by Bob Walters | May 01, 2006
On-site event registration can be managed in a number of ways, ranging from self-registration to hiring full-service registration companies. How you manage the task depends on the number of registrations you will be handling on site, the capabilities of your management system, the complexity of the event, and your budget.
    Keep in mind that the more services required, the more on-site registration will cost. Typically, the least expensive path is for the sponsoring organization to handle its own registration. The cost of contracted services will depend upon your needs, which can range from staffing to attendance tracking.

If you have a database application that you use in-house for managing your registration, you might be able to take it on site to manage any changes or additions for registrants. This is the least expensive and simplest option, as the only components you will need are computers, a registration area and additional registration staff, if required.
    When considering this route, determine whether anyone else at your organization will need the database while you are at the meeting. In many organizations, it is possible to take a copy of the database just before you leave for the conference or meeting, tell everyone not to make any changes until you return, and then restore the database. The one hitch is that no one else can use the system while you are on site. If your organization is small enough, that might not be an issue. Check with the provider of the database. Many have utilities that allow you to check out information pertaining to the meeting while leaving the main database behind. (During the meeting, you can update the on-site database and, when you return, update the information in the primary database.)

If your on-site registration is complicated, whether due to multiple sessions, extra costs for functions or detailed demographics, consider contracted services. The cost will depend on your needs, which can range from staffing to attendance tracking as well as the number of attendees. Determine when they will begin handling your registration. For example, if your firm has its own database, you might want to handle the preregistration, then transfer the information to the registration service; this will help trim costs.
    In your contract with the provider, make sure you get the data back in a format you can import into your database. Check with the developer of your database to see if the firm has any standard import/export utilities that will provide a set format for the data. Also, make sure the data remains the property of your organization; stipulate that the contracted company provides you with the data in the format of your choice and removes the data from its own computers.

Why not use kiosks for registration? Participants register themselves by entering a code or registration number to confirm they are in attendance. This option is probably best for events with smaller numbers of attendees; for larger groups, it can work as a complement to a staffed registration area.
    If you opt to go with kiosks, you’ll probably want to configure the browsers so they will show only the check-in forms and prevent anyone from typing in a URL address. This way, they will not be tempted to check e-mail and hold up the lines of others waiting to register.
    If attendees must pay to attend the event and have not prepaid, consider providing swipe-card technology that will let registrants sign in and provide payment in one efficient step.