Let me tell you about Old-School Oliver & Outlook Olivia.
Oliver is passionate about planning an amazing event, and he wants his guests to have a wonderful experience. He’s pulling out all the stops to make sure his delegates receive great service from beginning to end; he even sent out paper invites! In today’s modern world it’s rare to get a lovely invitation in the mail, which means it can be a great way add a specialized touch to his event.
Sounds pretty good, right?
Well, here’s the catch: Oliver doesn’t use an automated registration process. Instead, he’s having his delegates RSVP via email. Email!
That means he’s paying someone to receive these emails, update spreadsheets, personally respond to each email with a confirmation of the RSVP, and also follow-up with individual delegates regarding meals, dietary restrictions, or other information they may have forgotten to include.
If you’re arranging a dinner party for a dozen people this wouldn’t really be a problem (and you could probably even skip the spreadsheet!), but this particular event had over 200 invited guests.
Think of all those emails, all the requisite back-and-forth communication regarding this, that, and the other thing, all that time spent squinting at spreadsheets! (And while you’re considering all that, think about the margin for error while all this information is being hand typed or copy/pasted over the course of 6 weeks.)
There must be a better way!
Well, let me introduce you to Outlook Olivia, who reported that her method for managing an invitation list of 700+ delegates was to send them each a calendar invitation using Outlook. I could tip over right now just thinking about the time, energy, and potential for confusion! I can’t imagine the state of my inbox if I tried that trick, so I think I’ll stick to my modern ways.
Red Alert: Outlook invitations may be computer-based, but that does NOT make them modern!
Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean to say it’s a good idea
Before we get any further, I want you to notice two important facts about Oliver and Olivia:
1. They want their delegates to receive an invitation that will be accessible (while also communicating important event details).
2. They are working SO.MUCH.HARDER than is necessary, with significantly more room for confusion and mistakes to occur throughout the entire process.
Do you resonate with our lovely characters above?
Their stories are real (although names have been changed to protect the innocent). Have you tried all the old-school methods of event registration? I get it! Most people who have planned an event fall back on these options because they feel comfortable, they’re used to the way they work, and at first glance, they’re free. (More on that later!)
I hear all of that, I really do….BUT….I can’t go along with it!
There are very few times in life when choosing a process or system simply because “we’ve always done it this way” is a good idea…and no matter how overwhelming it can be to learn something new, you usually come out the other side much better off than when you started
So here’s my advice: automate your delegate registration process.
It’s too late for Oliver and Olivia (this time around!), but it’s not too late for you.
As a Professional Conference Organiser, I have over 10 years of automated registration experience. In fact, automated registration came into play before cloud software, which feels like it’s been around a hundred years already.
I jumped on board when there were a lot more bugs and issues (new technology does have its downsides), but I can tell you it has come a long way since the early days. Such a long way, in fact, that I would never consider going back to the old ways!
Why is this my go to choice for registration? To make a long story short, automated registration is:
1. Highly efficient: everything from confirmation emails to delegate payments can be processed in real time, and you’ll be able to download all the captured information into gorgeous spreadsheets that literally generate themselves with the click of a button.
2. Limitless: with cloud based software your options abound, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how many choices you have when it comes to creating a helpful, informative process for your delegates.
3. Affordable: it’s not free, and I’m not going to pretend that it is. However, it IS taking the place of the poor soul Old-School Oliver hired to manually complete all of his registrations (they’re probably still typing away…), and when you consider how much brain power you can free up, automated registration feels like an obvious win.
4. Tone-setting: from their first interaction with your event (which happens long before the actual event) delegates will understand that you are up-to-date with modern technology and trends, and they’ll appreciate the effort you’ve put into making their registration a breeze.
So I have to ask … are you willing to least consider automating your delegate registration process?
I understand that it’s really important to you that your delegates know you’re a human (and that you haven’t been overrun by robots). There are dozens of ways to provide this hands on, human connection to your guests … and none of them require you to throw out the idea of automated registration.
And of course … by far the largest objection I receive to automated registration is the price issue. Again and again I hear “Registration software is so expensive!”. I would argue that the perceived price difference is coming as a result of the fact that an automated service has a clear price tag, whereas the human labour going into manual registrations is more or less folded into general admin costs.
(If you’ve ever been the one sitting in the office long after-hours while trying to sort through a gnarly trail of paper or email reservations, you know all about the hidden human cost!)
Here’s how I would break down the investment:
Let’s estimate that a paper registration might take 2 hours over its lifetime: we’re talking all the way from when you first receive the email/paper form, then load it into a spreadsheet/database, send a confirmation email, create an invoice to send, receive payment, receipt the payment, reply to the delegate to confirm receipt of payment, and then prepare a final set of reports. (No wonder somebody decided this needed to be automated!)
2 hours x 200 delegates = 400 hours x $24 (minimum hourly rate of a proficient admin) = $9,600
Then consider a cloud based software system equipped to automatically confirm registrations, invoice participants, create and send receipts at any time of day or night because payment was immediate with a credit card, and generate customisable reports with a click or two at any time during or after the event process.
$9 per registration x 200 people = $1,800
Whether it’s your own time you would be getting back, or the time of an administrator who could could do quite a few more relevant and timely tasks, the value of automated processes for event registration seems quite clear.
If you’re STILL not convinced it’s the way to go, it might be that the mindset of those somewhere higher up the chain of the command is trickling down in a negative way…but that’s a conversation for another day! (And if the buck stops with you, then it might be your OWN mindset holding you back!)
You already know this, I’m sure, but there will be a few learning curves as you get started with a new software system. Most of the tools on the market are fairly intuitive, however, I have full confidence you’ll pick things up quickly once you dive in! I suggest starting with a simple version, then upgrading a few features at a time as you become proficient at using the platform.
Less overwhelm is always a good thing!
Also, keep in mind that switching to an automated system won’t be a matter of just converting your usual paper forms into electronic forms. You have to shift your mindset and look at registration with new eyes (if you read about delegating parts of the event process, you might remember that this is something we can help you with).
Don’t want to go it alone? Outsource it! (still cheaper than Old School Oliver). As you might have realised, we’re passionate about online registration and automated systems, and we have a wealth of knowledge we would love to share with you if you’re ready to step up your registration game once and for all.
Mā te wā!
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