OFTEN, the most important details of an event are the most tedious to plan. The art of registration certainly falls in this realm, as it is a process that needs to begin well before your event.
Too often, little thought is put into registration as a process except for actually gathering information about who is coming. However, a proper registration process has three phases:
Pre-Planning Phase: the process in which an event sets up an online registration to collect data and details from attendees.
Planning Phase: the process that involves attendees completing a registration form, providing the meeting planner with much needed information.
Event Execution Phase: on-site act of attendees arriving to the venue/location to collect their registration material and to officially check-in to the event.
Common Trouble Areas
Despite the best laid plans, there are several common areas overlooked during the planning phase. Following are six key areas meeting planners recommend to be thoroughly considered:
1. Identify an emergency contact for attendees. Although you hope to never use the information, it’s important to have should the need arise.
2. Request dietary restrictions, ADA or other special needs. It is important to identify any food allergies or specific needs. However, many planners have learned that an open text box on the registration form isn’t wise, as some attendees will use it as a chance to pick their menu! Opt instead to limit the requests to preferences you can actually accommodate such as vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, Halal, allergies, etc. It makes it clear to the attendee that we are concerned about dietary restrictions, but cannot provide a personalized meal for every conference attendee. ADA needs are equally important to identify and accommodate.
3. Communicate what is included. Not providing enough detail on what is or is not included with registration (i.e., do attendees pay their own hotel fees, are meals included, etc.) can be frustrating for attendees. The more detail you can provide attendees within the registration, confirmation and event website, the happier those attendees will be.
4. Outline registration separation. Should employees and attendees register in a separate manner? By separating registration counters by attendee type, you are able to keep the process moving in a fluid manner (employee registration, sponsor/partner registration, or attendee registration). Each of the attendee types usually receives varying registration materials, and they have their own set of needs and questions.
5. Ask for applicable info only. While not asking enough questions can be problematic, asking too many questions can result in the registrant not completing the registration, and/or they become annoyed by the lengthy process. A planner should only ask for information that will be used and is applicable.
6. Provide directional assistance. You never want to see your attendees walking through the venue confused and frustrated that they cannot find a room. Having a few staffers floating around the venue to assist creates a warm and helpful attendee experience. If you have a large group movement to buses for an off-site event, you should stage multiple staffers along the pathway to keep attendees moving in the right direction.
Finally, be sure to look at your event from your attendees’ viewpoint when planning registration, the event website and other conference/meeting communications. Clearly outlining details and information will go a long way in ensuring a great attendee experience.
A veteran of the meeting planning industry, Erin Thompson has almost a decade of experience in the hotel industry handling reservations, front desk activities and management. She also has experience working for a marketing group on incentive travel programs. Her 14-year tenure at metro-Connections has focused on attendee management services and the technologies that go into the management of those attendees.