Event Registration: The 2020 Guide
Event registration is the cornerstone of any successful event. Learn how to plan, segment, measure and increase event registrations in 2020 and beyond.
The objective of all events, no matter the topic or the industry, is to bring people together. However, none of this is possible if no one shows up.
This comprehensive guide created for 2020 event registration best practices delves into the multiple aspects of the topic and more importantly, the different ways that event professionals can create a marketing and promotional strategy to maximize attendance. In this guide you'll learn:
- What is Event Registration
- Find the Best Event Registration Software
- 11 Tactics for Increasing Event Registration
- 4 Event Registration Website Examples
- Different Ticket Types for Increasing Event Registrations
- What is Session Registration
Whether you are trying to boost event revenue or are just trying to get more people to your event, this guide is for you.
What is Event Registration?
In its simplest form, event registration is when a person makes a financial and/or time commitment to attend your event. It is the point at which a person decides that the benefits from attending the event will outweigh the costs.
It is important to keep in mind that event registration and event attendance are not the same metric. The former is the pre-event process where people make the commitment to attend while the latter is an onsite metric that states the actual amount of people who were present at the event.
Event attendance is an important event KPI to measure because it directly reflects the volume of your event. Making sure the event registration and event attendance numbers are as congruent as possible will help you improve event ROI.
What is Event Registration Software?
The event registration process is not as simple as it sounds. The goal is to make it look simple, especially in the eyes of the attendees. This is why investing in top event registration software is key to building out a strong registration flow.
The point of event registration software is to create a user-friendly, intuitive experience for the attendee and as well as an insightful post-event reporting process for the event marketer. Achieving this balance while being able to keep all of the features in the same event management system is a rare combination.
But keeping your standards high for event registration software will pay off on the long run because this core platform will determine the success of your event on multiple other fronts.
Finding The Best Event Registration Software
How should you go about finding the registration platform that works best for your event? Again, being selective with your software of choice is key here since this platform will affect all other parts of your event planning process. Below are some criteria to consider when choosing event registration software that is right for you and your event:
1. Ease of Use
This is perhaps the most important quality to look for in an event registration platform. To ensure that it is in fact a very user-friendly platform, make sure to receive a trial run of the platform. This will solidify whether the software is in fact user friendly for both you and the attendee.
2. Integrated capabilities and personalization
An event registration software may have all of the features you want, but if those features do not integrate with other important parts of your overall event management process, the platform may not be worth.
Does the registration platform integrate seamlessly with your event website? Is the platform able to accept and process payments of all types? Will the registration info from each attendee sync with your email marketing platform to ensure personalized messages? All of these are important event software integrations to consider when shopping for your event registration platform.
Recommended: The 2020 Guide to Event Personalization
Building out an event program can involve a single type of event like a conference or it can include multiple types of events like conferences, field marketing events, VIP events, and more. Your attendees can also vary from speakers, sponsors, and general attendees just to name a few.
When evaluating your event registration platform, look to see what options are available to support both paid and free events, how to create unique ticket types for different registrants, and features that let you promote registrations through promo codes or social incentives.
Consider choosing a platform that is capable of handling all of your events. Having to use an event planning platform for some events, and another platform for other events will be confusing and potentially very costly. Opt for an event management solution that is scalable. You’ll also have access to cross-event data that could help you discover what is and isn’t working to become an even better event organizer.
You can learn more about event registration software in the Event Software Buyer's Guide.
11 Tactics for Increasing Event Registration
Increasing event registrations doesn't have to be a headache for event organizers. Creating valuable content, optimizing your event collateral, and amplifying your messages with some strategic incentives can all help to get the message out about your next event. Below are eleven examples to consider when building promotional campaigns for your event:
1. Create a content series that promotes the event
Building up consistent momentum for your event will make sure that the enthusiasm will be sustained up until the first day. A good way to do this is by having an ongoing content series that leads up to the event. This series can come in the form of video, blog post, or both. The series should have a theme that ties directly back to the event.
A good example of this would be Rakuten's blog series dedicated to their flagship event Optimism. The in-depth content includes key takeaways from each region's event and speaker topics that were top of mind for attendees. This gave the audience more context behind the speaker’s expertise and experience and helped to generate excitement for upcoming events.
