Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When can I expect to see registrations start to come in?

Believe it or not, I actually get this question fairly often. A client will open registration and then want to know how soon people will start to register. It is particularly common when registration opens particularly early. However, while it is a fair question, a little patience is often in order as it can often take a while before your attendees begin registering.

When folks will register for an event depends on many factors. Think about what would affect your decision about when to register for an event – and extrapolate that to your projected attendees. Do they need to wait for agency approval? Perhaps they need to wait until their next paycheck. When you hit an agency’s budget cycle may also cause people to wait – or to register right away. Similarly, if you open registration while your audience is on vacation, you will probably have to wait a bit longer to see registration numbers pick up. Even with all of the variations among groups, though, I have noticed that there tends to be a “sweet spot” and a few secondary periods in which most registrations come in.

For most events I have done, the sweet spot tends to be four to six weeks before the conference is scheduled to take place. I believe that the reason for this is that it is far enough out that people have time to budget for it and plan to attend, yet it is close enough that they also feel some sense of urgency to complete their registration.

The next two periods that typically result in the next highest numbers of registrants is from six to eight weeks out and two to four weeks out. Both of these time frames share a trait with the sweet spot – but not the other. Six to eight weeks out leaves plenty of time to get registrations through their agencies for payment, but there is sometimes a lack of urgency that it needs to be done right away. On the other hand, those who register in the two to four week period certainly have more of a sense of urgency, but are often faced with challenges in processing payments.

Another period worth noting is event-specific. The deadline for early registration – the date when the cost of registering goes up – often sees a spike in registrations as people scramble to get their registrations in before the deadline. This “early bird bump” is one reason we often recommend to clients that they offer early bird rates: they get more registrations in early enough that we can make meaningful projections about the final attendance. I have also seen smaller spikes in registration immediately following targeted marketing efforts as people respond to the email or phone call reminding them to register.

All in all, there really is no magic period in which a group should expect the majority of their attendees to register. Instead, it is a moving target that successfully predicting requires an in-depth knowledge of your attendees and the specific conditions they operate within and the situations they face. However, I am able to use the “sweet spot” of four to six weeks as a decent gauge of how well an event is doing getting registrants – and whether or not additional marketing efforts are called for.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises