Events are a great way to engage with your organization’s constituents and provide a place for them to interact with each other. If your organization wants to start planning and hosting events, you need to carefully consider the best ways to manage and oversee the entire event lifecycle.
However, as concerns for COVID-19 continue to rise and social distancing becomes the norm, event planners find themselves unsure of where to go next. If you’re new to planning events, it’s already tough navigating this space without a global pandemic on our hands. How do you know where to post event details? How do you get people to attend? How can you pivot your events to a more digital experience?
Whether you find yourself cancelling an event or need to figure out a way to host it online, it’s time to invest in capable event registration software. Software solutions like these help you along various stages of the event, whether you need to sign-up more people for your digital event or quickly communicate a last-minute change.
You’re likely only thinking about virtual events, but this process still requires ample planning, so carefully consider the benefits of tools that can help. It’s a good idea to do research on your own, but our guide can give you a clue into what’s important, especially during COVID-19. While the event planning industry is in a unique place right now, the following best practices can also set you up for success for all events, not just the virtual ones.
Follow these best practices and set your event planning team up for success:
- Facilitate a personalized event registration process.
- Protect your attendees’ finances.
- Brainstorm an event marketing strategy.
- Review how your event went.
The best virtual events will engage your attendees as well as a live event would. Additionally, it should provide a personalized and streamlined experience for guests. Make sure you are prepared and equipped with the right tools to increase registration and raise attendee satisfaction.
Facilitate a personalized event registration process.
The first job of an event planner is getting people to register. The process is simple, we’ve all signed up for an event before. Registrants usually just fill out a couple of forms and make a payment, and their event ticket is ready.
With more people staying home, it’s more important than ever to ensure the registration experience is purely digital. The first place your constituents will likely go for information is your website. There are still organizations out there that rely on in-person or over the phone registration, and they currently find themselves scrambling for a better solution.
For the best registration experience for both registrants and staff members, make sure you leverage your software solution. Not only will you be able to easily create forms, your registrant's data can also be saved for convenience. Ensure your event registration tool can:
- Customize your form. Though most platforms will also provide templates, your forms should still be flexible enough where you can customize it to your event needs. This way, if you need specific information, you can ask for that. For example, say you’re hosting a digital event for college students. Add a field in your form asking for the school name or major!
- Embed form on existing website. As discussed earlier, your organization’s website is important for branding and hosting general information. Keep attendees on your website by embedding the form directly into your backend code.
- Personalize the registration process. Some software solutions will have conditional logic capabilities to individualize the registration process. This means the form will adapt and change as a user answers questions, adding or removing fields and forms. Some conditional logic capabilities can also trigger an automated email or auto-add items to the cart based on a specific answer by a registrant, truly personalizing the registration journey.
The best online registration tool will meet your virtual event registration needs, but the practices listed above are a great starting point for any event. For a list of registration solutions to consider, Regpack compares a couple of top options here.
Protect your attendees’ finances.
While virtual events open up huge opportunities for your organization during COVID-19, it also leaves room for security breaches and other unfortunate incidents.
In a time of uncertainty and worldwide financial disruption, it’s more important than ever to ensure all financial information is secure. While paying online is extremely convenient and saves time from physically doing much work, registrants need to know that their financial data won’t be compromised if they sign up for your event.
On the other hand, it’d be a huge mistake not to offer online payment, as the hassle of paying by mail or over the phone can be enough to drive people away. According to this article, offering online payment options drives up to 35% more completed payments than organizations who don’t use online payments.
As a new event planner, your best bet is going to be finding online registration software with an online payments integration option. However, there are a couple of security standards that you should also be looking out for. Look for software that is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant and can handle these safety regulations:
- Tokenization is the process of limiting the storage of plain-text sensitive data. This involves replacing data sets with tokens, which creates an extra layer of protection for sensitive donor information like credit card numbers.
- Encryption is a safety procedure that involves changing the format of donor information into ciphertext. You can only access encrypted information if you are authorized with the special code.
PCI-compliant software is required by nonprofits, so don’t forgo this security standard. Additionally, with a fully integrated payment solution in your donation tool:
- Payments happen during registration. Registrants never have to leave your registration form, streamlining the registration process and increasing attendance.
