When I was a kid I went to a small church. Every Sunday morning our worship service would begin with someone reading a list of announcements.
- The seniors group is going to the flea market next Saturday. Everyone will meet at the church at 8:30. If you are interested, there’s a sign-up sheet in the foyer.
- We’re starting a church softball team. Everyone is welcome, but we need to know how many t-shirts to buy. If you are interested, there’s a sign-up sheet in the foyer.
- The youth group is selling cookie dough to raise money for summer camp. Please help support the students and enjoy some cookies. If you are interested, there’s a sign-up sheet in the foyer.
- We’ll be having a Mexican-themed potluck after service on Sunday June 26th. We’ll provide the taco meat but everyone else please bring a covered dish. If you are interested, there’s a sign-up sheet in the foyer.
Our churched believed strongly in the power of sign-up sheets. And it was always fun to watch sister Cheryl scurry out the back of the sanctuary at the end of service to sign-up and ensure she had a spot in the van going to the flea market. Even though the sign-up sheet is a great tool, most organizations have evolved beyond the need just for someone’s name and phone number. The events that you’re planning require much more information from your attendees and thankfully there are better technologies available to capture that information.
Why do I need all of this personal information?
You can definitely plan a successful event with just the attendees’ names. Under perfect circumstances that’s all the information you need. However, you’ll never have the privilege of working under perfect circumstances. And that is why you need more information.
The most basic reasoning for gathering contact, medical, and food allergy information from guests is safety. Should there be an emergency at your event, you need to quickly be able to reach your attendees via cell phone and/or their emergency contact. Similarly, knowing medical and food allergy information will help you to prevent an emergency. And while it may feel invasive, guests who have special needs will appreciate that you had the forethought to ask those questions.
And what if you need to let everyone know that instead of stopping for lunch, everyone needs to pack a lunch to eat on the bus? You don’t want to make 80 phone calls. And no one wants to be a part of an 80-person group text. Email or social media is the way to communicate to the group as whole, so that’s definitely worthwhile information to get from your attendees at registration.
Maybe the most under-utilized reason for gathering contact info is to market your event and connect your attendees to your organization. Whether you’re planning a summer camp for your church or a workshop for your company, the ability to promote the event and generate enthusiasm is so key to the success of your event. Creating that momentum and building anticipation before the event is what’s going to help you easily win over your attendees when they walk in the door. And it’s impossible to do that without several channels of contact info.
Options for tracking registrant info
Thankfully we have come a long way from the sign-up sheet in the foyer. Lots of great options exist to efficiently track attendee info. The most comprehensive way to track registration is to use event management software or services. There are dozens of products and companies who can (among other things) track registrants, take payments, generate automatic communication, and perform a myriad of other tasks. Most event managers are relatively inexpensive to set up, but they do require a time investment to learn the system. So before you dive into one of these registration platforms, make sure you are ready to commit some time.
RegFox – www.regfox.com
RegFox allows you to create a registration module with all of your own branding using their easy-to-use form generator. Even though the builder tool is simple, it still allows for ultimate customizability. From custom fields to conditional logic, you can easily shape the registration experience for your attendees. RegFox also supports online payments and social media integration as well as data export. One of the biggest draws for RegFox is the price. The cost is only $.99 per registrant and there is no set up fee.
Eventbrite – www.eventbrite.com
Eventbrite is a full-service event manager. From seating maps to ticketing to promotional tools, Eventbrite can handle a wide array of events and event features. The benefit of Eventbrite is the vast amount of features it offers and your ability to customize them to fit your needs. However, it can feel a little overwhelming if you’re just looking for a registration management software. The price point is very manageable; $.99 per registrant plus 2.5% with a cap at $9.95. For non-profits, the rate is slightly lower; $.99 per registrant plus only 2%. However, if your event is free then there is no charge for creating an event.
Eventsbot – www.eventsbot.com
Eventsbot is a simple, stripped down event manager that still offers the most necessary functions. And its best feature is that it’s completely free. Eventsbot allows you to create your registration page with a custom url, accept online payments, and generate reports in Excel or as pdf’s. The page design options are limited and ads are enabled for their free version, but it’s hard to beat if you’re just looking for a registration and payment mechanism.
Keep it Simple
Using software or a third party service to manage your event can really facilitate the registration process and create a positive experience for your attendees. However, there is no need to bring a complex system if your organization doesn’t need it. If you’re attendees all meet together regularly (read: church, civic group, school, etc) then you may not have a great need for online registration/payment. And if that’s the case, there may be no better tool than a hard copy or downloadable registration form and an Excel spreadsheet. We’ve made a sample registration form to get you started.
If you have a comprehensive form that gathers all of your necessary information, then all you need to do is create a mechanism to distribute, retrieve, and database it. One great method for this is to use a Google Doc. Upload your registration form and share the document with your group. Once they fill it out electronically, they can just share it back to you. This allows your attendees to register without printing, scanning, or faxing. You can also create your registration form using a spreadsheet on Google Docs so that when the completed sheet is uploaded you can easily database it.
If you are looking for a simple, easy-to-use template to use for your events, we have a solution for you. Our downloadable template has the necessary registration information built into a simple Word document. We even have a version specifically geared towards family events, which covers those specific needs. Hopefully you’ll find this tool to be a great first step in the process of organizing and managing your event!