Let’s face it; managing registrant information with a spreadsheet is time-consuming and prone to error.

Conversely, online registration allows people to sign up at their leisure and responses are captured and recorded in real-time—24/7. Sounds a lot easier, doesn’t it?

So whether you’re planning an event for 10 or 10,000, an online registration tool, will help simplify the registration process so you can focus on the event itself.

Here are 10 ways to make the online registration process quick and easy:

1.    Plan ahead

Before you set up your online registration form, you need to think about and answer the following questions:

  • Do you need specific information about who’s coming or a simple RSVP for head count?
  • Are you charging a fee to attend?
  • Do you want to charge early/late fees or member/non-member fees?
  • Are you selling items, e.g. DVDs, T-shirts, etc.?
  • Do you want to allow registrants to bring guests?
  • Are you going to provide food choices and need to know the preference of your guests?
  • Do you have a registration deadline and/or a capacity limit for the venue?

2.    Determine proper lead time for the event

In order to make sure you get the number of attendees you want to make the event a success, you need to figure out how much time you should allow from the time you open registration until the time the event actually takes place. If you’re planning a small event, a month in advance is a good idea. Planning an expensive weekend retreat that will require travel by your attendees—you’ll want to open registration a couple of months in advance.

3.    Keep it simple

When developing your registration form, avoid the urge to load it up with extra questions that are not specific to the event. Ask yourself, will this information help me make the event a success? If the answer is “no,” then don’t ask. If you’re unsure, at the very least, provide answer options or make the question optional.

4.    Be smart

You invested time and energy marketing and promoting your event. Use this opportunity to measure your ROI by including a question that asks registrants how they heard about the event. Did they find you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a local newspaper ad, postcard, or poster on display? Or maybe they heard about it from a friend. You can use this information to figure out which marketing efforts paid off and use this knowledge when planning future events.

5.    Give your registrants what they need

If you want people to register for your event, you should probably make a point of including the date and time, location, directions, parking information, and any other vital information they need to know when deciding if they can attend.

6.    Stay on brand

Match the color scheme and theme of your form to your other event assets, e.g. email invitation or poster. Include your logo and company colors. Creating continuity makes your event and organization look professional and reinforces brand recognition.

7.    Get people excited

The registration form is prime real estate to help get people excited about your event. Provide an event description that answers the question, “Why should I attend?” Incorporate speaker photos and bios, highlight auction items, or include quotes and/or video testimonials from past attendees. You can even add pictures from previous events so they get a sense of what to expect and how much fun they’ll have. Include a list of sponsors on your event page. Sometimes knowing there are other companies behind you adds “clout” to the event.

8.    Let people know who’s coming

Just having a large number of registrants may entice someone to register for the event. If you make the registrants visible, then potential registrants might see someone they know or want to know better. Just don’t forget to ask permission from your registrants before you make their name or information public!

9.    Offer a variety of payment options

If you’re collecting fees, give attendees as many payment options as possible, especially if they’re paying in advance; allowing them to pay online by credit card in addition to PayPal and/or Google Checkout is recommended. Are you offering discounts to early-birds or members? If so, be sure to capture discount or promo codes. Also, make your refund and cancellation policies clear.

10.  Create buzz

Your registration form is a great opportunity to encourage someone to join your mailing list and/or encourage them to follow you on Twitter, “like” you on Facebook, etc. This becomes even more important if you plan to use social media to keep people informed and create buzz leading up to the event.

So next time you’re planning an event, ditch the spreadsheet and use these 10 tips to get your online registration up and running. You’ll be so glad you did!

Have you used online event registration? Did it save you a lot of time? Tell us about it!