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by Bob Walters | October 01, 2007

In its simplest form, online registration is a web-based questionnaire that attendees fill out and submit to the planning or registration department. Today, a vast number of companies provide online registration services at many levels. Before assessing such vendors, determine the following.

* Is there a core database of names and addresses that your firm or association markets to (for meetings or products) on a recurring basis? Is there value in being able to track who responds, who attends and what they attend?

* Do you use your online registration to clean your mailing lists (tracking invalid e-mail addresses or asking people to update their information in your database)? Or are you more interested in getting people to attend and need it to be more of a marketing tool?

Price points

After considering data requirements, consider budget. Typically, most online systems charge a setup fee and then may charge either a flat rate based on the number of anticipated registrants or a predetermined rate per registrant. Options will range from systems that provide you with a database and import utilities to bring in your data to seed the database, to solutions where attendees enter their information when they register.

Additional charges may be incurred for site design; for setting up pages to reflect your brand; for special fields or information that needs to be tracked; for special programming required for billing options, and possibly for transaction fees for credit card payments made online. Be careful with credit card payments; make sure the payments being made are going directly to your merchant account rather than to the provider’s.

Who’s Who

While it is virtually impossible to list all of the online registration providers out there, following is a list of some prominent firms. (Note: Rates are not listed, as they will be determined by a number of factors, including the total number of registrants, the length of time you need the system available, the nature of your meeting and the manner in which you want the final information delivered to you.)

* Acteva (www.acteva.com). This San Francisco-based company offers comprehensive marketing support for meetings.

* Attendee Management Inc. (www.attendeenet.com). Based in Wimberley, Texas, this firm works with planners to determine the best technology to use and then facilitates the process, offering online, phone and fax registrations.

* Certain Software (www.certain.com). Check out this San Francisco-based firm’s “Ten Tips for Successful Online Registration.”

* Cvent (www.cvent.com). The McLean, Va.-based firm’s website has a list of questions for planners to ask online registration providers.

* 123Signup (www.123signup.com). Based in San Jose, Calif., 123Signup has a wide range of services for events, membership and training.

* Registration 123 (www.registration123.com). The Geneva, Ill., company offers a full range of management services for meetings and membership.

* Regonline (www.regonline.com). The Boulder, Colo.-
based company offers planners per-attendee pricing, easy-to-review online pricing and estimators for pricing out their services.

* Smart-reg (www.smartreg.com). This Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm provides broad-based solutions including lead retrieval, attendance and tracking.

* Thriva (www.thriva.com). This Bothell, Wash.- based company has a variety of solutions for meetings registration, in addition to registration for schools and individual classes.

Bob Walters,based in Fort Worth, Texas, is founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak Software.