Registration is your meeting's first impression. Your printed registration piece is reflective of your meeting, and your on-site registration is perhaps one of the most important things you do.
Think about your registration form throughout the year, and gather other registration forms. Look at last year's form and ask: “What information didn't I gather? What do I need to know that I didn't collect?” (Do you need to know attendees' dietary needs? When attendees are planning to arrive or depart? Their spouses' names?)
Set up your registration form so it matches the order of your data entry. This makes it easier for the people who are doing data entry.
When asking for credit card numbers on your form, make the attendees write the numbers in boxes. This forces them to write more legibly, and fewer mistakes are made. An easier but more costly method is to have people register online. This eliminates data entry.
Consider asking attendees for a one-night deposit for the hotel. This protects you againstand attrition charges.
Penalize for on-site registration. Registration is the hardest day of the conference, and attendees who register on-site make the day worse. Consider charging at least $30 more for on-site registration.
Use graduated rates. Receiving more of the registration fees early helps your cash flow, and when people register early, they commit to coming to the meeting. Get them to register as soon as possible.
Gather complete information about attendees and standardize your data entry. For example, if you're using two Hyatt hotels for a meeting in Washington, D.C., make sure your data-entry people are being specific as possible with the Hyatt information: Is it the Grand Hyatt or the Hyatt on the Hill? Later in the process, when ordering buses and transportation, for example, this information will be critical.
Leave space in your data entry for payment variations, such as cancellation fees, complimentary, discounts.
Do you need to know arrival and departure times? If so, make sure they're on your form.
Do you need to arrange airport pickups for certain people?
Do attendees need car rental information?
Do attendees need a suite, or a single, double, triple, or quad?
Are attendees sharing a room with someone?
What information is the hotel expecting of you?
Are you hosting a training that's limited to a fixed number of people (e.g. computer training that's limited by the number of computer stations)? If so, consider using a computer registration system that has an automatic cutoff when the capacity is reached.
You need to be able to accommodate special needs regarding disabilities. Make sure your registration form allows for capturing information about special needs, and then arrange for that need. If you don't, then it's your mistake and you have an emergency when the person asks for accommodation and you haven't planned for it.
If an attendee is a vegetarian, what kind of vegetarian?
If someone registers as a vegetarian, then give tickets for their meals to give to the banquet staff. This prevents people who did not register as vegetarians from requesting a vegetarian meal that they might see being served at the dinner.
Make sure to get attendee passport numbers, and have attendees send you a photocopy of the passport.
Ask for an emergency contact.
Do you need to pick them up at the airport?
What type of hotel room do they need?
Determine what AV and other equipment you will be providing, and communicate that to the speakers.
Ask speakers about AV needs and their presentation-room needs.
Use your confirmations as a way to re-sell the meeting.
Keep people excited about the meeting. Tell them more about your meeting in the confirmation. If you've added three new speakers, then tell the attendees.
Tease attendees by directing them to a Web site to listen to an excerpt from a.
Your cancellation policy needs to be firm while allowing for compassion in case of hardships. The worst thing that can happen to you as a religious meeting planner is for your registration numbers to keep changing. Your meeting's financial success can be at stake.
After you've decided on your cancellation policy, publish it in your registration materials.
Send speakers a series of “water-torture” postcards, e-mails, or other communication — timely notices that remind speakers of arrangements that they need to make in order to be ready for the meeting. This keeps your speakers on task and focused.
Four months before the meeting, remind speakers to make their reservations for the hotel.
Three months before the meeting, remind speakers to order all their AV equipment, and remind them that a copy of their presentation is due to you by the predetermined date (which should be in their).
Two months before the meeting, remind speakers again of your need for a copy of their presentation. (You don't want your speakers to be like college students, preparing their presentation the night before the meeting.)
Make sure the most experienced member of your staff is the person doing the packing list. You don't want your rookie administrative assistant preparing the list.
Everyone's packing list is going to be a little different, but it might include:
Toner, paper, and other office supplies, such as a stapler, paper clips, and tape.
Backup disks for computers.
Deposit book, deposit envelope, credit card slips, and other financial items.
Items your speakers and workshop leaders are likely to forget, such as markers and pens.
Power strips and extension cords. (You don't want to pay $20 for a power strip at the convention center.)
Keep the packing list, year after year. Refine it each year.
The registration area has to look like you and your people are organized and ready. Train your people to be friendly, smiling, and happy.
Make sure there is directional signage everywhere, telling attendees where the registration counter is. Walk around the facility yourself, and ask yourself how attendees will get to the registration counter from every location.
Negotiate on the front end with the hotel or convention center for exhibit-style registration counters (chairs, stools, skirting, backgrounds). If you ask for exhibit-style counters in your RFP, there's a good chance they'll give it to you. If you don't ask for it in your RFP, you'll have to pay for it. And if you did negotiate for exhibit-style counters, bring a copy of your contract with you, in case items are missing.
Meeter and greeter. One role this person can play is to determine which line attendees should be in (are they paid or unpaid, for example?).
Decorate the registration area with things such as flowers and table lamps. This changes the setting from business-like to homey.
Where are you going to keep the money? In your RFP, include a portable safe. And every hour, move the money to a secure location. If that location is a safe in your room, have someone from hotel security escort you.
Brief your staff on what to say, as well as what not to say, at registration. For example, if attendees ask about restaurants, train your staff to direct attendees to the hotel concierge.
Make someone the “boss” of the registration area. Someone at registration needs to have the authority to make decisions regarding unusual situations or requests.
Follow the 10-Foot Rule: Make sure that the attendee's first name on the name badge can be read from 10 feet away.
If you want attendees to fill out the evaluation form, give them a certificate for something of value as a reward for filling out the form. It may sound corny, but it works.
This article was adapted from a tutorial given at a past RCMA by Nick Topitzes, CMP, owner of pc/nametag and recipient of the 2002 RCMA President's Award.
Instead of packing your equipment in boxes, pack it in plastic storage bins that are all the same color. This makes it easy for you to identify your equipment when it's stored on-site in cramped, crowded storage rooms that are packed with dozens of boxes.
There is one exception to the same-color-bins rule: your emergency bin. It should contain the first-aid kit, megaphone, pad of paper and pens, ponchos, flashlights.
Number each bin, and record the contents of each bin on a master list, so you know what's where.
Make sure that every key member of your planning staff has a copy of the master list, and have the first person to arrive on-site check to make sure all the bins have arrived, in case you have to make other arrangements.