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.
The Damaging Blow of a Bad Registration Process
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.
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 Google, they demand an intelligent user experience.
Solution: Instead of bombarding attendees with questions, use conditional registration forms to only ask attendees the information that is most relevant to them. For example, if they are interested in boats, show them follow up questions only on boats, not 100 more questions about every other market segment they serve. This helps to streamline the process, but provides you with information to customize their experience.
Lack of Customized Journey
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.
Solution: Propose an event schedule that best meets their needs by basing it on the information they enter throughout the event registration 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 business people 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 and a mobile app that separate activities at the show into industry segments to help attendees identify the most relevant opportunities offered.”
Managing Session Attendance
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?
Solution: Consider 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.
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.
Solution: Consider using e-badges to help speed up the entry process. When a delegate registers for an event, they are emailed a link to their e-badge which they can then easily download and print at home / office. All they then need to do is turn up at the event with their e-badge, collect a wallet to place it in, get scanned and enter the event. This is a simple way to avoid long lines to collect badges.
Another option to combat the long lines at check-in, are providing the physical badges in advance by mail or offer badge pick up at hotels and transportation hubs.
Alternative Registration Options
The more ways event attendees are able to register and self-serve in advance of your event, the less pressure placed on in person registration processes.
Introduce Social Registration
Consider integrating social registration into your process. The simplicity of registering with your social media account information, provides less barriers to registration by pre-populating fields. The ability to share and see which friends are attending also increases likelihood of conversion from registration to attendance. For example, if you and I register for an event and I know you’re going or I’ve invited another colleague, we’re more likely to attend than if we didn’t know our colleagues weren’t going too.
Gleanin, one of the leading social registration providers, helps improve reach to prospects and turn web visitors into registrants, and improves registrant engagement.
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.
Originally published on The Marketing Scope.
About the Author
David Saef is GES’ Executive Vice President of Strategy. David is based in the Chicago client care center managing a team of strategy and marketing professionals. Prior to this position, David led the growth of GES’ Marketing Solutions integrated marketing and measurement offering and previously served as general manager of the Roselle, Illinois client care center. He also acted as a strategy advisor on national client accounts, where he provided insight on establishing and managing face-to-face marketing objectives, program performance, and best-in-class program optimization. David has spoken at Exhibitor Show, TS2, HCEA, Red Diamond Congress, EDPA and Large Show Roundtable.More Content by David Saef