Find the best conference registration software to fit your needs can be tough. You have a budget, a process that makes sense for your conference and a long list of features you’d like your system to have. I always hear this word, “features”. People will ask me, “What are Regpack’s best features?” or “What features does your system offer?” or “How does Regpack’s features stack up against this company or these systems?” And I’m not saying these are bad questions, but it’s kind of missing the post. The question you SHOULD be asking is, what problems does this conference registration system solve? Ultimately features mean nothing, it’s finding a system that offers the best solutions to your conference planning.
More than likely a solution is made up of many features working together. A great conference software is going to have the right mix of features that create solutions for a myriad of issues you face. The way to frame this when looking for your conference system is not, what features do I want, but what solutions am I looking for and does this software have the capabilities to solve these. Below I’ve included some common “issues” and how a blend of features can come together as a solution. This can really help you think of your own process and then approach potential conference management systems and say “I need your software to do this for me, is that possible” instead of, “do you have this feature?”
Communication Solutions: Timed Emails Example
A great example showing the difference between a feature and a solution is: timed emails. It sounds like a nice “feature” right? Oh yes, I can send scheduled emails out to attendees. Cool! But if you frame it a different way: what is my “problem” and how can timed emails solve this, you see things a bit differently.
The thing conference planners think “timed emails” solve is sending out information to attendees, speakers, vendors, etc on a specific date and time. The problem isn’t that you want to do this and can’t, it’s that you have a need to send out specific information to specific people, at a specific time and date. Basically, you have a problem of needing to communicate effectively with attendees, and, spoiler alert, it’s going to take more than just timed emails to act as a solution for you.
While it sounds nice to schedule an email, it doesn’t solve the problem of controlling the whole of your registration process. What if the list of recipients for this pre-scheduled email changes from the time you set it up to the time it gets sent out? Why are you even scheduling emails so far in advance when information is changing daily? Does this make sense? No? Ok, so here are some examples to make it more clear.
Solution: The real problem here is that users did not complete the application the first time around. This could be due to three possibilities:
- They didn’t know they hadn’t finished the application.
- The applicant did not have all the needed information in order to complete the application so they planned to come back late.r
- The user got frustrated with the registration software since it was asking them a lot of irrelevant questions, so they stopped.
So, are timed emails the solution here?
Maybe. For the first reason, yes. A better way to solve this problem though, the problem of applicants not finishing the first time around is:
- Allow applicants to “flow” from one form to the next effortlessly.
- Show the user how much they have completed/how much they have left (ex. a progress bar).
- Have an applicant dashboard that shows, visually, what is complete and what isn’t.
- Have a software that employs conditional logic, so the questions each applicant sees is relevant to him.
So in order to achieve #1-4 above, you need about 40 features to handle all of that. Do you care what they are? Should I list them to look super cool and feature full? I think you actually care that communicating with applicants is easy, intuitive and robust – I think you care that you have a problem (communicating effectively with applicants) and does this software offer a solution to this problem.
And for the record, timed emails would be a horrible solution to this problem. It would be better to automatically send an email to every applicant that leaves their registration with incomplete items. If this goes out immediately, a user is much more likely to go back into the system right away and finish up. This can’t be “timed”, it needs to happen in real time for every applicant.
Solution: The real problem here is that you do not allow the user to flow through the application logically.
This happens a lot, and sometimes even a great flow doesn’t solve it. For example, you need an applicants passport number or their annual income, but they don’t have this information handy when they are filling out your forms. Do you think timed emails address this issue? Most likely no. A better way to solve it is:
- Feature: the ability to log back into the system.
- Feature: Once logged in, the system will take the applicant directly to the incomplete forms so they can finish right away.
A better solution to timed emails for this problem is an email with very direct action items , in this case, what is still incomplete and with instructions on how to complete it, sent immediately after the person logs out.
A timed email is a pretty bad solution to this problem since it will come in too little, too late. You need to give them the ability to solve the problem when they have the information handy.
Sending out irrelevant timed emails after wading through an application process with irrelevant information and questions will not increase your application completion rate. It will most likely get you more people bugging your staff with questions about the process or just giving up and not attending your conference.
Annoying your users with timed emails to enter an annoying system that asks them irrelevant information will not get you more people completing your registration process. It will just get you more people marking you as spam or sending you support emails that they do not know what to answer on question a, b, and c.
Solution: The solution here is a conditional logic engine which ensures that each person is asked only the questions that are relevant to them. For example, if the applicant selects they are attending a specific event that includes a meal, only then will the question about dietary restrictions appear (and it won’t appear at all for someone who doesn’t mark that they are attending that event!). Again, timed emails does not address this issue, and in fact, it will make the problem that much bigger. Timed emails will create more support issues and annoyed applicants that you need to deal with, instead of planning your conference.
The REAL problem is: People are not paying their dues on time.
Why is this happening?
- The registration system does not include an integrated payment solution. Applicants either go to a 3rd party site to pay and don’t OR they have to send a manual payment in, and they aren’t.
- You offer payment plans, but people are missing the subsequent payment due dates.
- Your payment structure is a deposit and then full payment on a specific date.
- The applicant did not have their preferred payment method with them while registering and they decided to log back in later to pay, but they didn’t.
- The applicant is not sure they want or can attend and therefore don’t want to commit any money.
Are timed emails a solution here? Nope. Did you know I was going to say that? Your goal here is to reminding people they need to pay so much as getting paid just happens.
1. The registration system does not include an integrated payment solution. Applicants either go to a 3rd party site to pay and don’t OR they have to send a manual payment in, and they aren’t.
Find a conference registration system that integrates payments. According to this research, sending applicants to a 3rd party site to pay means losing 27% paying applicants. A timed email won’t fix this! If you think having payments offline still makes sense, read why offering online payments is necessary!
2. You offer payment plans, but people are missing the subsequent payment due dates.
So timed emails could work here, reminding someone to pay a day or so before they have a payment due. But wouldn’t a conference registration system that just automatically charged the applicants payment method on the date they selected for the payment plan make more sense? No one has to remember to make a payment, charge a card, send an invoice, it just happens…like magic.
But, you say, I don’t have this ability with my system. Ok, then at least instead of a blanket timed email to everyone reminding them to pay can be organized better. If your system allows you to filter applicants who HAVE a balance due, and send the email to them, that is better than a system that just lets you send a timed email to everyone attending the conference that a payment is due, regardless of their balance status.
3. Your payment structure is a deposit and then full payment on a specific date.
4. The applicant did not have their preferred payment method with them while registering and they decided to log back in later to pay, but they didn’t.
The second they log out of the system, send them an email automatically!
5. The applicant is not sure they want or can attend and therefore don’t want to commit any money.
Timed emails don’t solve this problem. What does? A flexible refund and return policy.
Conclusion: How to Find the Best Conference Registration System!
I hope I’ve made the point about how features don’t solve your problems. It doesn’t matter how many features a conference registration system boasts of having, it’s the way in which the system solves your specific problems and makes your registration, payments and applicant management easy and automated! If you are shopping for a new system, frame your questions around how they can solve your problem, and not what list of features they offer.