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Event Registration

Whether an event will have 25 or 15,000 attendees, meeting planners are responsible for registering them. In some cases, that may mean just taking down names and creating a badge per attendee. For other meetings, you may have to facilitate lead retrieval and integration with various technologies, and create tickets or alternative mechanisms to indicate what specific sessions, events or tours each person plans to attend. You also may have to track attendees' actual participation in sessions, especially for continuing education credits, as well as much more. While registration needs to be the simplest of tasks to your attendees, it can be one of the most complex pieces of meeting planning.

While registration needs to be the simplest of tasks to your attendees, it can be one of the most complex pieces of meeting planning.

  • One of the worst things you can do is to spell an attendee's name wrong on the badge; another is to overcharge a credit card. Have the data processing checked by a different individual before a confirmation is sent.
  • Send confirmation of receipt of registration information and monies within 24 to 48 hours if possible, but no later than 10 working days. Send electronically to save costs, if possible.
  • Encourage registrants to attach business cards, rather than hand write information, for legibility.
  • Allow companies to register multiple attendees via a simple list, rather than insist they complete individual registrations for everyone.
  • Encourage whomever is doing data entry to call the registrant if there is any question about his information. Require the registrant to be contacted for approval if a higher registration fee needs to be charged.
  • Create a "Problem" file for registrations that are pending a reply from the attendee for processing. Keep the file in a common area so all data entry people can access it.

BASICS

  • Decide upon your organization's registration philosophy, policies and procedures.
  • Keep it as simple as possible.  Look at the registration method(s), instructions, policies and procedures from your attendees' perspective, not your own. Speak their language.
  • Decide, based upon your attendees' technology usage and the event's needs, where available technologies will enhance the registration process without over-complicating it. Make sure your choices are tested and work perfectly before adopting them.
  • Determine the size and scope of your event. Ask yourself what potential complexities there are with registration. What are attendees registering for the event, or specific parts of the event? Do they pay for each registered item in an a-la-carte mode, or are some items included?
  • Decide whether to process registrations in-house or outsource the function. Consider the following:
    • Attendee needs and expectations.
    • Size and scope of the event.
    • Event needs and complexities.
    • Existing in-house capabilities (accounting and financial processing, technological, staffing, online capabilities, database management, etc.).
    • Internal costs versus outsourcing costs.
    • Do you have plans to verify actual attendance?

PRE-REGISTRATION CONSIDERATIONS

  • Work with your finance department to set policies for things like:
    • Lost-badge replacement.
    • Name substitutions.
    • Credit card payments.
    • International currency transactions.
    • Cancellations and refunds, whether to make exceptions, and who has authority to make the exceptions.
  • Again ask yourself: What are the needs of your attendees? What information is important enough to go on the front of the badge, and what is most important to be in larger type? What information can go on the back of the badge?
  • What do you want to track? Do you need to know session attendance in advance?
  • Should attendees have the option for their names not to be published on any registration lists?
  • Do you want or need to give the attendee a means on the registration form to inform you of any special needs, like physical disabilities or dietary restrictions?
  • Should you mail badges in advance to avoid onsite lines?
  • What are your online capabilities, or the capabilities of your contractor? How can your organization encourage or require online registration to minimize staffing needs and keep costs down?
  • Do you need a hard copy of the registration form? What information needs to be on the form? What information will you need for membership, finance and event logistics tracking, and future marketing efforts?
  • Is it important to you that attendees register early for the event for either logistical reasons or cash flow? If so, what will you do to encourage this? Will you offer an early bird discount? Will you offer an advance-only multiple or group discount?
  • Determine your deadlines for advance registration, for when you can no longer process registrations before the event and must advise your meeting attendees to register onsite.

     

 

EVENT REGISTRATION - PART 2

 

ON SITE REGISTRATION

Area and space needs
Before selecting an area at the site to handle your registration tasks, whether it's a lobby or a meeting room, consider attendee accessibility and determine your specific registration area space needs, keeping the following in mind:
Overall number of attendees that will be coming through registration lines.
Number of registration counters needed for cashiers, advance materials pickup, etc.
Space needed for registration flow, with the worst-case scenario in mind if you don't have a good history for this event.
Self-registration stations.
Space needed for other registration area desks (restaurant reservations, housing services, etc.).
Consider a cafe area with refreshments near registration to mitigate the "waiting in line" experience.
Space needs for "behind the curtain" activities and storage of materials.
Secure area for financial processing.
Private area to handle challenging attendees or groups.
Assessing your staff
Do you have adequate staff in your organization to handle on-site registration, or will you need to hire temporary help? Ask the local convention and visitors bureau to either provide this service or refer you to CVB members who can.
Training hired help
If you do need to hire temporary help, consider how you will provide training for them. Depending on the complexity of your event, training could be an all-day prior necessity. Printed reference materials for temporary workers are always well received. Hands-on practice provides practical application of policies and procedures.
Good customer service
One of the most critical training topics for temporary workers is to impress upon them the organization's customer service philosophy and how registrants are to be treated; how problems should be addressed and by whom; and that these workers are an extension of the organization's staff.
Money matters onsite
Work with your finance department to determine your procedures and policies for financial processing when onsite. What are the needs to ensure that this process is handled efficiently and safely? Some things to consider:
A separate closed and locked room on which the lock has been "recorded" (i.e., completely replaced) so that only your staff has keys.
A safe for storing cash and checks.
Security guards for registration and to accompany staff for added safety when depositing daily cash receipts.
Application of cash to the master account for the hotel or facility.
Processing credit cards.
Processing refunds and substitutions.
Daily reconciliations.
Renting equipment
Determine what equipment you will need to rent and how to find vendors for that equipment. A single vendor tends to make deliveries and returns easier on staff. Consider the following:
Computers and Internet connections.
Data lines for credit card machines.
Printers and paper.
Self-registration stands.
Badge printers.
Table-top counters.
Office supplies for counters, especially pens.
Tools for staff or temporary help to sit at the counters.
Drapes.
Tables for storage.
Tables or counters for completing forms.
Signage.
Ropes and stanchions for line tending.
Walkie-talkies for registration supervisors.
Wheelchairs and other services to accommodate requirements.
Financial duties
Decide exactly who has the responsibility for reporting numbers and financials on site. Designate one staff member to have a set appointment at the same time each day to collect this information, to avoid having multiple onsite staff members requesting the same information at various times of day, which could result in confusion. Post information in a staff-only access area.
Handling complaints
Attendees will always have complaints, because nothing is perfect. Decide how you plan to handle various attendee complaints, special issues, unexpected long waits, traffic control, emergencies, and any other of the myriad challenges that may arise.