2. Consistent Social Media Posts
For the purpose of increasing event registrations, social media is particularly helpful with keeping your event top of mind for potential attendees. The key here is to make sure posts are being published regularly and that they all are aligned with the event brand and voice.
Use your social media platforms to promote event related content that is highly shareable. Infographics, short videos and eye-catching images will increase the chances of your post being shared and, in turn, your event being promoted by others.
What is most important about social media campaigns promoting event registration is to keep track of their impact. Use tracking links and the analytics from your event management software to measure the effectiveness of each campaign. This will help you understand what to optimize for if improvements to the campaign are needed.
For example, for Hubspot’s flagship event INBOUND, the team leveraged Twitter for a fun campaign for the trending hashtag #fridayfeeling. The goal of the campaign was to find any person with the name Jennifer and to offer that person a free community pass to access INBOUND19 spotlight sessions and event entertainment. This #fridayfeeling campaign amplified the event's reach and highlighted one of the event speakers, Jennifer Garner.
3. Offer different tickets options
You’ll most likely want a diverse pool of people to attend your event. Thus, it makes sense to have a variety of ticket options to match the needs and budgets of your different attendees. Of course it is never good to display too many ticket options, but finding the right balance of pricing could make all the difference for your attendees.
One best practice is to have an early bird pricing option during the first few weeks of registration because it encourages people to commit sooner to your event. Having a limited time offer on a discounted price will also create a sense of urgency for prospective attendees.
One example is the Early Bird ticket type for MozCon 2020, the flagship user conference for the SEO software company Moz. Early bird ticket types give attendees a small window of time to purchase discounted tickets, creating urgency around the event.
4. Optimize CTA buttons on the registration page
When navigating your event registration website, visitors should clearly know where to register for the event. Having a non-intuitive website experience will only prevent potential attendees from registering for your event.
To avoid this, make sure that the CTA buttons leading to registration are contrasted with the rest of the page and that the copy on the button includes the word “register.” Making this process as simple as possible will only increase the chances of a ticket being purchased.
Source: Gainsight Pulse
For example, for Gainsight Pulse 2020 the team created a clear CTA on the event home page to indicate where visitors can register. The distinct button color helps drive more clicks to the registration page while visually maintaining the brand's design identity.
5. Minimize friction during the registration process
Because events usually cost a lot to attend, the process is not as simple as one would like.
First, if your event registration page is not designed in an intuitive way, your attendees will have a tough time purchasing a registration—even if they really want to.
Fortunately, this is a relatively simple to fix. The examples elsewhere in this guide serve as great examples.
Second, your attendees will often need to convince decision-makers within their organization to support and sponsor their event attendance. After all, events aren't cheap and they require missing out on valuable time at the office.
For example, someone may be very excited to attend your event, but needs budgetary approval from their manager to purchase a ticket.
In anticipation of these cases, create supporting collateral to help individual contributors pitch to attend your event and win approval from their managers.
The team at Moz anticipated this need and created a campaign around "Convince Your Boss to send you to MozCon." This kit included a step-by-step blog post on how to prepare materials to pitch the value and an email template to pitch your learnings to your supervisor.
6. Create a sense of urgency
To further motivate those who may be on the fence about attending your event, communicate the fact that there is a limited amount of time to make a decision. In other words, emphasize that an offer will be ending soon, or the fact that ticket sales will be ending soon or that the event will be selling out in the near future.
This can be conveyed by having a countdown clock on your event home page. Though a small detail, this could very well put certain people over the fence when they are thinking about registering.
For example, Drift created an event website for their upcoming HYPERGROWTH event in London and included a countdown clock to create urgency and excitement for the upcoming conference.
7. Segmented email campaigns
Creating an email marketing strategy that involves sending several emails over a period of time is an effective way to keep the audience engaged.
The idea of a nurture email campaign is to gradually nudge the recipient towards the desired action (i.e. registering for the event) through a series of emails. The timing of each message should be spread out so as to not flood the recipient’s inbox and create an unpleasant experience.
In addition to timing, your emails should be segmented so that each message is as relevant to the recipient as possible. Filtering for job description, geographic location, and industry are good ways to ensure relevant messages are sent to the right people, ultimately leading to higher click-through rates and more registrations.
