Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Getting attendees on board with online registrations. By Colin Pauley

Switching from an offline to an online booking process can take a bit of getting used to – for organisers and attendees.

Organisers sometimes feel anxious about ditching the paper-phone combo and going exclusively digital. Meanwhile attendees will carry on using the booking method they’ve always used for the organiser’s events – until they’re prompted otherwise.

The emphasis for switching, however, lies with the organiser. They must take the lead if both parties are to reap the rewards of online event registration systems.

Here are ten tips for getting your attendees on board:

1. Go 100% online

Don’t give your attendees a choice. When you book a flight online, airlines don’t also give you the option to make phone bookings. And surprise, surprise – we book our flights online without a second thought.

2. Tighten your marketing

Marketing emails should be attention-grabbing trailers. They’re not the place for listing all your event info. So make your emails short and punchy. A single, concise paragraph covering the highlights works a treat.

And to really maximise registrations, position your ‘Register Now’ button so it’s impossible to miss. Plus make sure it takes attendees straight to the bookings page of your event registration website.

3. Get linked up

Plaster the URL for your registration website everywhere. Always include it in any marketing emails you send out. Display it prominently on your corporate website. Add it to any social networking sites you use, like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, and include it in any emails to groups you belong to.

And don’t forget to add a clear call to action, like ‘Don’t miss out – register now’.

4. Create online incentives

People assume buying stuff on the internet is cheaper. So play on this assumption and make it cheaper to book online. For phone or postal registrations you could add a ‘manual processing fee’, for example.

Plus you can create another incentive by offering a discount for ‘early bird’ online bookings.

5. Refuse phone bookings

If someone calls wanting to make a telephone booking, tell them registrations and payments are only taken online and explain why. Then make things really easy for them by immediately emailing them the link to the registration page.

6. Give good warning

Prepare your attendees for the switch. Email them in advance explaining that for your next event bookings and payments will only be taken online.

If you let them know what to expect and how the process works, they’ll be far more agreeable.

7. You’ll love it

Email attendees and let them know exactly how they’ll benefit from online registrations – quick and easy to use, more convenient with 24x7 access, greater security, better communication etc.

See the Why event attendees love online registrations blog for more ideas.

8. Make it official

Let people know about the switch to online wherever and whenever you can. For example, mention it in automated phone greetings, incorporate it in your voicemail and in all printed materials, like mailshots and e-newsletters.

If you run lots of events at once, devote a page to your events on your corporate website. Include URLs and punchy descriptions for each event.

9. Educate attendees

Pre-empt any attendee concerns and include a short FAQ section or page on your corporate website (EventElephant’s FAQs will help you).

Provide easy-to-follow steps on how to register for your event. Put it on your corporate website or in any emails to attendees. And be positive and inspire confidence with an encouraging message like ‘Register now – it couldn’t be easier’.

10. Get your staff on board

Sounds obvious but make sure your staff know how online registrations work and are completely comfortable explaining the process to attendees. If they’re unsure about anything, you can always enroll them in one of EventElephant’s free online registration training sessions.

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