So, let’s talk about event check-in. I know it’s not a “sexy” topic but it is one that needs a discussion. And no, I’m not talking about checking in with Foursquare, Facebook or any of those social media things. I’m talking about the “Welcome, to our event. May I have your name please” kind of check-in. (I will discuss the pros and cons of using technology during your event in future posts).
Someone recently reminded me that I’ve in working registration and check-out for 14 years either as a volunteer and/or professional. Man, that’s a long time! As a tech enthusiast, a process tinkerer and problem-solver, I keep massaging my team's check-in process, all with the goal of getting guests in quickly, while meeting the stated needs of my clients.
So, what’s the best way to handle checking guests in? You’re not going to like my answer…It Depends. I know, I know, you don’t like it when a question is answered with “it depends” but in this case it’s true. The reason is that no two events/meetings/gatherings are the same, even if it is the same event, just a different year. Many will be similar enabling you to build on techniques and tricks from other events, none will be exact copies. Now, that I’ve gotten you used to the idea that things are not cookie-cutter, what factors into creating an effective check-in?
My top 5 questions are:
- How many guests are expected?
- What information needs to be collected?
- Are name tags, table assignments, bidder numbers, etc to be passed out?
- Are payments to be collected, tickets to be sold, or cards to be pre-swiped?
- Where should guests be directed after checking in?
The answers to those questions affect the number of team members, the process flow and time needed to get every guest into the main event in a timely manner. Let’s go through them one-by-one.
How many guests are expected?
The goal is to get them in quickly right? So know the number of guests and the time window for getting them registered, helps determine team size. You try not to have 100 guests standing in each line. You also have a greeter, who helps distract guests if the lines have slowed, remind guests that if a couple only one has to stand in line and be an extra line if everyone magically arrives at the same time.
What information needs to be collected from the guests?
We work with our clients to have as much information already on file so the guests spend less time talking with us. While we love to chat, they didn’t come to see us. This isn’t always possible as guests may have purchased tables they were scrambling to fill or there may be substitutions. Given that we work a lot of fundraisers, we generally have to confirm addresses so that the guests can receive proper documentation from the charity for tax purposes. Sometimes this is done online, sometimes not.
Are name badges, table assignments, bidder numbers, etc. to be passed out?
You were wondering where the “art” is in check-in, this is where it really comes out. This is a balancing act between wanting to ensure that guests get everything they need to actively participate in the event, while at the same time not holding them up from getting into the it. There are numerous techniques and tricks. Some are “old school” and some are techie. Working with the client to understand the types of guests attending, what worked and didn’t work along with why/why not, and factoring in what’s different about this event, will help determine direction. Now, you may find you have to switch tracks in the middle so its better to have few scenarios worked out ahead of time.
Are payments to be collected, tickets to be sold, or cards to be pre-swiped?
This can sometimes be a tricky one. We want the guests money (on behalf of the client that is). Sorry to be blunt but its true, we do. But what is the best way to get it? Ideally, the event ticket sales happen ahead of time with the occasional one-off that needs payment at registration. For our non-profit events, we love to pre-swipe guest credit cards to make check-out faster (we’ll talk more about that in the post The Art of the Check-out coming soon). It’s the selling of the “other” tickets where art sneaks in. On the one hand, the guests are captive (um, I mean we have their attention), we’ve already convinced them to pre-swipe, why not see if we can’t just go ahead an add a raffle ticket or other for sale item while we’re at it?
It depends on the number activities leading up to the sell question and the number of guests expected (there’s more but keeping it simple at these two). Having a separate table/space/person that sells can help keep the line moving. Not all guest will buy, no matter how charming the team is, and my team is pretty darn charming. This is great for larger events because it also makes sales throughout the event easier. In general we recommend this approach. We like to get the guest in and let the sales happen elsewhere.
Where should guests be directed after checking in?
The obvious answer is “into the event”. That’s not always the case. Sometimes the next stop is the coat check or the sales table. Being in the Midwest, a coat check is a consideration about half of the year either for rain or snow, especially this winter. If the guests are not passing coat check before they meet the registration team, you may want to keep the questions short and to the minimum required so that they can get out of their coats and get comfortable, we want them to stay awhile. If the next stop is the sales table, you may want to take a few seconds to remind them about the sales table and what great things they can purchase.
Got all that? So now you know why I call check-in an art. There is no one size fits all, its individualized to your event, your guests and your needs. I could talk for hours about this (and of course other stuff), drop me a question or two and I will happily get back to you.
© Image credit: piccaya / 123RF Stock Photo