The topic for #BEDN today is ‘Relax‘ so I wanted to share some basics to ensure attendees arrive at your future events happy and relaxed!
When I attend events organised by other people it often surprises me how they sometimes overlook the basics. This blog post was particularly inspired by a recent business event I signed up to attend at a football stadium which has two completely separate entrances and no internal access from one side to the other without walking around the outside of the stadium, which as you can imagine takes some time. On the event online registration site it didn’t specify which stand the event would be held in and no further information was given on the booking confirmation either, so I sent an email to the organisers to check which car park to park in and which entrance to use. I received a curt email back informing me that full information would be sent out on the Friday before the event (note that the event started at 9am on the Monday). When this information finally came through to me (at around 4.30pm on the Friday!) it didn’t actually specify which side of the stadium it would be held at, nor which car parks or entrance to use so I wasn’t actually any the wiser! Likewise sending information out so late on the last working day before the event must have vastly reduced the chances of people actually receiving the email in time, even if full information had been included. Understandably it was chaos at the event – there wasn’t any signage or staff either it seemed! I somehow managed to stumble across the right room in the stadium but I never made it to the registration desk to officially sign in as apparently that was at yet another entrance still! I dread to think what they drop out rate will have been for the event as I am sure many people will have decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to make the trip in the first place or arrived but then turned around and gone back to the office in frustration. The funny thing was that post event I then got an email telling me off for not attending! I then sent my own curt reply informing them that I was in fact present but I just didn’t manage to locate their registration desk! This was an extreme case but I have seen similar examples of this time and time again from various different organisers.
It really isn’t rocket science – my 6 basics to ensure your attendees arrive at the event happy and relaxed are as follows:
1. Ensure the booking process is straightforward.
There are many online registrations sites available today. Make sure you choose a suitable platform and complete a number of test registrations before opening bookings officially. You want to make the registration process as quick and easy as possible whilst still ensuring you collect all of the information you need from your attendees. If you ask for unnecessary information or expect attendees to jump through too many hoops they may decide not to bother and possibly never register to attend the event.
Top Tip: Many online registration sites such as EventBrite give 15 minutes as standard for the registration to be completed, after which it times out and the information is lost if not submitted within that time period. I often increase this to 30 minutes so that if the person registering gets caught up on the phone, etc they can hopefully still complete the registration they started within the time period, rather than having to start all over again from scratch.
2. Send confirmation of the booking, explaining when further information will be sent out and who to contact in case if any queries in the meantime.
Online registration sites enable you to customize the confirmation message issued automatically when someone registers for the event. Under no circumstances should you leave this as the default suggested basic text or not make use of this feature. You should rewrite the confirmation message to detail key information about the event.
Likewise if there is a waiting list for the event the acknowledgement sent should be a bespoke message you have created.
Top Tip: We suggest that the automatic confirmation should include acknowledgement that the attendees registration has been received, reminder of the event name, date, times (making clear the registration period, start and finish times), venue full address, details of when further information will be issued and full contact details for the organisers in case they have any questions in the meantime or need to cancel/amend their booking. You may also want to include details of how attendees can stay up to date for instance through social media channels, the event Twitter hashtag, etc.
3. Send out detailed directions and final information in advance of the event.
We spend a lot of time creating and checking the final attendee information before sending it out well in advance of the event. This information is bespoke to the event and venue but will generally include the full final event programme, venue address, directions, map, parking information, public transport information, social media information, access information and any important information or special instructions for attendees. Regularly we include walking routes too to encourage active travel and sometimes even details about cycle routes and cycle parking.
In normal circumstances we would recommend that this information should be sent at least 7 or 10 days ahead of the event.
Top Tip: Don’t overlook anyone, make sure that you send this important information onto everyone that is attending, including speakers, staff, exhibitors, sponsors, photographer, AV company, etc.
4. Ensure plenty of staff are there to welcome attendees at the registration desk.
Accept that however much you do to encourage and entice attendees to arrive at an event early the majority will still arrive in a very small window just before the event starts (this often seems to be 20 minutes before the event start time). This means that you may have many people to register in a short intense period of time and so it is vital that you are prepared for this, otherwise you risk queues of people at the registration desk and the event starting late. Ensure all staff are well briefed to ensure all attendees receive the same key information as they arrive and are checked in quickly and efficiently.
Top Tip: If you need to register a lot of people in a short space of time consider using a barcoded registration system which triggers the delegate badge to be printed from their barcoded ticket within a matter of seconds. Events Northern Ltd have developed our own barcoded registration system which is available for hire.
5. Start at the advertised start time
Even if you are still waiting for some people to arrive try to start at the advertised start time if at all possible. It is unfair on those that have arrived in plenty of time to keep the waiting and will only cause frustration if there is too much delay. Plus if there is a hold up it may encourage the attendees to arrive later at the next event, compacting the problem each time.
Top Tip: If you are delayed starting the event apologize and keep people informed
6. If anyone does arrive late make them feel welcome and get them settled quickly
Attendees arriving at an event may have had a long or stressful journey through busy traffic. Even with the best of intentions delegates can arrive later than they wish through unforeseen circumstances out of their control and can often be feeling stressed and frazzled as a result. It is our job to welcome them to the event as promptly as we can and to relax them and put them in the right frame of mind for the event ahead. We always ensure that late arrivals are registered really quickly and personally shown into the relevant event room.
Top Tip: We always endeavour to reserve and leave seats free at the back of the room near the entrance so any late arrivals can slip into the conference or function without drawing lots of attention to themselves.
What other suggestions would you give to ensure that attendees arrive at your event relaxed and happy?