Tag: government

Top 8 Considerations When Choosing a Payment Gateway for Your Events

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So you’ve taken the decision to charge people attending your events. You need a payment gateway that will allow you to process payments on your event website but aren’t sure where to start. Or perhaps you are hosting an international event and the payment gateway you are currently using doesn’t support the currency of the country many of your delegates are coming from. Or maybe you’re just not happy with your current provider and would like to make a change.

There are many different options for you to choose from when looking at payment gateways. The big names include the likes of Sage Pay, Worldpay, PayPal and Stripe but there are dozens of possibilities out there. So how do you know which is the best fit for your organisation?  Decisions about event payment processing, more often than not, is something that is usually headed up by finance teams.  It is worth noting, however, that there are a number of important factors that need to be taken into consideration when choosing a payment method around your events. And the role of the event planner is key to ensure these requirements are met.

Have a look below at some of the top things you need to think about when considering event payment processing and gateways:


Untitled design (36)1) Is Your Organisation Already Using a Payment Gateway?

The first thing to do is to find out if your organisation is already using a particular payment gateway for other parts of the business.  You may be required to use the same one as part of your company policy. Payment gateways can take time to set up and will be subject to security checks and audits from your bank. There may also be different levels of bureaucracy and hierarchy regarding approvals within your own organisation.  Going through this timely (often complex) process may not be worthwhile if there is already an existing deal with a gateway that your organisation is happy with.

Payment gateways aren’t the only thing you need to think about. You also have to think about the merchant accounts, which is essentially where your attendee payments go into (different from your regular business accounts). Some payment gateway providers offer just a payment gateway and require you to have your own merchant account. Other payment providers such as PayPal offer a combined payment gateway and merchant account. What you decide on really depends on what kind of existing arrangements your organisation may already have in place.

2) Can The Payment Gateway Be Used with Your Registration System?

The next thing would be to check which payment gateways are supported by your current registration or event management software.  This can significantly narrow down your choices. Choosing one that already integrates with the system makes it a lot more convenient and saves you time – it also means you may not have to spend additional money on development time.  Ask your event tech provider what they recommend – they have a lot of experience in this and can provide good advice on which gateways are better suited for certain types of events.

Like we mentioned above, your organisation may want you to work with a specific gateway solution.  In which case, you will have to work with your event tech provider in building the right type of integration between the two systems in exchange for a fee. Each gateway solution has different versions of the product – with different features and functionalities. Bear in mind that each one of these will have their own type of integration. For example, your organisation may use the ‘Worldpay Corporate’ integration, but your event software may only support ‘Worldpay Business’. Again, this will require additional investment in development time, so make sure you factor all these things in when making a decision.

3) How Do Event Management/Registration Systems Manage Payments?Untitled design (46)

The other thing you need to take into account is how your registration systems takes payments details from your event attendees.  There are two options here.  Does your system support non-hosted payment payment gateways? This is when your attendees are able to enter their card details without leaving your event website. Though it is the smoothest check out experience for your attendees, it is also the least secure. To take payments onsite you typically need an SSL certificate and you will also have to comply with PCI-DSS requirements. It’s worth taking a look at this article that gives good information on PCI-DSS compliance and what it means when dealing with delegate card payments. The fines for non-compliance can be hefty!

The alternative is to use a hosted payment gateway which redirects users to a ‘hosted’ payment page.  Once a payment has been made then your attendee will be returned to your website and the payment will be confirmed. It will likely be the case that your event tech provider may only support these ‘hosted’ payment gateways so that they don’t have to take responsibility for PCI-DSS compliance.

4) How Quickly Do You Need It Up and Running?

Setting up a merchant account and payment gateway can typically take anywhere around 3-4 weeks – although providers like PayPal and Stripe let you sign up without a merchant account so you can get started straight away. On the other hand, set up can also be a long and complex process – particularly if you’re a new or ‘high-risk’ business.  For example, banks can sometimes be reluctant to approve merchant accounts to event organisations because of the ‘interval’ between the time delegates make a payment and the event itself. In which case, you may be requested to provide detailed application forms so that the bank gets a better understanding of your business.  This isn’t a big issue but you need to bear it in mind and find a gateway that can support your specific needs, as well as meet your event deadlines.

