Last-Minute Registration on Site: Simple Participation without Trouble

Even the mention of this topic makes some organizers see red. People come to the conference and register for the first time? Immediately, a picture is created in the mind of the people: there’s the bulky registration form that you have to print out first. There’s the person standing on the other side of the table filling it out by hand in slow motion. And then there’s your staff, who have the thankless task of deciphering the characters and symbols. At best, this is a source of excitement at some cryptology conferences, otherwise it’s just annoying.

Little mistakes always creep in when typing, even with legible fonts. Think of anything that contains numbers – house numbers and zip codes. Or surnames that you don’t come across every day.

So why not let the process run digitally from the outset and delegate it entirely to the people who know the data best because it’s their own? That would at least lead to far fewer errors.

As nice as that may sound, organizers are reluctant to register digitally on site. Even more technology with complicated menus and far too many options that put new visitors off rather than get them excited about the event? That’s not true.

💡Digital registration for an on-site conference actually just means that you combine the usual online registration with check-in via scanner and printer. This is neither complex nor time-consuming.

With on-site registration for the most part remains the same

If you have already switched to the self-service check-in option, you can also register on site in the same way without any problems. Not much changes at all. The registration process is not much different from the usual online registration. You can use the same software with the same menus and the same steps.

From a technical point of view, the registration stations are equipped in exactly the same way as the check-in stations – with the difference that no scanners need to be used.

A few things are of course slightly different when registering on site. This is essentially limited to the payment process. Immediately after registering, newly registered participants enter their card details at the terminal and pay their participation fee.

💡Are you accepting new registrations, but in the traditional way at the counter? Then equip yourself with card readers, as the staff must not know the participants’ credit card details.
On-site registration at a conference
Works the same way on site: registering for the conference

How many new registrations will there be at your conference?

How many last-minute registrants will make the journey and spontaneously drop by your conference? Unfortunately, there is no formula here. But you can still do a little math. Ask yourself the following question: approximately how many new participants can your event accommodate? This will tell you how many stations you need for registration. Even if capacity is low, it is advisable to have more than one.

Regardless of the number of new registrations, there should always be separate areas – one for people who have not yet registered and one for everyone who has already done so in advance. The latter need less time because they only have to check in.

💡Provide sufficient signage and/or a visual separation so that everyone can assign themselves to one of the two groups and there are no questioning faces.

Don’t keep them waiting

By far the biggest stumbling block on arrival is the waiting time. The longer the queue drags on, the quicker the anticipation of the conference dwindles.

This is less of a problem at check-in. After the scan, the name badge is printed and then the conference can begin. On-site registration consists of more steps and takes more time. When filling out the registration form, people spend several minutes filling out the form. Screens with a connected keyboard make this easier and faster. Touchscreens without accessories often take much longer.

It is also more secure: entries via external keyboards can be made covertly. With touchscreens, others can read along live if they cleverly position themselves behind the person. Large screens are not so easy to shield from prying eyes. You can ensure even more security with the help of markings. Discretion zones are created in a similar way to bank and post-office counters.

Above all, it should be easy to register on site. It is therefore better not to ask for too much information. The registration form for your conference may be quite extensive. Think carefully about whether you really need all the information. Perhaps you can limit the on-site option somewhat and only ask for the most essential information.

Conference software with user-friendly menu navigation is a valuable aid. This shows the people registering on site:

  • the offer is still available
  • the number of places that can still be booked on site
  • fully booked program items that can no longer be selected
💡The software scores extra points if it includes new on-site registrants in the participant statistics. This allows you to directly track how many new registrations are received on site and staff do not have to keep tally lists.

Nothing works without staff

Now everything is clear from a technical point of view. However, this does not answer all the questions. If people are allowed to register shortly before the start of the conference, everything has to be right in terms of organization.

In principle, you need fewer staff if people register digitally. Nevertheless, you should never completely do without a team to keep an eye on registration on site. Technology doesn’t always cause problems and require human intervention, but there will always be visitors who have never registered this way before. Sometimes, despite good menu navigation, a little help is needed. Or people have questions about program items and the bookable offers.

In order for the staff to be able to give helpful advice, everyone should have worked with the software before. You can organize such an introduction as part of a team training session. Plan at least two hours for this and combine the explanations of the hardware and software with a general briefing in which organizational matters are discussed.

It could prove helpful later if the employees also answer general questions about the conference process. The “weakness” of the software may become apparent during registration if it causes absolutely no problems. Then there might not be much for the staff to do. However, standing around without a task is perhaps a bit monotonous. But because there are always participants with questions, boredom doesn’t even arise.

💡A little tip, especially for teams offering self-service registrations for the first time: Set up the stations a day in advance and carry out test registrations with the staff. This is better than a dry run. If there is no time for this, postpone testing until the training date.

What does on-site registration cost?

As far as the financial outlay is concerned, the used devices and the software are certainly the two items that cause the most costs during on-site registration. At the same time, however, these are also the two factors that – if used correctly – relieve organizers of most of the work, which is why the investment pays off.

There is potential for savings both in terms of staff and equipment, as you can hire the necessary equipment if required. If you organize conferences and congresses several times a year, it is probably more worthwhile buying hardware. Make sure you use scalable software that is not overloaded for smaller seminars and does not appear overwhelming for many participants. Flexible systems remain configurable and changeable because not every solution works for every type of event. Good software also scores highly in terms of support and does not leave you on your own if you have any questions.