$^1???ti>Few people understand online meeting registration systems — or most meeting technologies, for that matter — as well as Jeff Rasco, president of Attendee Management Inc., Wimberley, Texas. We sat down with Rasco recently to discuss changes in the marketplace and how to get better adoption rates.

Q. What techniques help increase online registration?

A. Tell attendees that if they register online they'll pay a discounted registration fee. Some groups tell attendees that they'll get something extra in their pickup bag. We do find that if there is payment involved, it's better to give attendees the option to send a check — register now, and send us a check later. People aren't afraid to register online, but some are still reluctant to give out personal information, such as their credit card or Social Security number.

An e-mail reminder can help tremendously. We were doing a group of promotional meetings for a computer supply company and, as is common with no-fee meetings, people would say they were coming but didn't show up. So we started e-mailing reminders a day or two before the meeting and we went from 70 percent to 80 percent no-show to 50 percent or less.

Q. As online registration technologies evolve, where do you see the biggest improvements?

A. The technologies involved are talking together better. With the ability to tie together what had been very divergent processes — registration, housing, transportation — you now have all the data in one place, not in four or five places, and you can start doing useful data mining. Now you can do things like see who is registered but has not booked a hotel room. What you want is to be in control of your data. That is the key.

One thing we're watching, out of self-preservation as much as anything, is the interest that Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, and other online discount travel sites are showing toward the meeting industry. They're the world's best at getting users the cheapest flights, hotel rooms, rental cars. Meetings are not a big stretch for them.

Q. What effect will this have on meeting technology companies?

A. I think more of them will band together out of self-defense. Consider StarCite's acquisition of b-there, for example. They already had RegWeb, and they had an agreement with SeeUthere; why do they need a third registration solution? Well, they don't want the registration solution as much as the customer base. It's a war.

Q. How is pricing for online registration changing?

A. Some of the application service provider companies aren't making the billions of dollars they thought they would just selling transactions, so they're ramping up their service side — building out clients' registration Web sites, training, etc. — and selling smaller numbers of transactions without having users buy an annual license. This is a whole different deal. This is pretty new. Before, if you talked to any of these companies, they would say, “We're a technology company.” Now they're saying, “We're a technology company that also offers some services.”

Q. When do you see costs falling?

A. They already are. Transaction costs are lower now, especially as companies provide service along with transactions. They see they can make money on the service side, so they are willing to cut transaction costs. Competition is forcing these companies to bid on jobs that they never would have before.

Q. What advice do you have for planners new to online registration?

A. Define your terms. Make sure your vendor spells out, for example, how it defines a transaction — is it per registrant or per visit to the registration site? That is, does a change to a registration count as a new transaction? How are seat licenses counted? How are financial transactions charged? How much service and training will you get? Are you charged for every call to the help desk?

Key Players in Online Registration

  • Acteva

    San Francisco

  • Attendee Management Inc.

    Wimberley, Texas

  • BlueSkyz Inc.

    Stevensville, Md.

  • Certain Software (Register123)

    San Francisco

  • Cvent

    Arlington, Va.

  • eMeetingsOnline

    Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

  • E-ventCentral.com

    Los Angeles

  • Event Ready (formerly Registration Unlimited)

    Rocklin, Calif.

  • EventRebels.com

    Ellicott City, Md.

  • RegOnline

    Boulder, Colo.

  • SeeUthere Technologies

    Santa Clara, Calif.

  • StarCite Inc. (RegWeb and b-there)

    Philadelphia

  • The Registration Assistant

    Austin, Texas

  • WebRegPro

    Carmichael, Calif.

  • Peopleware

    Bellevue, Wash.

  • Isis Corp. (GoldReg)

    Oakland, N.J.