Friday, 26 June 2009

Why online registration pays. By Colin Pauley

There’s no going back. It’s inescapable. Our lives and our businesses are shaped by the internet and it will only become ever more so.

The reality for event organisers is that fully embracing web technology is no longer an option - it is an urgent requirement. Naturally some are still a little nervous about changing from paper based to online methods, and some are wary that their event attendees will be equally as cautious about online registration and ticket payment.

It’s clear though that at some point every event organiser will have no choice but to join the online revolution. Not doing so is increasing the risk of becoming uncompetitive, of creating attendee dissatisfaction and of rapidly eroding event margins.

So what are the key online advantages for the event organiser?

1. Boost attendance and revenue

On average event organisers report a 20% increase in attendee numbers when they offer an online registration and payment facility.

Attendees are much more likely to take action and to register and pay straight away if they are presented with just an online option. They are more likely to postpone their decision to sign up if they have to confirm and pay by phone or post.
Plus built-in functionality boosts attendees’ commitment to the event. Making the most of automated personalised emails and click-to-confirm email reminders reduce drop-out rates and ensure a fuller house.

2. Slash costs

End to end online registration, payment processing and attendee management systems dramatically streamline the labour intensive processes involved in running and managing an event – generally saving 50% off of the traditional costs.
Organisers significantly reduce the cost per attendee by creating greater efficiency such as; reducing keying errors, spending less time on account reconciliation, experiencing fewer on-site attendee problems, minimising postage, printing, labour and telephone costs.

3. Tight attendee management

Most online event registration systems come with reporting functions. They’re great for keeping a really close eye on your event and delegates. And because the reporting is in ‘real time’, there’s no lag – you always get an accurate picture of your event.

Plus they’re really easy to use. You can export data to Excel, Word, Access and other formats, which comes in really handy when you want to create attendee badges and delegate lists etc.

4. Up-to-the minute financials

Forget calculators. And spreadsheets. Online event registration systems put an end to worrying about one of the worst aspects of event organising – collecting the money.

The smart systems come with a built-in secure payment function for processing debit and credit cards. Organisers can take bookings, issue any refunds if required, and conduct a number of other transactions.

Because all payments are taken using one system, you get up-to-the minute figures on essential info like the number of tickets sold, which promotional discounts are working well, and how many group bookings have been taken etc. You can also immediately see what breakout sessions have sold out and whether you need to add extra workshops.

5. Increases customer retention

Happy delegates come back. It’s that simple. Plus they’re far more likely to recommend the event to their friends and colleagues. Get the event wrong and you pay the price. Disappointed delegates waste no time spreading news of a poorly run event.

This means making sure all event management and marketing is as tight as a drum. There’s no room for mistakes. An admin error might seem small but to an attendee it can really rankle. For example, a typo on a name badge may be only one letter out, but it’s still sloppy. And it implies the organiser cares more about the numbers than the individuals.

That’s why smart organisers don’t take any chances. They use online event registration systems, which put the delegate in total control of their info. Which means nothing falls through the cracks. And no-one gets upset.

In conclusion the online payback is worth it – The top and bottom line numbers improve. Your event process becomes more efficient and your attendees are impressed by a better all round experience. As an event organiser it’s not something you should think about. It is something that you should make happen. As soon as you can.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Why event attendees love online registration systems - By Colin Pauley

We’ve all been there. You arrive at the conference bright and early, looking forward to getting stuck into the programme. Then the organisers tell you they’ve no record of your booking. Cracking start.

So they exchange a few blank looks, mumble an apology and promise you they’ll sort it before hurriedly handing you a name badge. With someone else’s name on it. At least it may as well be for all the errors. Nice touch.

And by the time you’ve finished remonstrating that you’ve pre-booked and already paid for your lunch, you find lunch has left the building. Talk about Heartbreak Hotel.

How can this be when we live in the digital age? And have done for YEARS. I banished the ‘weekly shop’ at the local supermarket long ago. My groceries are dropped at my door at a time that suits. Brilliant.

And I can book a flight – and satisfy no end of aviation laws – in five minutes. Start to finish.

Come to thing about it, there’s not much I can’t order using my laptop from the comfort of my sofa. Books, CDs, TVs, sofas, beds, washing machines, takeaways, taxis. Practically anything.

And there doesn’t seem to be any problem getting my details right. Plus I get an email confirming my booking and a nudge when my stuff’s on its way. No hassle, no stress. Easy.

In fact it’s now got to the point where it seems odd when a company doesn’t indulge my preference for all things online. Particularly when it comes to registering for events. Make it easy for people and they’ll come. Don’t, and they won’t. It’s that simple.

So it’s great to see savvy event organisers grabbing all the digital world’s got to offer. By using online event registration systems, they’re cutting out loads of hassle and alleviating the undoubted pressure that comes with delivering a large event. By switching from the traditional way of registering delegates to super-fast online bookings, they’ve made their lives so much easier. And they’re not hearing their delegates complaining either. Here’s why:

1. Super-fast, super-easy registration

Once you’ve checked out an event online and decided to attend, you want to book it there and then. You don’t want to faff around with calling someone up and going through all your details. Or worse, have to print off forms, mess around with cheques and rely on snail mail.

Online registration and payment systems make life so much more convenient. In one quick visit you can punch in your details, register for the event and make your payment. And because it’s online you can register whenever you want. No waiting for office hours. Register at a time that suits. Job done – and all from one convenient portal.

2. Top-drawer data security

Nowadays online transactions are protected by state-of-the-art security, like encryption keys and firewalls. Plus there are audit trails for transactions, so you don’t have to worry about who’s got their mitts on your debit / credit card details. Nothing’s left to chance or human error.

Unlike with the traditional phone-and-paper combo. Hard-copy spreadsheets and files are often left lying around, plus they’re easy to mislay or unwittingly throw away.

3. Total control

The online revolution means we don’t just expect to be able to do things ourselves, we demand it. Online event registration and attendee management systems put you in the driver's seat. No more relying on customer service lines. Or suffering those nerve-wrecking automated response systems.

An online registration system gives you complete control and lets you personalise your booking. From planning your breakout sessions, to choosing what you want for your meal, to stating your hotel room preferences.

And because all your details are safely tucked away in a single system, you can go in and change something whenever you want. If you want to see the latest speaker or programme updates, just log on and take a look. Or if you need directions and want to print off a map, it’s no problem at all.

4. Rapid confirmation emails

It’s reassuring when you know something’s been done properly. Most online registration systems send automated confirmation emails, which give you that peace of mind – instantly. The email hits your inbox moments after you’ve clicked ‘confirm booking’. So you can quickly check everything’s in order and then forget about it. No chasing people up to make sure your booking hasn’t disappeared into the admin ether.

5. Keeping in touch with organisers

Big events involve a lot of people. Which means there’s always the chance that there’ll be changes to the programme. An extra speaker added here, another breakout session there.

For delegates, if things do change it’s nice to know straight away. Not at the event, when that really insightful extra session is full up.

Most online attendee management set-ups come with a built-in contacts database and email system. So as the event evolves, the organiser quickly rifles off targeted and personalised emails to their contact list and everyone’s bang up to date.

Not that we like being emailed all the time. So if we’ve had enough of these missives, these smart email systems let us opt-out immediately at the click of a button. No questions asked.

As someone who’s never far from his next event, I’m always put off when I’m denied an online registration system and payment facilities. I know it means having to find the time to book it when I’ve got loads more interesting things to do.

The bar’s been raised in recent years. Regular event goers have developed certain standards. Not least because in today’s online age, they know there’s no excuse for making event registration hard work.