Very few activities in the travel and hospitality industry bring more disparate elements together than a conference. So many different groups of people are involved – planners, speakers, hoteliers, airlines, destinations, vendors, technology, exhibitors, attendees and more. All of these usually are at remote locations, yet have to communicate frequently.
While emails and the phone calls do a lot to make this communication easier, many planners overlook technology that can further simplify this process, saving time and money. The right technology can do more for you than you can imagine, not only eliminating time-consuming data entry and tracking, but actually increasing your revenues as well. The wrong conference registration software, however, may not deliver more efficient operations but may even make your life more difficult – many times resulting in significant missed revenue.
So what is the right online registration software for your conference?
A full online conference registration software package should have all of these elements (where applicable):
- Online Registration with Conditional Logic
- Flexible Pricing and Discounting
- Membership database links
- Self-Service registration
- Transaction Based Accounting
- Exhibitor Management
- Real-time Custom Reports
- Onsite Registration
- Post-conference surveys
Let’s review the first set of these online conference registration software features.
Online Conference Registration with Conditional Logic
Many people think of online registration forms as simple “invitations” where you pay a small fee, enter a bit of information and you’re finished. This might work for networking events, but for a conference, this approach spells disaster. The registration revenue from a typical conference can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. To bring in this revenue you need to have a good business model. This model includes treating different types of attendees in different ways. For example:
- Association members versus non-members
- Full conference versus one-day attendances
- Special categories: sponsors, exhibitors, presenters, volunteers, etc.
- Optional events with different fees based on the prior criteria
- Collection of different demographic information based on prior criteria
And so forth. A one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t cut it. If you change your business model to accommodate a software package that is meant for an evening networking event, you will pay the price in massive increases in labor, decreased revenues or both.
Flexible Pricing and Discounting
Related to this is the need to be able to offer different promotions to get people to register for your conference. For example, if you have a member-based association you would be making a big mistake not to give a discount to your members. You already probably use early bird dates to get your registration revenue stream started earlier – but is it easy to set up or change? Can you create promotion codes and discounts in real time as the need arises? If you are ready to bring in a big sponsor, can you create the codes needed to record the sponsorship or do you have to wait for some custom programming? Can you create a limited-use coupon to give to people to visit the exhibit floor? Can you create group discount incentives?
If your registration system is unable to perform these services you will probably be missing some good opportunities to increase revenue for your conference.
Membership Database Links
Can your conference registration system link to your membership data? In the online world, the easier you make it for people to register the quicker you can collect the revenue. Does your event membership management software link pre-populate the registration form so the person does not need to retype his or her information? Can a person join your organization at the time of registration? What about renewing the membership? Can you offer special promotions for members versus non-members?
Our studies have found that if you offer membership joining and renewal at the time of registration, 10-20% of the time people elect to do this. Are you taking advantage of this HUGE opportunity?
Are you able to tell when someone’s registration information is different from the membership record so you can keep the latter data clean? Can you easily send customized emails to segments of your membership to give specific incentives to register? Are you able to easily record non-member registrants as prospective members? Or are these more missed opportunities?
These are just a few of the ways you might be losing money and increasing costs by using an inadequate conference registration system. Our next few posts will look at some other features first-class conference software must have.
If you have any questions or would like to find out more about our services, contact us today!