12 Must-Ask Questions For Buying Event Registration Software
Your event registration software should be your best buddy, right?
When you're spending a lot of time with a product, it helps if it's your friend. Plus, if things turn stressful or hectic you want something by your side you can trust and rely on.
Conversely, choosing the wrong registration partner can turn managing your event into your worst nightmare, like a knife-wielding Freddy Kruger invading your dreams while you sleep (Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic) (MAYBE).
When it comes to choosing your registration and event marketing partner, it can be hard to know exactly what to look for— especially if you're among the 10% of marketers who haven't used event registration software before (who are you? We're fascinated).
Even if you're already using a software tool and are looking to make a change, you may not realize where your current product is falling short, and what you can look for in the next one.
"Wait a minute...am I about to get suckered into a sales pitch for Swoogo?"
(Though our hearts would melt like chocolate sauce on a warm cheesecake brownie if you did check us out. Just sayin').
We analyzed 86 customer reviews on G2Crowd and Capterra (awesome review sites for software) to understand what most event registration software providers are missing— or what people dislike in general.
No judgment here, we're not perfect either (but hey, we think we're pretty darn close 😉).
These 12 crucial questions can help you avoid rushed decisions and select a reg partner that makes the most sense for your event and the way you work.
Ready? Let's do it.
1) WHAT REPORTS CAN I PULL FROM THE SYSTEM?
A lot of planners get (rightfully) annoyed when their vendor's system can't pull the specific type of report they need.
Creating reports should be easy, and you should be able to pull and display the exact data you need from your reports.
No need to see your attendees shoe sizes if what you really want is everyone's arrival time and session selection, right?
List out what types of data are important for you to to view, and ask your salesperson whether their product has the capability to easily pull them into your reports.
2) DO YOU OFFER "IF THIS, THEN THAT" LOGIC IN YOUR REGISTRATION FORMS?
Cluttering your registration forms with irrelevant questions is never the way forward. If your goal is creating a smooth registrant experience— and it really should be one of your goals— you need a tool that allows for conditional fields.
Conditional fields, or "if this, then that" logic, allow you to change the visibility of questions depending on your registrant type (think tailored registration experiences for Member/Non-Member or VIP/Staff).
Additionally, ask your potential registration software provider how granular they can get with those conditional questions on your form.
Some vendors only allow you to go one level deep, which still isn't very helpful if you have more complex registration requirements.
3) CAN YOU SHOW ME TEMPLATES I CAN USE TO JUMP-START THE EVENT CREATION PROCESS?
Great looking templates that streamline your entire workflow are crucial. They save you time and make your event look amazing.
In order to get started quickly, you need a variety of templates available in the system that you can tweak to match your brand. Time is money and having a selection of templates will not only accelerate your event website build, it will also decrease the time it takes until you can throw the gates open and get people registering.
That said, you may also want to be able to create your own look, feel, and templates. If you don't work with an in-house developer, you can ask whether your software partner has a professional services team to help you customize your sites.
4) CAN YOU CUSTOMIZE THE LOOK & FEEL OF THE REGISTRATION FORM, OR JUST THE EVENT WEBSITE ITSELF?
You need to have full control over things that make a difference to your customers. Your event is unique, your audience is unique and most importantly, your brand is unique. In order to provide your attendees with a fully branded experience, you should ask:
Will I have control over the wording of each registration step?
Can I change the overall look and feel?
Can I edit the mobile responsive settings?
Do the attendee questions appear in one line or in multiple lines?
Am I able to call my agenda a schedule instead?
How will each individual field look, and am I able to change it?
There may be further questions you need to decide, but little details make the difference here. Think about the entire registration process, and where you want to make sure your brand comes through.
5) WILL I BE ABLE TO EASILY CLONE EVENTS?
From an end-user's point of view, cloning events should be a piece of cake.
But here's the thing— many event software products can't do it (or at least can't do it easily).
Historically, event registration software providers grew their products by acquiring other companies. While this allowed them to offer more functionality, it didn't necessarily allow them to offer seamless functionality. The pieces can't be integrated holistically, and that means elements can't be exactly cloned without a heavy lift on your end to make it happen.
The end result?
Wasted time. There is no glory in manually copy & pasting each element manually to re-create the functionality, look and feel, especially for planners who run the same/ similar events on a regular basis.
