What's an association's worst fear?
Endless registration lines at their annual conference.
Yet, too many associations struggle with this challenge year after year, especially at top conference destinations. As the 2nd largest conference destination, Las Vegas welcomes 21,864 conferences every year with sizable attendee numbers to boot. It may be easy to estimate room sizes based on attendee numbers - but registration staffing is a different story. Make sure your attendee's first-impression is a positive one by implementing our three tips to expedite registration below.
As an event planner in a large city, you never quite know when the rush will hit.
Top conference destinations like Orlando, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. also serve as mini vacations for your members and their families - their time is valuable. In order to maximize that time, most members will want to pick up their badges before starting their tourist adventures throughout the day.
This scenario quickly turned into a registration line nightmare for one D.C. based association.
Prior to investing in self-service registration kiosks, the association experienced the longest wait times in their conference history. That year's conference was in Las Vegas, Nevada and they were expecting more than 6,000 attendees. When the doors opened at 8:00 am for badge pick up, the line was already out to the escalators. By lunch time the line had wrapped around the corner and a few hours later they had to start turning people away.
It was all hands on deck for this association. Every staff member, executive and board member was strategically standing throughout the line giving people an approximate wait time.
It was an unexpected registration disaster. Here's how to avoid it.
How to Manage Thousands of Attendees at Top Conference Destinations
1. Keep Accurate Records. Send an email to all of your attendees confirming their badge information one week prior to the conference. Most people will take a quick glance if you keep the email simple enough. Be sure to include an edit button that links directly to their profile for corrections. Better yet, send a push notification from your conference app so your attendees can update their profile from their smartphones.
2. Setup Designated Pick-Up Times or Lines. Some conferences can grow so large that associations have to divide badge pick-up times based on last name. Encourage attendees whose last names are between A - L to pick up in the morning and M - Z to pick up in the evening. Offer attendees who would like to pick up registration at odd hours like 5am-7am or 6pm-8pm a special registration gift, like a complimentary conference pin, a special lanyard or a continental breakfast pass that may not be offered to all attendees.
Also consider offering a special VIP registration line for those who would like a personalized check in experience with a guaranteed wait time of 2 minutes or less. You can create this option within your registration pricing to help separate registration check in times and lines.
Never turn an attendee away if they come at the wrong time or enter the wrong line, but these options will definitely decrease the line volume.
3. Get Kiosk Support. Let's face it, using staff labor can be taxing on the conference budget and even more frustrating to your employees. While it's common for event planners to hire temporary employees from the conference venue, it may not be the most cost-effective or provide the best attendee experience. A lot of the times temporary employees cannot provide the same level of service a staff member can.
Self-service kiosks allow attendees to find, edit and print their badges as quickly as the self-checkout lane in the grocery store. It also saves you a ton of money in your staffing budget. When considering a kiosk solution, make sure it integrates with your AMS system, has a quick response time and eCommerce functionality for last minute event up-sells.
Remember mastering thousands of attendees doesn't have to be difficult, you just have to be prepared with the software solutions that make it easy.