Below, is an example of the different ways you can slice and dice your segments based on business functions and roles.
8. Digitize word-of-mouth marketing
Remember that increasing registrations does not have to all fall on your shoulders. Encourage those who’ve already registered for your event to spread the word by giving them referral links to share with their social networks. Create an incentivized program in which those who bring on more registrants with their referral link receive a partial refund or other rewards.
Remember: Make sure that you’re able to track the amount of revenue that has come in as a result of your referral links campaign. Otherwise, you have no idea if your promotional campaign is even working!
Digitizing word-of-mouth marketing strategy in this way will turn your event attendees into event advocates and can make all the difference in your registration numbers.
9. Personal follow-ups for incomplete registrants
Sometimes people start people registering for your event, but don't finish. "Cart abandonment" can be a real issue. Do you know how often it's happening for your event registration pages?
Some event registration platforms have the ability to track the individuals who have abandoned their cart, leaving event professionals with a golden opportunity.
If you're able to track this, try reaching out to these would-be attendees with personalized follow-ups inviting them to complete registration. Sending this reminder message could be all it takes for them to restart the registration process and become a bonafide attendee.
If digital ads are part of your strategy, you can also serve retargeted ads to these individuals. This will also reel them back into the registration process so that they (hopefully) complete it.
10. Monitor the website to registration conversion rate
There are bound to be people who visit your event website and do not end up registering. Instead of simply acknowledging this fact, use a website analytics tool like Google Analytics to calculate the conversion rate of visitor to registrant and brainstorm ways to improve this KPI. Monitoring site analytics on a weekly basis is a good way to stay on top of metrics like these and it also gives you enough time to re-strategize your on-page conversion rate by A/B testing different parts of the page.
Find more tactics in our guide to increasing event registrations.
11. Leverage promo codes to incentivize registrants
At the end of the day, a promotional deal is sometimes too hard to resist. In the events world, promo codes can help potential attendees pull the trigger on registration. A variety of promotions like seasonal promotions, speaker or sponsor promotions, flash sales, and social share promotions just to name a few. Check out if you event management solution offers ways to generate a variety of promo codes so you can track the performance of each code.
Find more tactics in our article on 13 Event Promo Code Ideas.
4 Event Registration Websites Examples
1. Drift: HYPERGROWTH
The event registration website does well to maintain a clear value proposition without too much clutter. The brand design is clearly conveyed through images and design choices. Rather than dive into lengthy narratives on the event's value proposition, Drift gives a short intro to the HYPERGROWTH event brand and focuses on exciting and high energy highlights from their past event.
As you can see, Drift does an excellent job of visually summarizing their 2019 HYPERGROWTH event with images, keynote speakers, and social proof from attendees.
Key takeaway: Use existing collateral from your previous events and clearly showcase the content, speakers, and attendees that have built your event brand. Clear the clutter with shorter texts and more distinct call to actions to help drive registrations.
2. Inbound 2020
The INBOUND 2020 website leverages video to capture the look and feel of the event brand. The registration CTA is also clearly displayed on the top of the page and at the center of the page to allow visitors to quickly review ticket options.
Key takeaway: Use video to capture your website visitor's attention while also showcasing your event brand. Remember to keep your CTAs in a strategic place to guide visitors towards the next step.
3. Gong #Celebrate: On Tour
A branded event website can consist of more than just colors and brands. In the case of the Gong's #Celebrate, a Revenue Success Summit and Tour Series, the team created a unified brand identity of colors, geometric shapes, fonts, and white space. All these unique design elements came together to fully articulate their event brand.
Perhaps your event brand includes a quirky mascot. If that’s the case, make sure to include it on the site in a creative way.
Key takeaway: Make sure to incorporate all aspects of your brand throughout the event website, especially if your event brand consists of more elements beyond fonts and colors.
4. Payscale: Compference
Source: Payscale Compference
Compference is an annual event that explores topics of compensation and human resources from different perspectives. And while the event content is surely the main reason why people register, there’s no denying that the particular event venue compels people to register as well.
For Compference's fifth year anniversary, the team decided to host the event in their hometown of Seattle, Washington. The event venue, located in downtown Seattle, offers attendees the full experience of the city to complement their time at the Compference event.
The event website clearly highlights the city's character and how it relates to the Compference brand. Having the city-specific details precede the actual event description shows the team's confidence that the venue location will grab potential registrants’ attention.
Key takeaway: Play to your strengths. Be honest about what attendees will want most and make that front and center within the event website.Recommended: 20 Event Registration Website Examples
Different Ticket Types for Increasing Event Registrations
As discussed in the list of tactics, having numerous ticket options will make the registration process more accommodating for would-be attendees—regardless of your event type. There are obviously an endless amount of ways to breakdown your pricing, but here are a few popular examples of ticket types to help you figure out which would be best for your event.
- Early Bird - This is the limited-time discounted price you are offering to those who are willing to register well in advance for your event. Early bird tickets brings a sense of urgency to event registration communicating to would-be attendees that the lower price will only be available for limited amount of time.
- One-day pass - Some people want to attend your event, but may not have enough of a budget for the full price. Having a one-day option gives these people a chance to still enjoy the event. Being flexible with your pricing will show attendees that the event is designed to welcome as many people as possible.
- VIP pass - There will be some attendees who are willing to make the extra investment to receive everything your event has to offer. In the VIP package, event organizers may include additional perks like breakout sessions with the speakers, a designated VIP lounge, and express check-in.
- Speaker pass - Your speakers are most likely going to be a big draw to your event. Deliver a delightful experience beginning at the event registration with a unique ticket type. Bonus points: adding an option for your speakers to bring a plus one to the event will also encourage some more goodwill.
- Sponsor pass - Sponsors can play a big role at events by creating content, building booths or activations to engage your event attendees. Create a unique ticket type for your sponsors that can include different discount rates depending on their sponsorship package.
- Virtual pass - For those who cannot physically be present at the event, a virtual pass is a great way for them to still experience to the main keynotes. Having a virtual pass can spread awareness of your event brand on a global scale.
What is Session Registration?
In addition to people registering for the whole event, it is also important for attendees to participate in the workshops and learning sessions that are taking place throughout the event. Session registration is a key indicator of event engagement and after you’ve achieved your event registration goal, this should be next on the priority list of KPIs.
In order to maximize session registration, attendees have to know which sessions they’ll want to attend in the first place. Having an intuitive and well-designed event agenda is important for this very reason.
Building a conference agenda that encourages session registrations requires you to be attentive to the UI experience of the agenda.
Can attendees easily group the sessions by topic? Can they add them to their personal calendars? How do they find the sessions with their favorite speakers?
These queries and more should be addressed right within the agenda. A pleasant user experience will thus result in higher sessions registrations.
Wrapping Up: Your Event Registration Strategy
Going into 2020, there are many event registration principles to keep in mind. Here's a recap of some of the most essential:
- Identify the best event registration software for your needs. Depending on the size and audience of your events, you may want to go with a freemium event registration system. However, if you plan on providing a branded experience tailored to your attendees, you'll want to look into premium providers.
- Attract the right audience. It's a lot easier to sell out an event than to sell out an event with the right people. But having the right people at your event will make the experience more rewarding for other attendees and profitable for your organization in the long run. Segment your promotional audiences to make sure only the right people get through the door.
- Build an event website. Your attendees want to learn more about your event, see who else is attending and—if your event is a good fit—they want to register for your event. Having an event registration website is crucial for getting their attention.
- Create different ticket types for your event. To add the personalized touch to your registration experience, create different ticket types relevant to each of your attendee types or segments. Some examples include: VIPs, general admissions, speakers and sponsors.
- Experiment and measure your event promotion campaigns. Along with different ticket types, you can create special promo offers, experiment with different ticket pricing, and add new layers of engagement through social media. These are just a few of the ways that you can experiment with your event promotion strategy. Keep tabs on what does and doesn't work with your audience to continually refine your strategy.
- Optimize Session Registration. Don't forget that session registration is just as important as event registration. Make sure your event agenda offers a pleasant user experience and delivers enough information so that attendees feel ready to hit the ground running at your next event.
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Editor's Note: This post was originally published on May 4, 2018 and has since been updated.