Six questions to ask your event registration provider

When you’re thinking about planning your event, registration needs to be among your priority issues. Once you’ve worked out the type of event you’re hosting, what kind of venue is best suited to your needs, when it is going to happen and how delegates are going to book places is an important concern. In fact, check-in facilities that suit your ticketing or registration process are likely to be a deciding factor when you choose where to hold the event. Paper-based registration processes swallow up large amounts of time and resources, so the chances are you’ll be dealing with an online event registration provider. But before you choose a service, remember to ask these crucial questions.

How much (and how) do I pay?

It is often worth investing a little more money for a service with better functionality, but look at how charges are applied and how much room for manoeuvre you would realistically have. A single upfront fee may seem like a large outlay, but if you’re holding multiple events it may prove to be cost-effective. On the other hand, a monthly fee might be more manageable, but less economical over a long period. Equally, charges calculated as a percentage of your total number or value of bookings avoid the need to pay anything upfront - but if you’re holding a large event, the cost may be particularly high. If you have an idea of the size of your event, you may want to factor that in as well.

What do I get for my money?

Functionality is your ultimate concern when choosing an event registration provider. You should already have an idea of the minimum you need the software to do - for example, you should know whether you’re working on a ticketed or registration basis, which will narrow down your options to some extent. But you need to know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Does the system integrate with your other project software, such as contact management systems or table planning tools? What additional services are on offer to give you the best value for money?

How much customer support is available?

You may be a seasoned veteran of event management, or it may be your very first conference. Either way, if you’re adopting new technology the chances are you’ll encounter some teething problems. Look for a provider who will offer technical support and advice to make sure you get maximum value from your registration tool. Of course, things can go wrong even when you’ve been using a system for a while, whether this is down to new users or a technical glitch, so an extended support service is usually an even better option.

Can I capture and use data effectively?

When delegates input their details to reserve a place at your event, they provide you with data you can use to inform future planning decisions. So your event registration provider should allow you to capture all the information you need effectively and then compile it into a series of accurate, rich reports that will offer you maximum insight into the behaviour of your attendees. Ask to see examples of the reports that can be generated and consider whether they give you the right information in the appropriate way.

How are payments processed?

Event registration systems should permit users to book and pay as part of the same process - the simpler the process, the more likely you are to get paid. But there are different ways to complete payment transactions, some of which are more cost-effective than others depending on the value of the purchase. Online payments often come with a different set of costs to offline processes, though they are usually cheaper. Above all, you need to look at what payment options are available and the possible transaction charges - again, a flat fee is likely to be cheaper than a percentage if you’re processing high value payments. PayPal is often a convenient option for online purchases, while secure payment platforms which use verification tools like Verified by Visa are more trusted.

Is the data secure?

Data protection is a vital issue in an increasingly digital world. As well as fulfilling the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, your registration provider should also conform to the PCI Data Security Standard. This is a set of requirements which govern software design, security policies and procedures, management and even network architecture for IT systems and is designed to protect cardholders making online payments. Insurers may not cover the losses incurred as a result of security breaches if these standards have not been met, so it just isn’t worth using a non-compliant provider.

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