Best Practices for No-Wait Event Registrations

This is the first in a series of posts about running a successful fundraising event night written by event service professionals. Event night professionals help to troubleshoot technology, advise on using event software, and ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible on event night.

Have you ever had long lines at your event while guests wait to register? Does everything feel rushed and chaotic before the event even starts? Do you find yourself spending all your time putting out fires, rather than welcoming and mingling with your important guests?

No, that’s not normal—there’s a better way!

This post will outline tips and tricks that professional event services consultants have learned over the years that make registration move as fast as possible.

Establish logistics and clear guidance for guests.

It’s easy for event registration to get bogged down when the flow hasn’t been thought out properly. When guests know where they are, where they’re expected to go, and what they’re supposed to do, everyone’s happier.

Place clear signage leading to your registration from any guest entry points, or at least the entry where the majority of your guests will be entering the venue. Have volunteers available in those locations to answer questions and direct guests—your event will feel more welcoming and organized.

If you have had long lines in the past, keeping those lines clearly demarcated will ease guest frustration and confusion. Set up stanchions and ropes to mark off where guests should wait for each of your registration stations. The line will look less intimidating when there’s structure, and it’ll be clear to guests when it’s their turn.

Tip: If you’ll be providing alcohol at your event, have wait staff offer it to guests waiting in line to give them something to do. Let your registration line become a cocktail hour!

Keep volunteers’ check-in tasks at a minimum.

The biggest cause of slowdowns at check-in is bureaucracy. How many steps does a registration volunteer go through to register a guest or pair of guests? Volunteers tasked with doing too many things will take more time to register a single group—and are more likely to make mistakes because they’ve been given too much to remember. Take it easy on your volunteers and make check-in as simple as possible for them.

Start off by making a list of everything the volunteer has to do when a guest approaches the check-in table, such as:

Looking the guest up on the computer;

Confirm or update the guest information;

Assigning a bid number;

Searching for the bidder’s bid packet and/or bid card;

Asking the guest to sign for Express Pay;

Swiping their credit card;

Writing a table number on a bid card;

Giving the guest a program;

Explaining how to set up their phone for online bidding;

Directing the guest to the silent auction, etc.

Now you’ve got a great list for volunteers to use, but an often overlooked bottleneck is that each of these steps adds up. Let’s say each task above averages 15 seconds to complete—that is 2-1/2 minutes to move one guest through the line. For 250 guests, the overall time to check-in is more than 10 hours! No wonder your registration lines are long, right? Of course you will have several volunteers working check-in, but is every step completely necessary and are there options to take care of any tasks before the event?

Our goal is going to be: Simplify, streamline, and pre-register as much as possible.

What can you do in advance of the event to lighten the load?

Legal Strategies 2010

Let’s start by cutting down on what tasks your volunteers have to perform at registration. Could you do a little extra work in advance to make some phone calls, assign bid numbers, have table numbers already printed on bid cards, and save people from waiting in line those extra few minutes? (Those minutes add up!)

Here are some tips we’ve learned from clever event directors over the years for hurrying along check-in:

  • Instead of handing out bid number cards during registration, and giving volunteers an extra thing to do, simply deliver them to bidders’ tables just before the live auction or paddle raise.One of the big benefits of doing it this way? If anyone changes tables or there’s a mistake in your guest list, you can make last-minute corrections to the cards before handing them out.
  • Assign bid numbers the day before, or the morning of the event, so it’s as up to date as possible—but already done by the time registration begins.
  • Gather as much contact information as you can prior to the event starting. As our client JDRF Lincoln and Greater Nebraska discovered running their auction, the extra time required to call sponsors and get those few remaining names and phone numbers might be a pain—but it can make a big difference in how smoothly event night goes. More pre-registered guests with complete information means fewer fires on the big night.
  • Set up a troubleshooting station separate from the rest of your registration tables to handle new guests, mistakes, or other issues that need attention from a staff member or leader. This allows the registration line to move along unhindered and keep guests entering the event.
  • What other tasks can you complete in advance of the event, instead of at the registration table?

Adopt new technologies to take care of tasks for you.

Two important pieces of auction tech have emerged in the last few years that could make a big difference in your auction: online bidding and mobile card readers.

Adding an online bidding component to your auction takes a few tasks off your volunteer’s plates right away:

  • Gives people their bid numbers ahead of time. The mobile device provides this information to the bidder as soon as they sign up.
  • No more swiping credit cards, because online bidding prompts guests to provide their credit card info before they even arrive at the event.

Mobile card readers are another great way to tackle long registration lines. They’re an easy addition to any event—a volunteer can simply pull up a guest on their tablet, check them in, and register their credit card through a card reader device attached to the tablet.

  • Add a few tablet stations to your existing computers at registration. Tablets don’t take up nearly as much space, so you can squeeze them in between your bulkier computers.
  • Have volunteers with tablets and mobile card readers patrol your registration line, and register people on the fly who have been waiting a long time.
  • The great bonus of using tablets and card readers? Use them to sell raffle tickets, entries for contests, or any other small multi-sale package on the go!

You’ll be amazed at how making a few small changes can move your registration along a lot faster. We’ll be back next week with more tips and tricks for improving your event’s flow!

9 Responses to “Best Practices for No-Wait Event Registrations”

  1. Thanks so much for publishing this, so insightful! We recently dropped names badges at our main fundraiser because it was too time consuming.

    • Kiersi Burkhart

      Thanks for the comment Denise! You are correct, small changes can add up to real time savers and allow you to give time back to the event in other ways. We look forward to providing more tips on the future. Let us know if there are any other topics you would like for us to take a look at!

  2. Thank you so much for this wonderful blog, it was very helpful as we plan our 23rd Annual Good News Open Charity Golf Tournament and Silent Auction. Thank you for including the section on adding tablet station for fast quick registration. Thank you for producing quality articles for us to read and gain knowledge and wisdom on how to make our event a better success.

    • Thank you so much for this wonderful blog, it was very helpful as we plan our 23rd Annual Good News Open Charity Golf Tournament and Silent Auction. Thank you for including the section on adding tablet stations for fast quick registration. Thank you for producing quality articles for us to read and gain knowledge and wisdom on how to make our event a better success.

    • Kiersi Burkhart

      Thank you for the kind words! Happy to hear you were able to utilize some of the best practices we have gained over the years of working with non-profits and schools. Keep an eye out for future Golf Event related articles filled with tips and suggestions to help you and others that hold annual tournaments.

    • Kiersi Burkhart

      Check-in can sometimes set the tone for the entire event. Great to hear we were able to provide some ideas to help streamline the process. Feel free to reach out with any other topics you would like for us to touch on. Thanks again Rachel!

  3. Eve Wolff

    I love the idea of giving Check-In volunteers a physical check list, that they can reference and make sure they’re covering each thing. Trying to flag someone down after they’ve checked in because you forgot to write down their table number or because you meant to direct them to the step & repeat always makes things harder.

    • Kiersi Burkhart

      Absolutely Eve! Small changes and tweaks can have a big impact on saving time and guests experience. We are happy to help and look forward to providing more value-add articles!


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