Untitled design (7)5) Don’t Forget About Your Cash Flow

Once a delegate payment has been processed, it typically takes a few days for that payment to be settled into your bank account.  However, these payment timings can vary significantly from one provider to another. Gateways that are also merchant accounts generally sit on your money for a lot longer. This can slow down your cash flow and has a real impact on small businesses (think about the payments you need to make to venues, caterers and other suppliers).  Other providers on the other hand can settle your funds as quickly as the next day, while some may also only pay out funds on set days. Ideally, look for a provider that pays out every day.

6) The Kind of Events You Run Will Determine the Fees

The fees you pay for the payment gateway and merchant accounts can include monthly fees, fixed fees per transaction (whatever you are charging attendees for), variable fees based on a percentage of transactions, as well as other fees for things like payments from international cards.  So an organisation running one major international event can have complete different requirements to one that hosts several local events with a greater number of attendees.

Make sure you get a good overview of fees and ask to see a full schedule of charges before committing to one provider. Don’t forget some payment providers (not all) have been known to lock organisations into lengthy contracts – so make sure you understand what you’re signing up for.

Untitled design (13)7) Do You Need to Support Multiple Currencies?

If you are hosting events across different countries and need to take international payments or have a large number of international delegates – you should check whether the payment gateway offers international and multi-currency payments or even an interface with multiple languages. The APAC region, for example, only accepts payments through specific gateways and some global systems like Worldpay aren’t actually accepted all over the world. You should also check whether there are any additional fees for accepting multi-currency payments or payments from other countries and whether you will need to have a merchant account in a specific country.

8) Your Events Can’t Afford Downtime. How Important is Reputation?

The short answer is very.  If you are processing payments from your attendees, you’ll want to work with a provider who has a good reputation in the industry and one that won’t let you down if things go wrong. Some payment gateways have had problems with outages and others have blocked merchants’ money unexpectedly without cause. Look at providers who take PCI-DSS compliance seriously and who provide a good level of support.  Find out how responsive their support service is, where their support team is based and whether or not they work the same hours as you. Do you need to pay extra for this support? Be sure you to do your research thoroughly before signing up with one.  Read reviews and get recommendations from organisations you can trust and use comparison sites which highlight the key features of each gateway.

 

DO YOU NEED A PAYMENT GATEWAY FOR YOUR EVENTS?

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Eventsforce offers quick and easy integrations of its software with a number of major payment gateway providers, including Sage Pay, Worldpay, PayPal and many others.  If you’d like to have a chat about event payment processing, please get in touch here. Alternatively, if you would like to read more about how we integrate with payment gateways, please click here.

 

Click to get in touchSources:

http://blog.socious.com/how-to-choose-the-right-payment-gateway-for-your-organization-and-ensure-secure-transactions

https://gocardless.com/guides/posts/payment-gateways/

7 Easy Ways for Personalising Event Registration

62% of event planners use crowsourcing tools to decide on things like content, speakers, dining and decor (1)Creating personalised experiences is something that companies tend to do very well in the online world.  Just take a look at companies like Netflix and Amazon, suggesting personalised recommendations based on what they already know about their customers. The likes of Cadburys, Starbucks and Marmite have also been getting in on the act over the last couple of years.  And it’s safe to say that personalisation is now finally making its mark in the events industry. Why?  Because it works.

In the same way marketing targets different messaging for different audiences, event planners can use personalisation to deliver content, offers, event experiences and networking opportunities based on what they already know about their delegates. Sophisticated data capture tools – from event registration systems and RFID to online surveys and event apps – are helping event planners collect and analyse valuable delegate information to create more powerful and targeted events.

This month, a study from Eventsforce found that personalisation was a key priority for 82% of event planners, with 97% believing it would have a positive effect on a delegate’s perception of their brand and event. Despite these claims, however, many felt that the lack of time and resources posed as the biggest barriers with only 27% consistently using it as part of the marketing efforts around their events.

