Registration is the first point of face-to-face contact that your organization has with attendees. A smooth check-in process sets the tone for a great event. It is important to get this right in order to ensure that your guests start off with a positive experience.

Here are seven steps to ensure that your event gets off to a great start:

1. Smile! – The registration desk staff are the first people your attendees will see and they should be greeted with a smile and eye contact. Quality customer service is extremely important. Remind staff to be attentive, remain calm and smile. Even if someone is coming to the registration desk to complain, it is a lot harder for them to leave with a bad impression if they were well treated and well attended to.

2. Inform Your Registration Desk Staff – One line that we should NEVER hear at a registration desk is “I don’t know”. The registration desk is the heart of all conference related information. Even if registration staff does not know the answer, they should respond with “I am unsure, but I will look into this for you.” Or “Please come back in 15 minutes and I will have this information for you.” As an event manager, it is important for us to educate the registration desk staff. Provide them with information that would be relevant to delegates (program, health care accreditation details, hotel floor plan, wifi code, social event details and locations), exhibitors (floor plan, show services contact person, set up details) and speakers (schedule, assigned meeting rooms, AV technician contact information for presentation set-up). Registration staff should also have a list of phone numbers that would include: hotel banquet staff, venue coordinator, event manager cell phone number and emergency contact. Providing your registration staff with plenty of information ahead of time will allow you, as an event manager, to focus your efforts on other pressing matters. If you have volunteers helping you at registration, you can provide a cheat sheet of answers.

3. Location, Location, Location – The registration desk should be located in a well-lit, spacious area in the hotel or venue. Consult with the hotel and find out what has worked in this space in the past. The registration desk should be the first thing delegates see when they walk into to your meeting space. Set up signage, starting in the hotel lobby (or venue entrance) to direct attendees to the registration desk. Once they arrive, the rest is easy!

4. Be Prepared – Set up the registration desk well in advance of the scheduled start time. There are always delegates who show up at registration early and ideally you would be ready to assist them, even though it isn’t the official start time. There is no sense in making them wait. Have a box filled with office essentials at the desk. This should include items such as: scissors, tape, blank name badges, lanyards, pens, markers, medical credit sign in sheets, paper clips, first aid kit, and anything else that you think may be of use. I recommend that you be over prepared.

5. Check, Double Check and Triple Check Name Badges and Registration Lists – Nothing slows you down more at registration than having to print extra or missing name badges. Although this is inevitable, you can take a few extra steps to be as prepared as possible. If registration was done online (which is ideal), cross reference your online registration lists with your printed name badges before the event. Review your lists for any list minute registrations that may have been missed. It is also important to print registration lists and forms to be prepared if you lose internet connection or can’t access the registration system. If you have the man power, assign one staff member to be at registration with their main role being to print badges, process on-site registrations or review online registration details. They should be set up with their laptop and a printer.

6. Provide Plenty of Detail to Delegates Prior to the Conference – The more informed your delegates are, the fewer questions they will have for your registration staff and the shorter the line-ups will be for people waiting for answers. Reflect on the types of questions delegates may ask and provide them with this information in the program or on your website (Where is each function being held? What is the cost to register for the social event? What is the hotel wifi code? How can they obtain educational credits after the event?)

7. Plan for the Size of Your Group – Will everyone be going to the registration desk at the same time? How many delegates, exhibitors and speakers will be in attendance? If you can schedule to have different types of registrants checking in at different times, that is ideal. You don’t want to make delegates wait. To avoid long lines, plan to have one attendant for every hundred guests. If you are using eight foot tables, have two people per table. Look at setting up signage to divide the line up into groups whether it is alphabetically by last name, or by registration type (sponsors, exhibitors, delegates, VIPs, speakers). Another option, if you think your registration desk will be busy during the whole conference set up a help desk as a separate location to reduce wait times.

The registration desk is more than just a place to pick up your name badge. From your attendee’s perspective, this is the customer service centre for your conference. In order to leave a positive lasting impression on your attendees, be prepared. If guests can’t make it past registration, then the rest of your planning efforts will go unnoticed.