We’ve all been there.

You could be planning a wedding for a friend, a conference or seminar, a food and/or wine tasting, or an open house. Keeping track of things like payments, guests, parties, and reservations can be a nightmare.

And that’s assuming that every guest makes an effort to RSVP, which is a bit of a long shot.

Event planners big and small know that the primary obstacle for any event is getting an accurate picture of who’s going to be there. After all, what if you hosted an event and nobody came?

To keep track of guests, planners try it all — notebooks, spreadsheets, clipboards — but there’s always the chance that something can slip through the cracks.

Either way, registering people for an event can sometimes take as long as the event itself.

In the summer of 2010, Jan Merkley, founder of JEM Events, decided to use Event Marketing from Constant Contact to simplify registration, both for herself and for her clients, and she found that taking things online gave everything a boost.

“It turned out to be a major time saver. It’s literally saved me hundreds of hours from registration. There are very few people who don’t register online,” she says.

Now, Jan just follows two steps every time she manages event registration for a client:

1. Create a registration page

An online registration page allows Jan to organize RSVPs online. She creates a customized form for each client event that allow guests to state any needs they may have — if it’s a tradeshow, for example, she’ll ask if the vendor will need electricity or a table. She also uses the page to process payments via PayPal.

A registration page like this one helps keep each event organized.

“Before, I had to rely on getting RSVPs by mail, and then record all of the responses and statuses,” Jan says. “Now, I just download a report and it comes out to me in Excel.”

Jan can use the event dashboard to keep track of event registration details, including supplies needed.

2. Obtain guest emails from a client

Every time Jan is hired to organize an event, the client sends her a list of guest email addresses, generally in a spreadsheet. From there, she uploads them into her Constant Contact account in a segmented list.

Then, she sends out an email notifying guests about the registration page. The response rate is much faster than it used to be — after all, guests no longer have to go to the post office to reply.

For Jan, that’s made a huge difference. Before going online for registration, she had to wait months for responses. Now, Jan just has to wait a few hours before hearing back.

“When I sent invitations out for the Women’s Living Exposition on February 24 at 5 in the morning, 35 people had already registered by noon,” she says. “That meant I could prepare the layout sooner, and didn’t have to chase people down for money, either.”

Jan divides her contacts into lists for each event.

One account, dozens of clients, hundreds of guests

Jan hosts all of her events through one Constant Contact account, which makes the solution cost-effective and keeps guest lists streamlined. For her, the Event Marketing tool is integral to her business model, whether she needs to register vendors, manage catering needs, or keep track of attendance.

And that latter detail is a crucial one. Jan runs some tradeshows and conferences that exceed 700 people. Back in the day, that meant a lot of paper shuffling and a lot of frantic name-checking.

Now, Jan can host an event for 10 people or 1,000 and the two steps for success stay the same … for the registration process, at least!

How do you simplify the registration process for your events? Let us know in the comments section below! And for more insights, follow @CTCTEvent on Twitter.