Though it has its challenges and can vary in its effectiveness from one event to another, personalisation doesn’t have to be as complicated as one might think. Most organisations today use some form of automated system to manage registrations around their events and it is good starting point for any kind of personalisation you may want to do around your events.  Why?  Because it acts as the first point of contact for your delegates and lies at the heart of all your communications in the run up to your event.

Have a look below at seven easy ways you can use your registration process to personalise events:

1. Personalised Event Invitation

Untitled design (27)Personalising invitations is simple and effective. By tailoring them as much as possible to the invitee and their specific business sector, you massively increase the chances they will attend. Our study showed that 38% of event planners break down their attendees by type when deciding on marketing activities around their events.  So if you know that your delegate list is made up of corporates and academics, then it makes sense to create two separate versions of the same invitation with each one outlining the sessions that would be of interest to them.  Remember – both audiences have a vested interest in attending your event but they have very different goals and very different ideas on why your event matters to them.

2. Create Different Landing Pages for Your Event Website

Untitled design (33)In the same you can tailor the content of your invitation, you can also tailor your event website for different audiences – our study found that 21% of event planners are already doing this and we expect this trend to grow.  For example, an event site that provides information on peer reviews, abstracts, a list of research fellows and referenced publications may be more interesting for your academics.  Whereas your corporate audience will be much more interested in seeing commercial ideas that the event aims to address, a list of other businesses that are going to attend and who they’re going to meet when they are there.  You may use the page to promote an early bird rate to an academic but may not bother for a commercial audience as academics are more likely to book their places months in advance due to budget allocations at the beginning of the year.

3. Use Unique Registration Paths for Different Attendee Categories

Untitled design (28)Personalise the registration journey by creating different registration paths for each type of attendee.   Some registration systems support this functionality so it doesn’t have to be complicated.  Before starting the registration process, find out the category your attendee falls into – whether that be a delegate, sponsor, exhibitor, speaker and so on. Or you may also choose to categorise by industry – like academics or corporate as mentioned in our earlier example. Each attendee will then be led through a set of registration questions that are specific to their selected category.  For example, exhibitors may get asked about stand sizes, whereas journalists may be asked to upload accreditation documents. Members may be able to select special discount options, whereas a VIP may get asked if they’ll be attending the VIP cocktail party at the end of your event. Having a unique registration path for your VIP guests will ensure their questions aren’t visible to other attendees – and more importantly, it will make your VIP feel that the questions were ‘personalised’ for them throughout the whole registration journey.

4. Find Out What Your Delegates Want

Untitled design (29)Our study found that 62% of event planners are personalising events by using crowdsourcing tools with their attendees to determine things like agendas and session topics (44%), speakers (24%) and dining preferences (18%). Using your registration form to capture your attendees’ views and opinions can be a quick and cost-effective way of personalising their event experience. For example, you can ask your delegates what topics are of particular interest for them at your motor show. Are they interested in the servicing side of the business or electronics?  You can then share this information with your exhibitors and ensure the right kind of discount offer is included in the right delegate pack upon checking-in at the event. This is a lot more personalised than including discount offers from all your exhibitors as you will almost certainly include things that are of no interest to them.

You can also use registration form to ask more ‘personal’ questions like what is their favourite coffee and offering them a personalised free coffee offer as part of their delegate pack.  You could capture information about their hobbies or thoughts and include that on their delegate badges – a great icebreaker when attending networking events.  The more people network, the more business occurs and the more likely they are to come again.

5. Use Delegate Networking Tools

Untitled design (30)Almost 20% of event planners are using delegate networking tools to personalise experiences around their events. By integrating ‘meeting planner’ tools as part of your registration process, delegates will be able to personalise their agendas, see who is attending that may be of interest to them and set up meetings with people they want to meet. These tools are quite good in that they don’t allow delegates to schedule meetings that clash with other meetings or sessions that they’ll be attending at the event.  Or if the system knows if the delegate is leaving a day early, it won’t allow them to accept invitations for meetings on the next date.

