How One Conference Made 48-Second Registration Check-In a Reality

Author: David McMillin       

The first impression of a conference can often be the worst: long check-in lines at registration kiosks. It’s an understandable challenge. As crowds of attendees look for their credentials, the inevitable issues of spelling mistakes on name badges and missing information can make arriving at an event feel worse than standing in the security line at the airport. In contrast, when more than 31,000 attendees arrived at a recent edition of FABTECH — which describes itself as North America’s largest metal forming, fabricating, welding, and finishing event — organizers had plans for more efficient entry. The event worked with Convention Data Services (CDS) to use a system called Line Busters to — you guessed it — bust the lines. In addition to using standard registration and badge-printing options, a gang of 11 Line Busters’ representatives — which included FABTECH staff and CDS employees — greeted attendees in high-traffic areas.

“There is no line and no need to go to a check-in counter,” Becky Hansen, executive vice president of event services at CDS, told PCMA in an interview about the thinking behind Line Busters. “It’s much more personalized. Someone greets you with a smile on their face when you step off the shuttle bus, and you’re on your way.”

At FABTECH, the technology helped more than 8,000 attendees get on their way very quickly. In fact, the average check-in time for the Line Busters experience was 48 seconds. The efficient on-site time relies on advance work and clear communication with attendees.

“After you register for the event, you receive a code, and you can download the code to your phone or your smart watch,” Hansen said. “You can also print it out if you want. A few days before the event begins, you’ll receive another reminder with the code to make sure you have it easily accessible when you arrive.”

The Line Busters representatives scan those codes with mobile devices. Then, they walk attendees to a printer to pick up badges. At FABTECH, Hansen said there were four printers, which means that the average Line Buster representative helped print more than 700 badges.

Preparing Attendees for a New Experience

While CDS’ technology eliminates the annoyance of lines, there are challenges that stand in the way of change. Hansen acknowledged that FABTECH attendees are a bit more tech savvy than average conference attendees. “When we want to help make a change [with some clients], they often wonder whether attendees will understand the new process,” Hansen said.

To address that issue, Hansen said that FABTECH organizers included information on how to pick up badges in every message they sent to attendees and exhibitors with a complete list of locations where they would find traditional check-in options or Line Busters representatives.

FABTECH isn’t the only conference aiming to reinvent registration check-in. Consider SAPPHIRE NOW and the ASUG Annual Conference’s move to help attendees collect badges when they picked up their bags at the Orlando International Airport in 2016. PCMA made the same move at the past two editions of Convening Leaders in Austin and Nashville. Hansen said that other events are also aiming to design experiences that deliver a VIP-level of service instead of a functional, tell-us-your-name-and-we’ll-print-your-badge transaction. “The trend is shifting from a big registration area toward more of a concierge feel,” Hansen said. “More of our clients are looking to decentralize registration, and they’re using airport baggage-claim areas and hotels to avoid crowds on opening day.”

Have you made efforts to reinvent registration at your conference? Go to Catalyst to share your tips on how events can improve the check-in process.

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