Have you heard of someone who bought an online registration software package that promised to deliver an attractive form and save time, only to find these expectations were not met? Did they get a lot of complaints from registrants? Was the software so limited that the planner had to spend long, late hours creating spreadsheets to manage tasks the software could not handle?
Fortunately, there are some tell-tale signs that an online registration package is sub-standard. If you look for these during the evaluation process, you can be spared the pain of the unfortunate planner.
- Online registration form looks like a cheap invitation. Many online registration companies promise you an attractive form using one of their “templates.” Instead the only part of your brand that appears is your logo, surrounded by non-matching colors. If you created a beautiful conference website, shouldn’t your online form match that design?
- Online form cannot handle basic functionality. If you hear “can’t do” from any of the following features, then you know the software is pretty basic. These are a must for online registration packages: group registrations, customizable discounts, member-based validation, capacity limits for sub-events and workshops, rules-driven questions, fields in any order you want, and many more.
- Limited Credit Card Payment Gateways. Credit card processing is at the heart of online registration. Experienced planners know that it is important to setup your online processing in a way that is efficient and limits additional fees. If you hear of a product that does not support leading gateways such as PayPal, Authorize.net and First Data, it might be time to simply move on. If you are required to use the product’s payment gateway with exorbitant processing fees, you may want to consider heading for the exit! On the other hand, having many gateway options is best.
- Sorry, we don’t take cash or check. Third rate products offer this as the only registration option: pay all now by credit card and changes are out of the question. Unfortunately, the real world does not work this way. People mail in registrations with checks and people pay onsite with cash. If your software requires you to track these kinds of transactions with your own spreadsheets, you have a real dud on your hands.
- Change is Mission Impossible. Third rate software systems have an “one and done” approach. Namely, the system assumes that once someone pays in full by credit card that no further changes are necessary. This is not realistic in the conference world. People downgrade or update their registrations, make partial payments, need refunds, adds an attendee and so forth. Any system that does not allow you to make whatever adjustments you need to the registration record is probably only suited for $50 networking events (if that!)
- Can’t get the data out. Fly-by-the-night software gives you a limited set of reports to use. In the worst case, you only have a handful or reports. Other companies try to “tie you in” to their product by generating reports that cannot be manipulated. For example, if your standard format is a PDF, you will be hard-pressed to use the data elsewhere. This alone would be a reason to run. If the software is also missing out on heavy-duty financial exports or custom reports, you are looking at some real trouble.
- Failure to Communicate. Some online registration systems require you to export your attendee list to another program for Email communications. This is another sign of a poor product. If you cannot send attractive Emails to your attendees or a specific class of registrants, then you have stumbled upon a real loser.
- We don’t do stinkin’ badges. Do you have to do a mail merge into Microsoft Word to generate badges? Hate to tell you this, but you are in the stone ages. You should be able to produce attractive and easy to print badges, personalized for each attendee.
- How was the show? Post conference surveys are usually not on the radar of bad online registration packages. On the other hand, if you have to pay to issue these surveys, then you are probably throwing your money away.
- Spreadsheets for the rest. Does your conference have speakers, exhibitors, VIPs and so forth? If you are using a turkey, then get out your spreadsheets. Have fun checking people in onsite!