Event technology can provide a bewildering range of choices for the meeting planner. A good place to start making sense of the range of options is to look at how software can be utilized at the various stages of the event lifecycle.
In this series, we will look at the lifecycle from the point of view of an association’s annual conference. In past weeks, we have looked at software that often goes live immediately after the prior year’s conference.
In this part of the series, we look at tools that can help you in your day-to-day work in the months leading up to the conference. This week is about getting online registration on the air.
Opening Online Registration
Most meetings have ended the pitiful days of recording registrations on spreadsheets and have moved to online registration. This is a great move as many studies have shown that the use of this software results in a savings of around $12 per attendee.
For your annual meetings, it is important to get online registration open well in advance of the conference. A long lead time gives you many more marketing opportunities such as early bird discounts, as well as improving your cash flow.
Online registration means money, and it is important to select a product that meets all your needs. Great online registration should include the following features:
- Branded look and feel. Your online registration forms should reflect your branded website and not look like a cheap invitation.
- Support your payment gateway. Do not let your online registration vendor pigeonhole you into a payment processing solution that you do not want. Look for software with a wide choice of payment processing solutions. If you are new to e-commerce, check out this article on how to get started with online credit card processing.
- Must-have registration form logic. Conference registration needs to be flexible to attract the many types of potential attendees you expect. If your registration software does not support these features, you are probably going to need a whole lot of manual work-arounds: 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.
- Handle more than credit cards. Not everybody pays online by credit card. Make sure your system can track payments by check, wire transfer, purchase orders and cash. If not, you will probably need some spreadsheets and a lot of aspirin.
- Real-time reports.
- Email communications. You should be able to send customized Email confirmations as well as targeted email blasts to your registrants and potential attendees.
- Self-service portal for registration updates. Often conference online registration goes live before the final schedule is developed. Your online registration system should allow existing registrants to go back at a later date to create their itinerary as well as make additional purchases, such as add-on networking events.
Your online registration software should do much more than what has been described, but you will need at least this much to get your conference live to potential attendees.