Online Event Registration: Why You Need It and How to Implement It

By Monica Compton, CMP, July 12, 2012

Online event registration is quickly becoming a necessity for association events. It makes your job easier, and it’s what attendees have come to expect. Selecting the best online registration platform for your meeting can be a daunting task with the myriad options available. Understanding the technological capabilities of each option and the range of customization your program requires can be an additional challenge. Whether you are starting out in selecting a system or considering an upgrade to your current platform, there is an option at every level that can be flexible for your needs.

First, consider your goals and objectives, not only for the current event you are planning, but for future programs. This might be easier if you manage annual meetings with parameters that don’t change dramatically from year to year. If your organization is in expansion mode and looking to add new programs of various sizes, determining the right system can be more challenging. However, most systems have the ability to expand their options and add features as your events grow.

At a basic level, online platforms offer attendee management and registration services with or without a financial feature needed to capture registration fees. Reports downloaded into Microsoft Excel can be sorted by attendee type and by each question asked during the registration process such as choice of activity, dietary restrictions and more.

If your event process includes the management of transportation—both air and ground—your system will require the next level of options. SignUp4, a provider of strategic event management software based in Atlanta, offers a Travel Management System that integrates event registration with travel planning processes. The TMS connects to the Global Distribution System, which acts as an inventory to the airlines, allowing the system to provide flight statistics for each attendee including flight delay information. “The system creates real-time itineraries and accurate hotel exception reports,” says Mark Hubrich, founder and vice president of industry and client relations for SignUp4. “If someone is flying in on a different day than the hotel stay is scheduled to start, it will appear on the exception report.” This alerts the planner that the check-in day might need to be changed and avoids a hotel no-show fee.

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