When on the hunt for an event registration software or conference registration software, deciding what is most important for your registration needs is the first thing you need to do. But like all important things, this is easier said than done. Narrowing down the list to the things that really matter can be a challenge. This is where this post comes in!
Regpack works with more than 4,200 organizations (and registers more than 200,000 people a month) which means we have really seen a lot of different organizations, different needs and are able to work the numbers to see what most event planners should be looking for in an event management software and why those features are important. I am going to do this a little differently – not just a list of things you need to look for – but rather a list of questions I am asked daily by event professionals grilling me on whether Regpack’s event registration software will be the right fit for them. These are the questions you should be asking yourself and the software company when you are evaluating software options.
Let’s get started! Note that I am listing things in their order of importance!
Does the software allow you to charge attendees, vendors, etc through the system?
I think it goes without saying payment capabilities within the registration software is #1. Why? Since you need money to run your event! You need to pay your suppliers, you need to pay your employees and you need to make sure that everything is done on time and with minimal surprises. So it is pretty obvious you need to be able to charge BUT the bigger question is how will you charge. You have two options:
- Send them to an external service (such as PayPal).
- Keep them in the process and charge them right when they are there without them leaving your site.
Guess which is better? Right! Option B. Why? Since according to our numbers charging within the process can mean 15-30 day faster payments for you and will also mean that you will be paid by 27% more people! That is not a typo, it is twenty seven percent (!!). That is the number of people that will abandon your process when you send them to pay at an external site. Think about it, they left just when they have their wallet out and ready to pay. What happened? You basically scarred them away by sending them to an external site. Pretty terrible, huh?
Another thing to look at is if the software supports charging in multiple currencies, if you have attendees coming from all over, and whether it allows payment with varied methods (Credit card, electronic check, etc). This will allow you to get paid by people at anytime anywhere!
Is the software customizable?
This ability is super important, especially for events and especially in the event software market as it is today! Many software vendors offer the ability to register your attendees but they also limit you to doing it in a specific way. This might not work for you as a business or worse yet it might not be what is common in your industry. You need to make sure that the system you are using is abiding to your process and not the other way around. Furthermore, you will most likely have many different ‘types’ of users using the system – attendees, speakers, exhibitors, vendors, etc. Each of these will have a different process they will need to go through and will most likely also have different product offerings.
The process you offer each attendee type needs to be tailored for their individual needs. If this is not done they are going to get confused and most likely either abandon the process or give you a call (lost income either way). A system that allows you to customize the process for each person is not only smart business, but will lead to less customer service calls of confused applicants not knowing what each product is and what they should be interested in. By setting each user on their own registration path, they will see only the products relevant to them and make the process more clear and easy to complete. If you want to get really fancy you will select a system that will basically change for each applicant according to their answers and needs.
You must be thinking to yourself: “This is nice but sounds really complicated. How do I do this?” You need to find a system that will allow you to trigger certain questions and options based on their answers to previous questions. The most obvious would be first asking if they are a vendor, attendee, etc and then going from there. For events that span multiple days, you’d first ask which dates they are attending and then only show them the session, events or other relevant information connected to that date. If the software you are looking at isn’t able to accommodate this kind of logic, I’d suggest looking elsewhere! A software that has a project manager setup everything for you so you do not even need to think about it get’s extra points!
Does the software provide a quality communication and contact management system?
Whether it’s sending out newsletters to past attendees, sending reminder emails for payment or registration completion to current event attendees or setting up triggered and scheduled emails to go out to everyone, or certain groups, attending your next event, a quality communication system and contact management system is key to making communication easy.
Since the software company you choose should be saving previous data, accessing contacts from previous events as well as current events should be a breeze. Setting up emails to go out in advance and selecting the people (via a filtered search) each email should go to should be easy for the admins using the back end of the system. Make sure you look at how this is done, what filtering options are available and if they will meet your needs.
Does the software make reporting easy?
Unless you are self employed your higher ups are going to want reports generated for them. Marketing departments need specific information whereas accounting need other information. You need specific info and your manager might want the information in a totally different way. Why so many different methods? Since people work differently and look at information in a different way (this is actually really good in my personal opinion). You need to be able to accommodate these varying needs and demands within your registration software. Great questions to ask in order to know if this software will give you what you need are:
- How powerful is the filtering in the system?
- Can I create a report from ANY combination of data in the system?
- What formats can I export to?
- Can you show me how to do these things (this is really important to make sure what you need is really possible)?
Think about the reports you use now – how could they be better? What file types do you use, and if they work for you, does this software support that?
The key really to a great reporting system is being able to manipulate and view and sort through your data in virtually any way you can think of. You need a software that makes your data dynamic, a subject I’ve written about before in more detail.
Is it easy to set and change prices, as well as allow users to use discount codes and coupons?
Easily changing or updating your pricing is so helpful for event professionals. Things are always fluid and the ability to update and make changes easily will keep your process moving and registration flowing.
Depending on your marketing and how you are publicizing the event, you may have a variety of discount codes and coupons you’ve offered and are rolling out in different places. Make sure the software will support the different codes and discounts correctly so leads you are bringing in are getting the discount they deserve and finishing registration and payment quickly!
Does the system allow you to archive past attendees so you can use their information later on?
This is crucial for event planners for future events and just the general record keeping of your business. Check that the software allows you to access past attendee data for future marketing purposes, sending out newsletters, getting in touch with a certain group of attendees or for really any reason you might need. You never know when easy access to this data will be necessary, but I bet it will be!
Can the software help me with my marketing?
In the same ways you can manipulate the data that I discussed in the question above, the software should allow you to view statistics and really allow you to work with your data. View the data on where all of your attendees came from (heard about you through an ad, through another event, through your website, through Facebook, etc) and use this knowledge to spend marketing dollars better when the next event rolls around. Use the communication system, discussed above, to keep in touch and send relevant information and newsletters to promote future events.
You can also use your data to evaluate your own event in order to improve it for next time. What sessions were most popular? Which session times seemed to work best? Worked the least? Which speakers were the biggest draw, the most engaging?
Does the software offer competitive pricing for the market and via what pricing model?
When you’ve narrowed down your selection of software options, compare them price wise to each other! If you know all your choices might work, then going with the cheapest option can help you make that final choice. But, make sure what you view as the cheapest, really is! There are many hidden costs and things to consider about the price versus the cost of a system (I talk about this in depth here).
Another thing to consider is the pricing model used. Will you pay per applicant or per admin accessing the system? Most companies offer a pay per admin model, which as I wrote about here, I think is best and the best value to the event planner, but make sure you are comparing apples to apples, and not apples to oranges when it comes to price!
Finding an event registration software can be a challenge at first. Don’t fret! Once you’ve narrowed down your options, contact those companies and ask to use the system, ask questions and make sure the account manager you are speaking with is knowledgeable about the event industry and seems to understand your specific needs and connects the issues you are facing with real solutions via software that will help get you more completed and on time applications and payments!
The true goal of event management software is to make the time you spend on admin and support go down, while your attendance and revenue increases!