6. Personalised Email Communications

Untitled design (31)In the same way you’re able to personalise the invitation, the event website and registration form for different attendee categories, you can also personalise all your email communications in the run up to the event. Let’s look at an example of a delegate who has requested a Kosher or Halal meal at the event.  Typically, this meal is almost never served with the main event buffet so the delegate has to liaise with the catering staff or event planner to locate it on the day.  This isn’t a great experience for your delegate and it is also inefficient as it means the event planners has one more thing to think about at a time when they are very busy.  Instead, send the delegate a personalised registration confirmation email that will include details on where they can pick up their meal on the day of the event.

Again, some registration platforms will support this through an integrated mail merge service, which collates all relevant delegate information in an automatic confirmation email.  And it makes no difference if you have 50 people attending your event or 50,000.  The process is quite simple and takes very little time. It also makes more sense to include this kind of ‘personalised’ information in your delegate emails than details on the weather or the nearest taxi firm (most of this information is instantly available to anyone with a smartphone or an internet connection these days).  Again, remember that you only have a limited time to capture your delegates’ attention – the more information on your confirmation email, the more likely they will jump through some of the more important things like the start time of the session they want to attend.

7. Don’t Forget About Reporting

Untitled design (32)The kind of personalisation you offer delegates will be determined by the kind of data you decide to capture and the reports you produce. The earlier you do this when you’re setting up the registration for your event, the more effective your personalisation efforts will be. Think about it from the start as opposed to when you NEED the data because that will probably be the time you’re at your busiest and data structures are unlikely to change the closer you get to the event.

Think about the reports you want so that you can figure out the right questions you need to put across to your delegates. Think about how you want to slice up the data so that you can get the reports you want and collate the analytics that will allow you to personalise your events.  For example, you may decide to create a report that will collate all the delegates attending a particular session.  Some event planners may share this list with all the other delegates attending that session.  But you can do more. Break it down by company type, interests and goals and share the list with your session speaker.  He or she can then use this information to tweak the content of their presentation or personalise it with content or examples that are more relevant to the audience.

Click to get in touchBreaking down your delegates by type will allow you to create the segregated reports you want.  Knowing that 70% of your delegates are female, love coffee and their primary objective is networking can give you the intelligent data you need to help you personalise their experience. So if you’re hosting an event in London and you know that a large part of your attendees are coming from overseas, you may opt for ‘fish and chips’ as your lunch menu as international delegates prefer local cuisine.  Or if you know that most of your attendees will be leaving early on the last day of your event, it may be a better option for you to offer them a packed lunch that day instead of a buffet and ask them in advance about their sandwich preferences.

If you require a registration process that can personalise your attendees’ event experience, speak to our experienced team today.

 Written by Paul Harris, Eventsforce. 

 

 

 

INFOGRAPHIC: Are you Personalising Your Event Experiences?

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Personalisation is seen as one of the hottest trends in the events industry this year with delegates expecting both the communication about an event and the live experience to be tailored to them in some way.  Data capture tools – from event registration systems and RFID to online surveys and event apps – are helping organisations collect valuable information on their delegates which can be analysed to create more powerful and customised event experiences.

But as good as it all sounds, how many of us are actually doing this?  Last month, we conducted a study with over 160 senior event planners in the UK and the US to investigate the current uptake of personalisation in the industry. The results have been very interesting.

The study revealed that though personalisation is a key priority for 82% of event planners, only 27% are consistently using it as part of the marketing efforts around their events. When asked why – it seems the biggest barriers are lack of time, resources and cost.


Registration systems are a good place to start for any kind of personalisation you may want to do around your events.  Find out how by reading this blog: 7 easy ways of using your registration process to personalise events.


We also looked at the kind of marketing tools organisations are using to personalise their delegate experiences.  Personalised email communications came up at top at 68%, followed by unique registration paths and personalised educational content.  Online surveys were the most popular data capture tool at 65%, followed by event apps (44%) and social media tools (42%). Surprisingly, new technologies such as iBeacons and wearables were only used by 3% of event planners.

