I recently attended a conference of which I was a sponsor. My experience was similar to many others that I have had over the years – lackluster. All the promise and excitement that I saw in the marketing for the event and of the sponsorship packages evaporated as the conference wore on, and instead of being angry, I left feeling sorry for the event producers.

It all started at Event Registration, where many of the offenses of the day could have been avoided – which got me to thinking about the importance of the choices made in staffing the registration booth at all events. So here I’ll offer three tips for making your registration table a source of goodwill and future sales.

EDUCATE

Think of the person at Registration as the ambassador for the entire event. Often times, organizations throw their least informed employees into this role, as though it’s of no import. Don’t be fooled, in addition to being THE face of the event and the first impression that both attendees and vendors will have, people will head to the registration table with all types of questions.

First and foremost, the registration desk jockey at your event should absolutely know who is speaking, sponsoring and exhibiting at your event. These VIPs should be greeted warmly and thanked for their support of the event upon arrival. Your organization has been wooing these companies and individuals, likely for months, with promises of a wonderful event and they’ve gone out of their way and/or paid hundreds or thousands of dollars to help make your event a success. If they show up and are treated like a stranger, you’re starting off the event on the wrong foot – and setting yourself up for difficulty in retaining renewals for the next event.

I’m a big fan of placing a salesperson in the registration booth – or someone who has been very involved in the event planning process. They will be knowledgeable and eager to please your guests, and their natural tendency to think long term about the relationship between your company and the attendees, sponsors and exhibitors will lead to a better experience for all.

If you must staff registration with someone not intimately familiar with the landscape, be sure to meet with that person and go over everything and ask them to study your event program guide and learn about all the key players. And no matter who is in the registration booth, make sure they know how to reach venue staff, A/V, exposition services and key management within your organization without leaving their post. Nothing’s worse than an empty registration booth.

EMPOWER

Mistakes invariably occur with name badges, booth assignments, breakout rooms and the like. Even the most experienced event producers make mistakes from time to time, but you can minimize the damage that these errors may cause by empowering the staff at registration ahead of time. Discuss with them the planned course of action if a guest has a complaint, such as having a booth that is out of the way, being placed near a competitor or a logo left off some event materials or signage.

Drink tickets go a long way for minor offenses, but training your staff to think through ways to diffuse a situation and make sponsors, speakers or exhibitor happy can involve empowering them with an arsenal of solutions. First and foremost, all staff should understand that without the guests, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors, there would be no show. Finding ways to address concerns and expressing a willingness to help will go a long way. Your registration staff may not be able to move an exhibitor to a different location, but he/she should be empowered to find alternate solutions, like moving a coffee, water or snack station to an area of booths that may be in a lighter foot traffic area.

EXECUTE

When I walk into a conference as an exhibitor or a sponsor, it’s because I entered into an agreement with the event producer. I’ve said I’d pay some amount of money, which is usually paid immediately upon agreeing to participate, and I’ve jumped through all the many hoops leading up to the event (providing headshots, bios, company description, ads and staff information; setting up logistics, booking travel to attend, buying promotional items to hand out, etc).

Whatever the arrangement, the event producer should execute on that agreement fully, and a lot of that starts at event registration. Take care to ensure that your registration booth staff understands all the promises that have been made to vendors or partners including logo items like bags or lanyards and printed materials that should be handed out. You can’t rewind the day if your title sponsor’s giveaways were not handed out to every attendee upon arrival.

Meet with all event staff prior to the event date and walk through all of the deliverables expected by your guests, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors and make sure that all bases are covered and you know who is doing what.

At the end of the day, taking extra time to plan and appreciate the importance of the registration staff will pay off with happy clients and partners who will want to return to your next event.

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