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How to get more registrations earlier and avoid event stress

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There seems to be an increasing trend in events where delegates register later and later. For most conference organisers, this leads to increased nervousness, increased discomfort, and an increased desire to pull your hair out.

Last minute registrations are so challenging to manage catering, room allocation, or even just knowing if you are going to be profitable or not. So, what can we do to get people to sign up earlier?

Part of the secret is to be firm on what your guidelines are. Many of us have made exceptions for multiple people. This just leads them to expect it next time. We need to train our delegates on how we want to do business.

Early bird registrations don’t seem to have the power that they used to. Many employees know it is not their money so they are not enticed to “sign up and save” early. So, what can you do to get delegates to register early and make life easier for yourself and others involved in the event?

Here are some options:

These first two are full on and should be handled in a manner that doesn’t cause you more drama.

  • Impose a late fee. Some events are starting to impose a late fee of $50 – $200 for people who register in the two weeks prior to the event.
  • Have a hard close date on registrations a week prior to the event. This way you are concrete on numbers although, on the downside, super late registrations will miss out and you may lose some revenue.

Build excitement about the event well in advance. These next couple of ideas can contribute to this.

  • Offer next year’s tickets on a special deal for people attending this year’s event. It is a great way to provide value and show loyalty to your existing customers. It can also give you a good cash flow boost for next year’s event.
  • Have special event ticket releases. If one of your team has a birthday, why not have a birthday special for the week? You can also theme a ticket release. For example, have a Valentine’s Day deal for the month of February because we would love you to be there. With these releases, you are better to add value rather than discount the ticket price.
  • Have lucky prize draws for a certain theme. For example, “all tickets sold over the month of June go in the lucky prize draw for two nights’ free accommodation at the conference”. This represents good value for the delegates and can often come at a low/no cost for the organiser.

Whatever you do, don’t lie to your delegates. Too many of us have seen false statements of “Only 20 tickets left” or “Don’t you miss out” as our delegates see through it and it can backfire on us. Limited tickets need to have a reason, like the theme or prize draw to be authentic.

One thing that helps delegates register early is a generous refund policy. Something that will minimise the risk to the delegate if their situation changes. Be aware that this then shifts the risk back to you as the organiser, but with a lower barrier to purchase you will more likely get early registrations to cover this.

Events are not for the faint hearted. We have unknowns right up to the very last minute of the event. Using tactics like this will reduce the stress of last-minute registrations, put you back in control and keep you making events awesome.

Warwick Merry is a global award winning event host and event evangelist. For over 20 years he has been hosting and producing online, hybrid and in-person events. He is the host of the Making Events Awesome livestream and Making Events Awesome group.

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