For a more comprehensive look at these results and some of the other findings from the Eventsforce ‘Personalisation: Creating Tailored Event Experiences’ study, please download the infographic below:

1300 Eventsforce Infographic UK


If you would like to learn more about what Eventsforce has to offer, take a look at a few other blog posts listed below or get in contact with out friendly team.

Call us on 0207 785 6997 or get in touch here.

How The Liberal Democrats Are Using Event Tech to Maintain Security at Annual Party Conferences

Lib Dem BlogThis month, we talked about how an increasing number of event planners are taking big steps in integrating their event data with some of their organisation’s critical business systems – from finance, travel and marketing to CRM and membership solutions.   In fact, we have seen a 40% increase in the number of customers working on data integration projects over the last year – we expect this trend to grow significantly in the next three years as event planners try to make better use of their delegate data.

One organisation that has successfully embraced this strategy is the Liberal Democrats.  The British political party has not only taken the initiative to integrate their event management solution with one of their own business systems (more on that later) but they have also done it with the national accreditation system of the UK’s own Police Force.

Changing Politics, Changing Priorities

Formed in 1988, the Liberal Democrats (also referred to as the Lib Dems) are a liberal political party in the UK with more than 60,000 party members. Unlike other parties in the country, Lib Dem members put forward and vote on all proposed policies at their annual party conferences.  The party hosts two conferences each year – with the main four-day conference in Autumn gathering over 5,000 attendees, which include party members, lobbyists, business people and media.

The party came into government in 2010 as part of a coalition group with the British Conservatives, which prompted a major change in the security requirements around its party conferences. Home Office regulations required all attendees to be fully vetted by the National Accreditation Team (NAT) before receiving clearance to attend the event.  This meant incorporating a new accreditation system as part of the online registration process and the only way of doing this effectively was to integrate its Eventsforce event management system with the UK Police NAT database.

Data Integration with UK Police Accreditation Database

marketing-manager-2The planning stage of this large-scale integration project was key.  The Lib Dem conference team had to work closely with the UK police accreditation team to agree on new workflows and the kind of delegate data they needed to collect to comply with the new accreditation requirements.  This included things like delegate photos (which had to meet strict guidelines), passport details and previous home addresses – all of which would help the NAT team verify the identity of delegates and approve their accreditation.

“The photo is a crucial part of the accreditation system.  If our delegates complete their registration without the correct photo, the NAT won’t be able to process their application and we’ll be unable to issue them a photo pass. So it was important for us to design a feature in the system that would allow us to permanently store uploaded photos within delegate profiles. This way, a returning user can save time by choosing the same photo the next time they register for a conference,” said Sian Waddington, Lib Dem’s head of conferences. “From a customer service point of view, we also wanted to give our delegates the option to send us their photos within seven days of submitting their registration forms.   In some cases, an attendee may register at a certain date to take advantage of an early bird discount but is unable to provide us with a suitable photo in time to meet the deadline.  The system guarantees their discounts even though their accreditation is not yet complete.”

Once a delegate submits their completed registration forms, the data is then automatically pushed to the NAT database where the team reviews and processes the accreditation.  The information is passed back to the event management system, which triggers an automatic email to the delegate informing them that their accreditation has been approved or if there is a query regarding their application.

The data flows in both directions across the two systems, allowing the Lib Dem conference team to see the status of each application within Eventsforce.  “If delegates ask us why they haven’t received their photo pass, we can see in real-time whether their application is currently being looked at, or if it has been approved or declined.  This facility also allows us to collate reports at the end of each day and see how many applications are currently in progress so that we’re better able to manage our own timelines,” continued Waddington.

Data Integration with Membership System

Untitled design (20)Following the integration of its event data with the NAT database, the Lib Dems decided to take on another important integration project – this time between their event management software and the party’s Salesforce membership database.  Party members attending the annual conferences are subject to discounted registration fees and special voting passes – so it was important for the conference team to verify the membership status of each attendee at the start of their online registration journey.

Once delegates select one of eight member categories in the registration form, membership data such as surnames and addresses are automatically checked against the membership system. If they correspond and the membership is valid, delegates can continue with their registration.  The system ensures that attendees are going through the right registration channels and non-members are not paying discounted member fees.  More importantly, the Lib Dem team can be sure that no voting passes are issued to non-members.

