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This post applies to all those events which involve a registration process. By that I mean also those events with tickets as that could be conceived as registration.
First of all registration is crucial. It helps in several aspects:
it gives you an idea on how much people will participate to your event
it gives you a clear picture of the profile of your participant
it shows you likes and dislikes of the participant
it could help you with dietary requirements thus avoiding last minute buffet changes
if automated it could help the participants to start interacting before the event
In order to achieve all these beautiful things I usually apply my rule of registration. It has to be anticipated as much as possible.
All the data that comes with registration are of utmost importance for the event. Moreover, suppliers will ask you definite numbers with an embarrassing anticipation. My idea is that you can pre-sell virtually every kind of event out there. You just need a bit of will and a deep reading of the rules that follow.
The registration form then becomes crucial to guarantee such precious collection. Remember to be specific when you design the registration process and to ask clear questions. Most of the times asking the age is irrelevant, while asking food preference for a conference is a big part of the buffet setting.
Last Minute Registration
Every respectable event has last minute registration. The laggards are part of our life, not conceivable for us control freaks, but they exists and they need to be understood.
Even if you have a 100 people closed and unaccessible conference, the important friend of a friend will show up. Let's say you've printed out all the badges a week ago, that sounds to me like an issue.
Being a man I know how I desperately want to have a badge as all my mates have and I will get really disappointed if I don't get one.
It is a very good idea to bring a laptop with you and a printer at the registration desk and maybe design a last minute badge dedicated to laggards.
As a matter of fact you'll get a scary number of laggards if you do not educate the participants to register as early as possible. The best technique is definitely monetary. Create an early registration and a late registration fee. Increase the gap between the two by a 30% to 50% and you'll cut dramatically the amount of laggards. Or at least you'll have the time spent making last minute badges well repaid.
Another advantage is that you'll have substantial numbers to give to your suppliers.
Lines and Waiting Period
Lines are a pain in the neck and guess what that applies also to your event.
In order to decrease the waiting period substantially, it is well recommended to rehearse the registration process few times.
Once you've rehearsed, identify your weaknesses and take action to solve the issues. If you feel that no matter how much you studied the process there will inevitably be long lines, consider some staff going through the lines asking preliminary questions to speed up the process.