Some of you may be familiar with a very amusing stand-up comedian we have in the UK who has a natural ability of finding the funny (and often frustrating) side of daily life. One such anecdote is his view on online booking and registration forms and how annoying they can be for the people using them:
“I hate registering for things online – sometimes, just the log-in bit has some kind of literacy test, like a mini challenge, before you even start your booking! You try and try again and you’re stuck on a certain bit for ages. I don’t want to join companies…I just want to get the product. I hate it when I look at a booking form and it’s all empty and you know you have to fill it all in. Sometimes when you click on the country list in the address section, every country in the world shows up – an unbelievable number of countries you have to scroll through. Why are all these countries there??”
Some of things he mentions in the video may be exaggerated for the sake of comedy, but a lot of what he says is also very true. People booking or registering for things online often get very frustrated with log-in passwords, opt-ins and a long list of seemingly unnecessary questions – all of which can create an experience that’s frustrating enough where they leave the registration page and look elsewhere.
With this in mind, we thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit some of the key things event planners need to think about when putting together registration forms for their events. Remember, they are one of the first and most critical touch points with attendees and it’s important to get it right.
Have a look at our top 12 best practice tips for creating a smooth and painless registration experience for event attendees:
1) Don’t Ask Unnecessary Questions
Registration forms play such an important role when it comes to collecting valuable information on our attendees. But how much of that information do we really need? Does your form have any outdated questions? Do you still need to ask for mailing addresses despite the fact you never send anything by post? If your venue already caters to disability needs, is it necessary to ask attendees if they require ramp access? Remember, the more clicks it takes to complete a registration form, the more excuse your attendees have to walk away. Make sure that the information you’re asking for will either help you run things more effectively or offer a better event experience for your attendees. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.
2) Get Your Stakeholders Involved
Another thing to think about when putting together your registration questions is the kind of information other departments from your organisation also want to collect from your attendees. For example, your marketing team may want detailed demographic data that will help them build stronger customer profiles. Getting them involved from the start can help you avoid making changes or contacting attendees later on. Having said that, you as the event planner own that interaction and you have to make sure that the absolute minimum number of questions are asked so that it doesn’t hinder on the overall registration experience.
3) Break Up Your Questions
Let’s think about PowerPoint presentations – which would you find more visually appealing? The one that crams up a lot of text on each slide or the one that spreads out the message one point at a time throughout the presentation? The same logic applies to registration forms. Like our comedian friend mentioned in his sketch, it doesn’t do you any favours when your attendee has to look at a long registration form with lots of empty fields that need filling in. Break up your questions into relevant sections. For example, you can have one section for collecting information like name and contact details, one for session selections, one for excursions, one for terms and conditions and so on
4) Timing is Everything
Ask the right question at the right time. For example, ask your attendees what method of transportation they’ll be using to come to your event only when you know they are able to provide an answer at that particular point in time. In the UK, you can’t book a ticket on the national rail network more than 90 days in advance – so asking them about their itinerary details prior to this is pointless if your event is in London and most of your attendees are coming from the UK.
5) Flexible Registration
Give your attendees the opportunity to secure registration without having to fill in all the required data fields on your form. So instead of asking them to provide their passport details, ask if they have their passport information on hand. If they don’t, they can still register for the event and provide the passport details at a later date. The Liberal Democrats offer this kind of flexibility at their party conferences. Attendees may register early to take advantage of an early bird discount – however, they can provide their photos at a later date in order to process their security accreditation for the event.
6) Personalised Registration Paths
Creating different registration paths for different attendees can have a big impact on the registration experience. Before starting the registration process, find out which category your attendee falls into – whether that be a delegate, sponsor, exhibitor, speaker, industry sector and so on. Each attendee will then be led through a set of registration questions and agenda recommendations that are specific to their selected category. For example, members will be able to select special discount options that are specific to them. Or your VIPs may get asked if they’ll be attending the VIP cocktail party you are organising around your event. Not only will your VIPs know that the questions on their form aren’t visible to other attendees – but more importantly, it gives them the feeling that the questions were ‘personalised’ for them throughout the whole registration journey.
7) Simple Log-ins
Our comedian friend mentions how frustrating it can be when he’s asked to provide all sorts of passwords, verification codes and security information at the log-in stage of the registration process. And he’s right. If you make it too complicated, then you’re just going to push people away. One way round this is providing personalised links in your email invitations to attendees – a feature supported by some event registration solutions like Eventsforce. Clicking on the link, attendees will automatically (and securely) log into the registration system without having to provide any passwords. It also makes it a lot easier for them to come back and make changes to their registration information whenever they want. Other useful tools for simplifying the log-in process are social media plug-ins like Ingo, which can speed up the process by auto-filling fields with data from selected social media profiles.
8) Drop-Down Lists & Default Answers
As well as offering an intuitive and user-friendly design framework, good registration systems these days have features that help event planners find the best way of asking attendees questions on forms. This can include things like drop-down lists and default answers. Say you have a drop-down list of 20 or more options (ex. Country), you can use functions like ‘search as you type’ where attendees can type in a value and the system will automatically search for that value across all the alternatives in your list.
If you know that the majority of people will select a particular answer to a question on your registration form, then consider offering a ‘default answer’ as the first option. For example, most people don’t have a dietary requirement, so ‘no’ can be your set default answer. Or if you know that most of your attendees are coming from the US, then have ‘US’ as the default answer under the ‘country’ field.
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9) Auto Fill Functions
If your registration system is accurately storing and updating attendee information in its central database, then it makes sense to preload this information in their forms whenever they sign up to an event. Remember, if your returning attendees are retyping the same information or correcting the data you hold on them time and again, then they may not bother the next time round. Features like personalised links can be useful here as they take attendees to a registration form preloaded with answers based on information you already have on them.
10) Help Text
This a great little tool for cutting out some questions and making your attendees feel like they’re getting all the information they need at the point of registration. Say you’re asking them a question about disability needs, you could have ‘help text’ that explains how your event venue already provides induction loops for those with hearing impairments. Those attendees can then skip that section, knowing their needs will be met. You as the event planner also benefit as you won’t have to sift through as much data when assessing the disability requirements for your event.
11) Fixed Answer Formats
Make sure that your attendees have a clear idea on the format you want them to use when filling in number fields on your form. Take dates or contact numbers, for example. They could be entered in all sorts of different formats: ‘020-888-456’ or ‘(020) 888-4567’ or they may have no separators at all. Some people may even miss a digit in the process. Setting predefined formats on these fields will reduce the probability of error – it will also make sure that you don’t have to bother your attendees at a later date to get the correct information.
12) Test, Test, Test
You can’t underestimate the importance of testing your registration process before going live. As well as doing it yourself, get someone outside of your events team to have a thorough go. They can give you a fresh perspective, as well as identify the areas that aren’t working as well as they should. Put yourself in the position of your attendee and focus on functionality, speed and convenience. Once you go live, stay on top of it with continuous testing.
Would you like to use a flexible and simple registration system around your events? Eventsforce offers a complete registration solution that can meet the requirements of any event, big or small. If you would like to have a quick chat, get in touch with us here.