Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When should I open registration for my event?

Those of you who regularly read my posts can probably predict my answer to this one: “it depends”. You also will know that I usually have a “rule of thumb” that can be used to get you started towards an answer…and, in this case, the rule of thumb is open registration eight weeks prior to the event.

Two months? Really? Yes, really. Two months before the event seems to be an ideal time to open registration for most meetings and conferences. It gives you time to offer early bird rates and still have a registration deadline (if you have one) that is early enough to be valuable to you as the meeting planner without cutting into the registration window too much.

For many events, especially smaller ones, opening registration earlier than two months ahead of time may result in too many people forgetting about the event – unless you constantly pepper them with marketing to keep it forefront in their minds. Opening later (i.e. closer to the event date) may not give people enough time to register before the deadline, make travel or hotel arrangements, or result in conflicts with other personal or professional commitments.

Please remember, this timeframe is not set in stone, nor does it apply to all events. For some events, it simply makes a lot more sense to open earlier. You may need to avoid holiday breaks or just give attendees more time to get agency approval. If that is what you need to do, then do it. And there are occasions when you will open registration later due to the circumstances of that particular event. An event on a recurring schedule (such as monthly or quarterly) may need different lead times throughout the year for each specific meeting. The goal here is simply to give you a starting point. Any adjustments from there are wholly dependent on the needs of your target participants.

Also – just because you are not opening registration until approximately eight weeks out does not mean that you should not start your marketing earlier. In fact, I generally argue that marketing to potential attendees should begin as soon as you know when and where your event will be taking place. Regular reminders can be used to give updates, remind folks of important deadlines, or just to keep your event in the front of their minds when they are considering which events to attend. And, once an event is established for a certain time of year (for example), marketing for it can almost be year-round. Even if you may not have specific dates set, your attendees will still know that it will be “about that time of year”.

~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises