The latest meeting registration products represent a quantum leap from the days of the basic online registration form. These new products allow you to create a registration form in minutes and make it match your Web site. And customization options include colors, thematic designs, and even the ability to include your company or meeting logo.
All those options can be daunting, so here's a quick look of some of the features you'll want to look for when choosing a registration product.
Choose a program that allows you to build registration forms for complex, multisession, multiday events. Look for multiple customizable fields. You want the ability to have:
Multiple registration options (e.g., members, nonmembers, speakers, exhibitors), each with its own set of pricing and registration rules;
Breakout sessions with individual pricing;
Session capacities and wait lists that can be monitored and automatically capped;
Registrations that can be edited or even canceled online by registrants up to a specified cutoff date;
Housing lists that can include multiple hotels with room-block management.
Some products offer the ability for group sign-up, so that one person can enroll multiple people without filling out a separate form for each person.
Look for these features:
A single online database for all registration, tracking, communication, and reporting tasks
User-selected required fields and drop-down registration fields
The ability to fill in registration forms for attendees already in your database
Personalized communication — E-mail is addressed to the potential registrant by either first or last name.
Automatic e-mail confirmation — A message is immediately sent summarizing the transaction and giving the registrant the option to edit the request.
Automated response tracking — Many products will track e-mail message receipt and opening.
Reminders and changes — Automated announcements can be sent for deadlines or program changes.
Multiple media — Some of the registration products provide fax blasts and postcards as alternate methods of communication.
Automated surveying and registration demographics — You can ask questions in the registration process to capture demographic data, which will be automatically tallied and tracked.
Look for standardized reports that can be queried from any location by anyone with a password. Typically, these include registration counts, attendee lists, session counts, name badges, arrival/departure manifests, room reservation details, registrant history, and so forth. Some can build custom reports and sort for any field.
Online registration products often offer advantages over an internally hosted online registration system. They are commonly hosted on server farms (networked servers housed in one location) with a full-time staff devoted to system integrity and security, data mirroring, and regular system backups. They have strong firewalls and virus protection capabilities as well.
Corbin Ball, CMP, a www.corbinball.com., consultant, and writer on events and meeting technology, has 20 years' experience running international citywide meetings, and helps clients use technology to save time and improve productivity. Contact him at