6) CAN YOU SHOW ME THE FORMATTING OF NUMBER, PHONE AND COUNTRY FIELDS IN THE REGISTRATION?
Collecting data is one thing, but collecting consistent data is a whole other hurdle. If you have a free text field for a country selection, for example, you may be spending your time manually grouping attendees who live in the "US," "USA," "U.S.A." and "America."
Ask, how configurable are the various field types in your registration form? Does the country field allow you to select from a pre-determined list? Does the phone field include the area code? Will your venue address be pulled from Google Maps?
Smart forms will make it much easier for the registrants to enter data that's actually useful and easily sortable for you.
7) IS YOUR ADMIN BACK-END MOBILE-FRIENDLY & RESPONSIVE?
Not having a fully responsive website is like not having a website at all. But what about the stuff you're working on behind the scenes? The administrator back-end?
As an event professional, you probably spend a lot of time outside the office, or even in a different country.
Envision this: It's 9.35pm on a Sunday. The day before your next big flagship conference. You find yourself exhausted and tired in your hotel room. Your computer is back at your field office, and you only have your iPad in hand. There's a last minute change in your event agenda. What do you do?
In an ideal world, you should be able to easily log-in from your iPad and make the necessary amendments, not go back and haul out your computer just to make a change.
This comes in handy in so many scenarios, like when you need to edit something while you're on the train or waiting in line for your no-foam-extra-hot-NO-FOAM-latte. Once you've experienced this functionality, there's no going back.
8) DO YOU ALLOW CUSTOMERS TO MAKE THEIR OWN CHANGES TO THE EVENT WEBSITE VIA CUSTOM CODE?
Being able to add custom code can be a God-send.
9) WHAT INDUSTRIES & VERTICALS DO YOU SPECIALIZE IN?
Not all event registration software is created equal, right?
Some registration software providers focus on exhibitions, others pride themselves working only with B2B Conferences, others with consumer events. Then, of course, there are some of the bigger all-rounders who think they can do it all.
Publishers running flagship events and using registration software that can adopt their own look and feel have different requirements than event agencies who want to please their clients.
If your vendor has experience working with clients in industries similar to yours, it's most likely that the software could be a good fit.
10) HOW WELL DO YOU PLAY WITH OTHER EVENT TECHNOLOGIES, LIKE VENUE SOURCING, AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT OR ON-SITE TECHNOLOGIES?
The development of APIs (application programming interfaces) has made it easier to share data across a wide range of business software products. It's not unusual for meeting planners to integrate different event software products to have them work together as if they were a single platform and not put all their eggs in one basket.
Collaborations of best-in-craft event technologies working with each other to provide support on client-level and integration on a technical level are starting to form, like the Event Tech Tribe.
Best-in-craft focuses on the philosophy that no one product can do it all, and that planners and marketers deserve the best possible product for each stage of the event lifecycle.
Still, many planners complain that they have been mis-sold on the ease of integration or that they're spending way too much time (and money) on integrating with solutions like Salesforce, HubSpot or Marketo.
Ask about APIs and how those connections will work. Make sure you're going to be supported by all teams throughout the process. And most importantly, make sure your software can be integrated with the other tools you already use.
11) DO YOU CHARGE PER EVENT / PER REGISTRATION OR PER USER?
This will depend on your event, but you don't want to be penalized for ramping up your event portfolio or getting more butts-on-seats. We think per registrant pricing is old-fashioned, but it could work well for you— it just depends on the kinds of events you run, and how many people come to them.
WHILE THERE'S NO MAGIC FORMULA TO INSTANTLY KNOW WHAT WILL BE MORE COST EFFECTIVE, IN GENERAL IF YOU RUN MANY EVENTS OR LARGE EVENTS, PER-USER PRICING MAY COME OUT CHEAPER.
12) DESCRIBE HOW YOU WILL SUPPORT ME MOVING FORWARD?
You need a combination of strong support and modern technology that is also affordable. This is the case for most event technology solutions, however, support is also the biggest dislike factor according to our analysis.
How quickly can the team help you resolve issues or get things done? Does your vendor offer live-chat support?
On the surface, Event Registration Software seems to be all created equal, but the devil is in the detail
You need a combination of strong support and modern technology that is also affordable
Don't let your sales rep brush you off when asking these important questions