While the number of organizations that use some
form of online registration tool has grown dramatically in the past
few years, there still are a number of holdouts. Following are some
tips on what to consider when investigating the options.
Once you’ve decided to go online, decide which of the following
routes you will take.
" Use an existing interface to your database
developed by the database vendor (if it offers a registration
system). If the vendor does not charge transaction fees, this
option can be very cost-effective and time-saving, as it avoids the
necessity to re-key or import any data.
" Have your IT department build a program for your
organization. This can be a very lengthy and
time-consuming route, but can save money in the long run.
" Use an existing service that provides an
online registration system.
Most organizations opt for working with an established registration
service. Today, numerous solutions are available. An Internet
search for “online registration solutions” will provide the names
and contact information for the market’s dozens of vendors. When
weighing different products, consider the following.
" Costs. Is there a flat rental rate per
month, or will you pay a fee per attendee? Be aware some providers
charge per access, meaning the organization pays for the initial
registration activity and again each time an update or change is
made to that record.
Many services will charge a flat rate based on expected volume,
and if that volume is not met, the price is adjusted. Since the
industry is competitive, planners have some leeway to negotiate
rates based on the number of attendees, specific features needed
and flexibility required.
" E-commerce activity fees. If the
organization is accepting online payments, you will need to set up
a merchant account and an account with an online processing service
such as VeriSign (www.verisign.com), Skipjack (www.skipjack.com),
Paymentech (www.paymentech.com) or PayPal (www.paypal.com). Some
providers already have these services set up but might charge a fee
either a flat rate or a percentage of each transaction. Note: These
can add up quickly.
If the organization decides to accept online payment, make sure
the providers both the processing service and the host of the
online registration pages have a current and valid SSL (Secure
Socket Layer certificate, which means they provide a level of
encryption for the data being entered and returned from the
server). Note: Before investing in this option, be sure
members/attendees are comfortable sharing their credit card
" Other services. Is there a help desk? Can
the provider handle fax or phone registrations for attendees who do
not want to register online?
" Interface. What will the user interface the
look and feel of the registration pages be like? Will it appear as
part of the organization’s website, or is it locked into a standard
set of pages that only allows the organization to change the
" Frequency. How often will the organization really use the
registration system? If you have just a couple of small meetings
per year or one large annual meeting, it might be more economical
to contract online registration only for the registration period,
typically a few months prior to the event or events.
Going online can be an expensive initiative, so make sure it makes
sense for the organization, and be sure to consider the time and
long-term savings potential (typically, the cost of one full-time
employee) before making the final decision.
Bob Walters, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is founder of
Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak