This post is part of a series targeted towards professional and DIY event planners who aspire to use technology to makeover their events. From attendee experience to ease of planning, these posts will give you the tools you need to make your events more efficient and effective!
To begin with, there are a few key ways to enhance the at-the-door event experience. As we all know, first impressions make the biggest impact so it's critical to set the tone of your event as soon as the attendee walks through the door. I have been to far too many events where problems at the door turned me away before I even had the chance to enter the event. The organizer probably had no idea they upset me. Knowing this, here are a few things you can do to make sure your door experience excites your attendees rather than turns them off.
I'm not a fan of lines, but I think we need to consider that lines can be used strategically. I never agree that line should be out the door or that people should be standing in the cold, but a well organized line is incredibly important. First of all, make sure that your door entrance is well lit, clearly labeled with signage and easy to access. When an attendee approaches your registration desk, they should know exactly where to stand, where to wait and in what order to proceed. I would always rather have a line waiting to be checked in, then a line that has been checked in and is waiting for name badges and programs. That being said, you also don't want to wait too long to attend guests who are waiting in line. If there's an inevitable line, make sure you have someone greeting and thanking them for their patience. Also, use that time to address important information for the event such as the hashtag or encouraging them to download the event app.
When an attendee is ready to check it try to make it simple and effortless. To accomplish this feat, get rid of paper checklists and convert to technology check-ins. The biggest change that event planners can make to this part of the process is simply moving to technology. There are plenty of platforms like eventbrite, Boomset, Event Farm, and much more that allow you to check your attendees in via iPad. iPads can be rented at a very fair price and there are several benefits to using this type of technology. First of all, your guests are immediately checked-in with just one tap of a button. No more flipping through 20 pages of names and hoping that things have been alphabetically organized correctly. The other benefit is that your attendees can make changes up until the last minute. Since everything is online, your guest list is constantly updated with the most accurate information. The smoother this process is, the greater the attendee buy-in.
When it comes to name badges, it's all about developing a system. A poorly organized name badge process becomes cumbersome and time consuming. This is one of the reasons why we love working with Boomset so much. The moment a person is checked in on the iPad, their name badge prints from a simple printer and is ready to be applied to any branded name badge within seconds. If you need to print out your badges in advance, make sure that they are well-designed and broken down alphabetically. With that, you want to make sure that your staff is not sorting through thousands of name badges at one time. If you have a ton of attendees, break up your registration into alphabetical order and give each set of registration staff a more manageable number of tags to work with. The other complication with name badges is for people who show up at the last second. If you have registrants who have not been on the list, make sure there is a dedicated area for them. This makes them feel like they are still being treated with rather than being shoved to the side.
As basic as it may seem, a well run registration process is all about organization. Your staff needs to be incredibly organized, timely and friendly. A huge smile the second a person walks in the door makes all the difference to an overall event experience. Getting through the check in process seamlessly makes it so that your attendees don't even have to think about that process again once they've been through it. This comes down to organization of your list, your staff, and the layout of the registration desk itself. Put a lot of thought into how people will enter, get processed, and exit and you will find that your door experience is greatly enhanced.
Before your attendees leave your registration line, make sure they have all the information they need. This can be done through signage that is showcased throughout the check in process, a postcard they receive as they leave and/or a friendly reminder of important information from your registration staff. Also, note that because your registration staff is located centrally, they are going to get approached about all kinds of questions. From scheduling changes to the location of the restroom and everything in between, your attendees need to be directed to a separate area for answering their questions to avoid a back-up at registration. Provide staff with as much information as possible and make sure you have an internal communication system that is real-time and technology-enhanced so that no one falls behind and gets lost.
I never thought I could write an entire post just about the at-the-door experience, but it turns out I can write much more. The experience in those first few minutes of your event can greatly impact a person's overall sentiment of your brand and your dexterity as an event planner. Judgments are made so quickly and they stem far deeper than just how a person feels about your event. So, with just a few tweaks to what you're currently doing, you can make sure that your registration process sets the tone for a successful event. What other tools do you use to make your door experience even better? How do you manage the lines so that attendees are appreciative of the organization and not annoyed by the wait? I'd love to hear your experiences!