or concerns voiced via social media, hashtag, or content walls on your app. When these issues arise there will never be a round robin of “who is going to take that?” When you have someone dedicated to this role, it makes for a smoother event process and a happier attendee.
From the attendee perspective, make sure that your registrants can customize the communication they receive from you. When they register, they should be able to opt in to alerts for event updates such as: new speakers, additional learning opportunities, check- in details, city information & anything else under the sun. Even though it’s never what an organizer wants, registrants should also be able to opt out of communication. At the end of the day, it is their event. You want to make sure and deliver what makes them happy, even if what makes them happy is showing up to the event with no prior communication from the organizer.
Arrival (aka you never get a second chance to make a good first impression)
Make sure your signage plan is thought out and easy to follow. This will assure that upon arrival, guests have an easy time finding their way to the registration area. A frustrated attendee who had to ask multiple people before finding out where to be..? Well that’s just not a good way to kick things off.
Consider your registration timing and make sure it is the appropriate amount of time for the amount of attendees who will be picking up badges, updated information/agendas, or sponsor swag. If you know at some point there will be a line and it can’t be helped, consider ways to entertain people while they wait. The possibilities are endless, including musical entertainment, passed food & beverages, or mobile registration staff on tablets to move through the line and possibly streamline/speed up the process.
Organization & Execution
Registration is one of the first impressions you give your attendees, so it should be easy to find, establish the brand of the conference, and have well informed and friendly staff. To make the check-in process as painless as possible, consider different options for badge pick up. Could there be a VIP line for a certain registration level? A good fit for an extra large group might be a printing station where attendees can scan in a reg code to have their badge printed and then pick up the accessories needed to assemble them. Whatever your plan is, make sure you have welcoming and friendly faces there to execute it. Sometimes a kind word or a patient person makes all the difference.
Registration is a unique opportunity to get a feel for what your attendees will be interested in experiencing and finding out why they will be attending your conference or event. Use registration to ask specifics that will help you know what to plan this year and next, or guide you as to how much space a popular breakout will need. Knowledge is power, so ask the right questions that will give you the most insight into the plans and expectations of your attendees.
Registration can seem like a small detail, or a simple step in your event process. The truth is, both prior to your event and onsite, it is the potential attendee’s first glimpse into the professionalism and organization of the conference. Set yourself up for success and make sure you get registration right.