Online registration has made a once arduous process infinitely more streamlined for both attendees and event administrators. Setting up your online registration can take just a few minutes, but just because you can open registration immediately, does that mean you should? Open too early and you risk excessive cancellations and lackluster buzz. Open too late and attendees may not have enough time to plan travel or fit the event into their schedules. So where’s the sweet spot for opening and closing your online registration?
Be Open About Opening
While a general guideline for opening registration is 3-6 months in advance of your event, here are some things to consider when determining your “go live” date.
Get ready and get real. Think about how long it will take you to get your marketing plan together. Once your registration site is open, you’ll want to begin driving attendees to it, so make sure you’re ready to go with marketing once it’s up. If you have statistics from a previous event – such as how they heard about the event – use this intel to market this and future events.
Open a window. Generally, opening registration more than six months prior to your event will generate an abundance of cancellations, which can affect post-event reporting. Attendees may not know their schedules 9-12 months in advance. Creating a smaller registration window will help ensure that registrants are more likely and available to attend on event day.
Get them buzzing. Even if you’re planning on a limited registration window, you can begin to generate buzz by sending “save the date” emails and promoting the open date. Use these communications to encourage interested attendees to join your mailing list or follow you on Twitter or “like” you on Facebook.
Incentives anyone? Consider whether you’ll be offering “early bird” discounts that may impact when you open registration. Offering discounted rates to attendees who can – and want – to plan early can give your event an early boost. If your event has limited attendance capacities to certain sessions or functions, make sure to let your prospective attendees know that they’ll want to register ASAP to secure their spot.
Travel concerns. If your event is in a location that will require attendees to travel – or in an exotic or very popular location – you’ll want to give your attendees enough lead time to make arrangements for transportation and accommodations. Large events in popular cities tend to sell out hotel rooms fast, so opening your site well before your event – no fewer than 3 months – gives your attendees time to find transportation and accommodations.
Plan to close. Just as you’ll want to be strategic about opening your site, you’ll want to plan when to close it as well. Keeping registration open throughout the event will allow you to capture any on-site registrations or changes directly in your online registration system. But if you need to close registration in advance of the event to prepare for a more defined number of attendees, usually a week in advance is a good rule of thumb. This will give you enough time to estimate session sizes, food and beverage – and maximize your pre-registration period.
Now that you’ve got a plan for opening and closing your online registration, read our blog post on planning a flawless onsite registration experience!
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