The most important first step in planning an event is registration. How will guests sign up for your event? Do they fill out a piece of paper and turn it in to the church office? Do they type their information in a pdf and email it? Do they tell you in person that they are coming? I definitely hope not the last one! But this is a big decision on the part of the planner. Not only do you have to make something for them to fill out their information, but also there has to be a way to turn it in and keep everyone’s organized. For 10-20, paper is a safe option. For a 200-person youth camp, there’s no way that’s going to cut it. So, what is a planner to do?
Online registration can be hugely helpful or chaotically confusing. Unfortunately, fear of the latter can deter people from the many benefits of using the internet. Online registration...
Saves time. Think about how much time it can take to flip through everyone’s papers until you finally find Jimmy Smith’s to see if he paid or not. With the right tool, you can do a search for just Jimmy or sort the entire list by who has paid and who hasn’t. Not to mention, if you have to reach out to those who haven’t paid, your list is ready to send out an email without you having to manually type everyone’s address. Plus, when guests submit their information online, it saves you all the time of having to fill it into a list (which leaves a lot of room for error when doing it by hand). Planning takes enough time as it is. Anywhere that you can save time without sacrificing quality of the work is going to make this event that much less stressful. Not only will this aid in the time of planning, but during check-in at the event, too. That ensures the event kicks off without a hitch.
Gets more guests. How many times have you actually remembered after church to go sign up on the paper in the foyer? That’s what I thought. It doesn’t matter if it’s a list after church or a mailer you have to send back or take into the office, there is too much room for forgetting. Making the process as quick and easy as possible is going to get more people involved. As sad as it sounds, the work it takes to sign up for something can actually be a deciding factor on whether or not people go through with it. No, writing down contact information on a piece of paper and taking it to the church office is not hard, but it does make people potentially go out of their way. By sending a link to the registration online, they can fill it out wherever they are and know immediately they are set. And more than likely, > 90% of your target market is already active online.
Costs. Yes, many online registration services come at a price. That often makes it a quick pass in decision making. But think about the big picture for your budget. Some software costs as little as $1 per registrant. Tacking on one more dollar to the event cost will not affect registrants’ decision to attend. Maybe even your organization will compensate the bill. But if they don’t, consider the added number of guests that will contribute to the overall fund. As previously stated, online registration can greatly aid in boosting retreat attendance, which means those extra people are making up for the added cost of the software. Before simply saying it will balance out, make sure to do some calculations in your budget to ensure that you don’t go over. Some suggestions are Amilia, RegFox, Cvent, Eventbrite, and Member Solutions. The best part about these services is that they do more than just register. Many can take payments, generate promotional communication, track registrants, and more.
Include a link in all promotion materials!!!!! Every single thing that says you are having an event should give people a means to register for it. Email, put a link. Banner on church website, put a link. Facebook post, put a link. Hang up a flyer, put the link address and say that is where to register. Even offline pieces need to show it. Since the goal of event promotion is to get people to sign up, the number one factor that must be included is the way to do so.
Think about what else you could gain from this practice. We already mentioned time, but imagine all that could go to. Not only could you get more attendees from the user-friendly process, but could you gain guests by focusing more on promotion? Would the quality of the event increase because you have more space for programs (as well as added time for researching them)? Could you reach a broader audience than just Sunday morning church-goers? Could the online connection allow you better communication between events with attendees? Why would you make anything more complicated than it has to be? Organization is key to effective planning. Your event is important and the less stress for you, the better the event will be.