By Maura Keller

It should come as no surprise that an event’s registration process can set the tone for an entire gathering. While well-orchestrated marketing materials, promotional advertisements and social media posts inviting attendees to an event are certainly paramount, a seamless registration process can leave a lasting impression long after an event has concluded.

“Before an attendee steps into the epic event venue you painstakingly secured, they encounter your registration process. As a first impression, we understand the importance of ensuring the registration process is fast and easy for attendees, but comprehensive enough that organizers get answers to vital questions to deliver personalized experiences,” says Chaviva Gordon-Bennett, senior manager of content marketing at Bizzabo. And that can be a delicate balance to strike.

But beyond increasing attendee numbers, according to Gordon-Bennett, a user-friendly event registration process enhances attendee satisfaction, reduces registration-related stress and hiccups for planners and attendees, provides valuable data for informed decision-making, improves brand reputation, and paves the way for more efficient event logistics.

Bizzabo’s report on the state of in-person business-to-business conferences (completed in June 2023) surveyed more than 4,000 event organizers and attendees, and 52.7% of attendees say that the ease of check-in at an in-person business-to-business conference can make or break their event experience. “It may sound like a pipe dream, but the best registration experiences create lasting impressions — and we’re talking long after the event,” Gordon-Bennett says.

Jackie Ochoa, a public relations manager and team lead at Jotform, says software that’s powered by automation can help planners build a better user experience for registrants and for themselves. For registrants, automation could mean that, as soon as they fill out the online form to attend the event, they automatically get information at their fingertips that could help them prepare for the meeting or event.

“For meeting and event planners, automation could mean having an organized list of registrants and their status automatically updated for you so tracking and staying organized is easier,” Ochoa says. “It could also mean resources are automatically sent to registrants so that you don’t have to do that manual work yourself. Simply put, automation means less busy work and more creative work.”

Software Know-How

When it comes to event registration software selection, Ochoa says meeting planners should identify software that delights people signing up for the event and also makes the planner’s life easier. “Managing dozens or even hundreds of registrants can be tedious and time-consuming, and downright hard to keep organized,” Ochoa says.

The right software can do the heavy lifting by keeping your list of registrants organized, tracking registrant statuses and automatically sending them resources to start engaging with your event before it even starts.

Considering Bizzabo’s recent report indicated that 67.4% of organizers say they have changed or plan to change their event management software vendor within the next year, Gordon-Bennett says it’s important to ask some key questions when choosing the right software.

Five of the most important questions planners need to ask themselves before signing on the dotted line include:

  1. Does the software meet all of my event format needs?
  2. Does the software offer the mobile app, high-tech event wearables, on-site services and other advanced capabilities today’s attendees expect?
  3. Does the software offer the detailed analytics and metrics our team needs to prove the event’s return on investment, and meet marketing and overall business goals?
  4. Does the software offer the flexibility and customization we need to build our event website and experience to match our event theme and branding?
  5. Are there plenty of reviews, case studies and opportunities to hear from current customers so we can make an informed decision?

If you find the right event registration software, you’ll get all the features and capabilities you need to ensure more prospective registrants become attendees. Gordon-Bennett recommends taking the following steps to leverage event software for a user-friendly registration process, thereby boosting the viewer-to-registrant rate:

  • Don’t overdo it on ticket types. There’s nothing worse than going to an event registration page and seeing a dozen different ticket types with clever names.
  • Simplify your form as much as possible. If you’re going to ask lots of questions, make sure they’re ones that empathetically personalize the experience (e.g., dietary needs, accessibility requirements, pronouns, etc.).
  • Stick to simple calls to action: “Register Now,” “Save Your Seat” and “RSVP.”
  • Leverage social proof. To build trust and credibility, display testimonials, endorsements or previous event photos. Positive feedback from past attendees can influence potential registrants.
  • Implement abandonment recovery. Track registration form abandonment and send automated follow-up emails encouraging people to complete the process.
  • Showcase trust badges. Incorporate security badges, SSL certificates or payment logos to reassure registrants that their personal and payment information is safe.
  • Offer immediate help. Provide on-the-spot support for registrants with questions so they don’t get discouraged and click away.
  • Personalize the experience. Tailor the registration experience based on user preferences or past interactions.

“Don’t get bogged down in tedious, repetitive tasks,” Ochoa says. “Let the software take on those tasks for you, so that you can be free to take on more creative work and put your time to good use rather than meticulously culling through registrant lists and trying to keep everything organized.”

Must-Have Features for Registration Software

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett, senior manager of content marketing at Bizzabo, says the most important elements any event software should have to ensure a smooth registration experience include:

  • A user-friendly interface. Attendees and planners should be able to navigate the system and registration process without any confusion, or stops and starts.
  • Mobile optimization. Allowing people to register on a mobile device is table stakes, so be sure the software is optimized for mobile to deliver a seamless on-the-go experience.
  • Personalization. The software should allow planners to customize registration for each attendee type by asking logic-based questions. If someone registers using a specific ticket type or indicates a food allergy, be sure you can ask the right follow-up questions.
  • Real-time analytics. The registration software must have analytics in real time so you can see progress and optimize the registration experience in the moment.
  • Data security. The software must provide top-of-the-line security and privacy to give registrants peace of mind.
  • Automation and integrations. Integrations help achieve event team and marketing alignment around event goals, and automation reduces manual work, and ensures registrants get confirmations, event reminders and more.
  • Support. If someone hits a snag during registration and support isn’t readily available, it creates a negative experience for the attendee and the organizer — and that bad experience can stick with the attendee throughout the event and beyond.

“With these considerations, event planners can launch an event with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their event software is built to make their lives easier while delivering the best attendee experience possible,” Gordon-Bennett concludes.

Based in Minneapolis, Maura Keller is a seasoned writer, editor and published author, with more than 24 years of experience. She has written about business, meetings, event design, marketing, healthcare and a wealth of other topics for dozens of regional and national publications, as well as Fortune 50 companies.