While, according to some predictions, e-commerce will increase by 1,000 percent in the next three years and travel has just surpassed computers as the top commodity sold on the Web, many meeting attendees are still uncomfortable with online registration.
Among the most frequently voiced concerns are the following. Is the Web safe? What and where are the risks? How can I convince my attendees that it is safe to register online for a meeting?
First, Why Use the Web at All? For the "seller," the simple answer is: efficiency. The cost per transaction is usually far lower than that of traditional registration. The "buyer" does his or her own inputting of name/address/credit card information, etc. The online meeting registration can then be imported into existing meeting registration systems, saving labor costs involved with answering the phone; handling mail, faxes, and checks; and re-entering data, for example.
Michael Tayloe, program coordinator for Olsen Incentives, San Francisco, Calif., has been pleased with the new online registration for an upcoming program for Financial Network Investment Corporation. More than 70 percent of the group has chosen to register online. He reports significant savings in man-hours, less time spent on the phone with registrants, and the added efficiencies of being able to download the data directly into the system and receive forms that are completely filled out.
"With paper forms, you have to rely on the individual to fully fill out all of the fields," says Tayloe. "On a Web form you simply make the required fields mandatory."
Are Credit Cards Secure On the Web? The answer is yes--as long as some basic precautions are in place. In most cases, the Web is more secure than face-to-face transactions because of electronic security measures and tracking. For example, Travelocity, (www.travelocity.com), one of the top travel booking Web sites, claims that it has never experienced a credit card theft through Web transmission in the hundreds of thousands of transactions it handles annually. Travelocity takes the additional step of describing in detail the many security measures it has in place and that it guarantees for its users (www2.travelocity.com/about/shopsafe.html).
Additional Security Measures Another step you can take to reassure the buyer is to use "digital signatures," the electronic equivalent of a driver's license or passport that works in your browser to identify companies as being who they say they are. An external authority vouches for a company after going through a checking and verification process.
You will see this type of security check become more commonplace. The Meeting Professionals International Web site (www.mpiweb. org), for example, uses Verisign (www.verisign. com) for digital authentication. Another popular Web authentication provider is Entrust (www.entrust.com).
What's the Worst-Case Scenario? So, what happens in the unlikely event that an attendee's card is stolen online? Credit card companies commonly impose a $50 maximum liability if a credit card number is used fraudulently by someone else--Web sites included. (More information can be found on the Federal Trade Commission site: www.ftc.gov.) Several sites, such as Travelocity, offer to pay the $50 if this ever does happen.
Follow the above suggestions and you--and your attendees--will find the Web to be a safe, time-saving, and efficient tool to handle your meeting registration needs well into the future.