- Offer payment plans and autobilling. An autobilling system can help you control how and when transactions are made. For example, registrants can use payment plans to pay for products now or at scheduled future times. Give your registrants more flexibility and autobill them based on the agreed upon payment schedule.
- Automate payment invoices. With your payment process integrated into your registration software, you can trigger an email to be sent as soon as a registrant completes a transaction. The email provides details of the payment, open balance, and more. This helps establish a professional payment system without your staff having to manually compile invoices and send them.
It’s critical that you consider all safety regulations as well as use an integrated payment processor. Don’t risk transaction abandonment and ensure registrants feel secure as they’re inputting their information into your forms.
Brainstorm an event marketing strategy.
Once your event registration process is established and your payment system is integrated ansecure, your team needs to start thinking about how to get people to register in the first place.
Whether this event is replacing a cancelled live event or a whole new digital experience, you need a smart marketing strategy. Your event should attract attendees and continue to build the relationship as the event date gets closer. Just because someone has completed registration doesn’t mean your event marketing communications should end just yet.
The best marketing strategy will utilize many of your event management tools in order to best connect with registrants as well as facilitate their experience as the virtual event date comes closer. Here are some top ways you can take advantage of software features:
- Don’t waste time sending reminders. Your event management tool should be able to automate emails such as registration deadlines, payment confirmations, and post-event surveys. These emails are sent automatically based on “triggers” or actions that registrants make, following their journey to the event date. For example, as soon as a ticket is bought, a thank you email and payment invoice is sent.
- Personalize your emails. Even if you send mass emails, your system should automatically personalize emails based on registration data like names, dates, and financial details. That way, registrants only get messages that apply to them. For instance, if you have to send a mass cancellation of an in-person event, you should still include each recipient’s name.
- Target communications to specific recipients. With your communication tool built into your event management system, you can filter registrants to send emails that only apply to them. For example, if you offer VIP tickets, only send relevant content to that segment of attendees.
It’s important you keep up communication with attendees, even after they’re officially registered. Save your event staff time with automated communication features in your event management software. This way, they have more time to focus on the content and your event.
Review how your event went.
As you start your event planning career, you’ll quickly learn the importance of effective reporting and data analytics. This is even more crucial now that more organizations are turning to the digital space and adhering to safe social distancing practices.
As your digital event continues, a good habit to start is reviewing how the event is going, pointing out any weaknesses and strengths. This way, you have a better sense of how successful the digital event was, as well as how to improve.
Since you’re new to event planning, it’s likely that you don’t have any past event data to guide how this digital event should go. However, you should still set up these processes now. This way you can improve your digital event as it’s happening.
Don’t force your staff to manually compile reports. Instead, make sure your event tools can effectively compile data reports on the different event planning processes. Your event tools should:
- Keep event data in the cloud. With all your information on secure cloud servers, your staff can access event data anywhere and anytime. Even as your event is taking place, staff members can monitor event data and gauge how it’s going in real time.
- Send out post-event surveys. Thanks to automated communication, your software can send out post-event surveys once the attendees sign off. This way, you get a sense of how your event did while it’s fresh in attendees’ minds.
- Have dynamic data filtering. Filter through event data easily with your event software. Advanced tools will use multiple filters to filter conditions independently of each other and then compare outcomes. With dynamic filtering, your new event planning team can hone down their search even further and produce specific insights.
- Compile customizable reports. As you host more events, your team will have a better understanding of the key metrics to track event success. The best event software will generate effective reports for you, even allowing you to customize the metrics that are relevant to you. Easily see areas for improvement across the entire event planning life cycle with these flexible data reports.
The best event planner won’t just plan an event and move on. Make sure you have the capabilities to review past events and truly understand how you did. This way your events only get better, and your organization has more insight and data on their constituents. For more guidance, Double the Donation can walk you through additional top event management software options.
Entering the event planning world can be daunting, especially during a global crisis. However, with ample preparation and event software, you and your staff can still feel confident. Make sure your staff stays organized and on top of each process with effective management tools.
Asaf Darash, Founder and CEO of Regpack, has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building and in bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.