By David Saef – Executive Vice President of MarketWorks & Strategy, GES.
No doubt, executing a flawless event takes months of scrupulous planning. From selecting the perfect venue to handpicking relevant sponsors to engineering a witty hashtag, a lot of tasks fill your to-do list. Finally, all your hard work has paid off: Registration is open!
You log on to Twitter, hoping to see your hashtag spreading like wildfire — only to discover that event attendees are complaining about your cumbersome registration process.
At the time, you were so busy perfecting every other detail that registration slipped through the cracks. How much variation can an event really have in its process, after all? But registration is a lot like a first impression. A smooth, engaging one can leave your attendees with a positive opinion of your event and your brand, while a poorly constructed one can leave them with a bad taste in their mouths for years to come.
For most event attendees, the typical registration process involves entering extensive data into multiple screens. But instead of guiding users through the process, antiquated systems force attendees to figure it out on their own.
When attendees must aimlessly pick and choose which sessions to attend, for instance, there’s a lot of room for disappointment. Of course, you shouldn’t be mapping out every minute of attendees’ experience, but providing a well-thought-out journey shows you’re invested in catering to prospective customers’ wants and needs.
Additionally, some conferences allow attendees to sign up for specific classes without setting a limit. But what’s the point of registering if an attendee shows up and can’t find a seat?
Once attendees finally get through the online registration system, they’re often forced to wait in long lines at the event to pick up their badges and additional materials such as printed programs. No one likes standing in lines, but when attendees have already endured a lengthy registration process, the 15-minute wait for their badges can feel like an hour.
By the time they’ve gone through the entire process, they’re likely grumpy and tired — not exactly what you were aiming for.
By thoughtfully designing your registration and check-in processes, you can make a powerful first impression that sets the tone for a successful event. Keep these two key strategies in mind:
Registration is a prime time to gather valuable insights on your event attendees: their demographics, professional roles, mobile usage, what they hope to gain from the event, etc. But attendees don’t want to spend hours inputting data into a system if it offers them no benefit. In the age of Amazon and eBay, they demand an intelligent user experience. Propose an event schedule that best meets their needs by basing it on the information they enter throughout the process.
The American Wind Energy Association, for example, provides an additional listing of education sessions by professional role — separating sessions for operations professionals, lawyers, and businesspeople as well as project development and utility grid development.
“We want registration to be easy for our attendees, so we have significantly simplified registration options and pricing this year,” said AWEA Director of Marketing and Branding Tim Morris. “Once registered, we provide tools within our online program schedule as well as mobile app that separate activities at the show into industry segments to help attendees identify the most relevant opportunities offered.”
You can also improve the registration process by offering a “guaranteed seat” option for sessions in high demand. This will ensure attendees can comfortably soak in the presentation. As a result, they’ll leave the conference with the information they most wanted to hear. At CDA Presents, a large dental conference that attracts more than 25,000 attendees, the California Dental Association offers a guaranteed seat in the most popular sessions for a modest $10 fee. This way, organizers don’t have to send engaged attendees to another room to watch the session on a remote monitor, which essentially cuts off the opportunity to ask questions.
Finally, to combat the long lines at check-in, you can either mail attendee badges in advance or offer badge pickup at hotels and transportation hubs.
Another new trend is layering social registration into your process. Social registration allows attendees to use their Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter account information to prepopulate fields and save time.
InGo, one of the leading social registration providers, uses LinkedIn or Twitter to prepopulate registration fields and an algorithm to spit out suggestions to identify who else within an attendee’s network might be interested in the event. As attendees register, they can send notifications of their plans to others in their networks.
You can also put a digital spin on your check-in process by encouraging attendees to use your mobile app to access important materials like programs and schedules. As a result, you’ll reduce production costs on printed programs and decrease the need for on-site distribution. It’s more efficient for the attendee, more informative for you, and better for the planet.
The goal of any event is to allow attendees to attend, not to stumble through a lengthy registration process and stand in lines. Abandoning outdated event registration systems tells your attendees that you not only understand their wants and needs, but that you’re also ready to fulfill them.
David is the Executive Vice President of MarketWorks & Strategy at GES, a global event marketing company with a long history of connecting people through live events. The company has more than 3,000 passionate employees throughout the world who provide unparalleled service and consistent execution of breakthrough experiences that blend art and science to foster engagement.