“Without integration, non-members could have registered as members as we had no ability of manually checking the thousands of party members that attend our conferences each year. Having membership validation as part of the registration process has also helped us address queries around memberships a lot more quickly.  For example, if a membership has lapsed, a notice shows up on the registration form advising the user to contact the membership services team.”

Overcoming Unexpected Challenges

There were a few noteworthy challenges that the Lib Dems had to overcome when first using the newly integrated systems – some mere oversights and some due to circumstances out of the Lib Dem’s control.  For example, the conference team soon realised that any small change to the registration details of a delegate (such as changing a photograph) would prompt another round of the accreditation process with the NAT, even if it had already been approved.  Accreditation rules also changed over time, while a new NAT firewall temporarily stopped the integration from working.

“Although we had planned everything in detail and were all ready to go, things kept coming up so you always need to be prepared.  Having said that, we had the right technical support from both sides of the integration at all times and this helped us address these issues and resolve them as quickly as possible,” concluded Waddington.

The Road Aheadregistrations right

The overall success of both projects has spurred the Lib Dem to do more around their integration efforts.   The events team plans to push more of its registration data to the Salesforce system, which will allow regional and local party officers a real-time view on how many of their supporters are attending an upcoming conference.  It will help them decide whether or not they need to encourage people to register or enable them to arrange meet-ups before or at the conference.  Extending the integration between the two systems will also allow for automatic updates in both systems whenever any changes are made to delegate profiles (eg. address changes).

Click to get in touchMoving forwards, the Lib Dems also have plans to integrate their event data with the party’s finance system in an effort to reduce administration work around delegate payments. The integration will provide the events team with real-time updates on all outstanding payments without having the need to chase the finance team directly.

 

 

 

 

60-Seconds with The British Council

Alina Makarova_The British CouncilAlina Makarova is the operations manager of British Council’s ‘Going Global’ conference – the world’s largest open forum for education leaders debating on international higher education issues and challenges.

EventTech Talk had a chat with her to find out about some of her favourite event venues and restaurants, her worst event nightmare, event technology she’s looking forward to using one day and what she thinks is the most important trend in our industry.

How long have you been working in events?

I have been working in the industry for over eleven years.

Favourite venue for an event?

The ExCel at the Docklands in London is perfect for large scale exhibitions. The Grand Hotel in Stockholm is a good venue for medium sized conferences. The Taj Lands End hotel in Mumbai is another beautiful venue with excellent conference facilities and friendly staff.

Favourite restaurants?

Texas de Brazil – a Brazilian steakhouse in Miami and Kloof Street House in Cape Town.

Favourite outdoor venue? 

The Kempinski Hotel & Residences Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

Best event experience?

The Future Cities conference in Nigeria organised by Economist Conferences and attended by three presidents at the same time.

Best event app experience?

The Going Global conference app powered by SpotMe.

What would you say is your biggest challenge when planning an event?

Ensuring all third parties stick to the required deadline when preparing for an event.

What has been your biggest event nightmare?  How did you deal with it?

I have had speakers not showing up for their presentations, delegates fainting on site and a venue experiencing a complete power cut. Staying calm and positive whilst doing whatever it takes to resolve a disastrous situation is the best you can do!

Which industry event do you find most useful?

International Confex in London.

How do you relax after an event?

I do yoga.

Mobile app you couldn’t live without?

Citymapper and Spotify.

Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn?

When it comes to event marketing, I recommend using all three.

What do you see as the most important trend in the events industry today?

Digitalisation of all and everything.

New event technology you’re looking forward to using one day?

Wider use of QR codes.

What do you think are the key personality traits for a successful event planner?

Ability to stay calm under pressure, great time management, flexibility and leadership. Above all though, positive attitude and being a team player!

Click to get in touchWhat has been the best piece of advice someone has given to you?  Any words of wisdom?

Get involved in as many events as you can from the very start of your career – volunteer, attend, organise. Never stop learning, asking questions and benchmarking against your peers.