How to Increase Your Association’s Event Attendance through Online Registration

Like it or not, your association will be judged by the standard of your events, and this will have a direct effect on your ongoing attendance levels as well as your membership numbers.

Events are the showpieces for your non-profit association. Whether you host events once a month or once a year, they are the most important opportunity you have for engaging with members and potential members. Like it or not, your association will be judged by the standard of your events, and this will have a direct effect on your ongoing attendance levels as well as your membership numbers. Not to mention the fact that your events are likely an important source of revenue for your association. To guarantee your next event is a resounding success, you need to start by looking at the very beginning of any event experience – the registration process. Here’s our advice for providing the best online registration process possible.

Spread the Word with an Easy-to-Read Online Event Calendar

The first obstacle in getting people to register for your event is making sure they know about it! You likely send out eblasts and social media posts to let members know when things are happening, but nothing can beat a well functioning and interactive calendar on your website – after all, this is where most members will come to check what’s happening with your association.

We recommend using a calendar that allows people to view your events in a number of ways. For example, Dash websites feature event calendars that give people several viewing options: a calendar view for that month; a list view for that month; a list of all upcoming events; and a list of all past events. This allows people to locate information in the easiest way possible and guarantees that no event will be missed. It’s even better if you automatically pull your event calendar to the homepage – a feature box displaying your next event keeps your homepage looking fresh and will pique the interest of passing visitors.

Automated Pricing: Member, Sponsor, Early Bird Discounts and More

Managing event ticket discounts manually can be time consuming and frustrating for both your staff and your attendees. We recommend using a system that will automatically detect the attendee’s status with your association and charge them accordingly. With association management systems such as Dash, attendees are required to log in to the website in order to register for your event – it may take them a couple of minutes to set up an account the first time they register, but from then on they will be able to store their card details online and register for future events with only a few clicks.

Dash can recognize whether an attendee is a member, non-member, sponsor, or season pass holder and display the event pricing accordingly. The system will also manage early bird pricing, group discounts, and complimentary registrations. Attendees will be impressed that they don’t have to call in to your office in order to receive their discount.

Allow Attendees to Enter Dietary Requirements and Other Notes

Every event planner knows that some attendees will have specific requests for the event day – from dietary requirements to who they would like to sit with at a table. Rather than having to field calls and emails, why not allow attendees to enter these requirements online when submitting their registration? On Dash websites, attendees are presented with a ‘Notes’ text box where they are encouraged to enter any specific requests or comments related to the event. This will then appear alongside their name in the attendance list – a clear and simple process for both attendees and event planners.

Register Now, Pay Later!

Have you found that your attendee numbers suddenly surge as the day gets nearer? There are a few reasons this could happen – one may be that people are waiting until they are certain they can attend before registering, to avoid the hassle of refunds and cancellations. We recommend using a system that collects registration and payment details in advance, without actually charging for the ticket until the event day nears.

Many of our clients opt to process payments two days prior to the event. Payment details are collected upon registration – weeks or even months in advance – so that attendees are guaranteed a place but are not yet charged. This means that if attendees do have to cancel at some point between registration and those two days prior to the event, they can simply do so online and their card will not be charged. This reduces work for your accounting department and encourages people to sign up for your event well in advance.

Sell Merchandise for Your Association Event

Enhance your attendees’ event experience – and boost your revenue – by selling merchandise alongside your event tickets. This can work particularly well for large annual events that members may want to collect souvenirs for, from programs to beer mugs. With a good online registration system, you will be able to include your merchandise products as an option alongside the event ticket during online checkout.

Promote Networking by Displaying Your Attendance List

Association events are intended for, among other things, networking. So why not promote your attendance list? Dash websites feature an optional ‘Who’s Coming?’ list on each event page. This displays the name and company of those who have already registered for the event, so people can see if an old friend, colleague, or someone from a company of interest is attending. Show off the type of people your event is attracting, and others will flock to join the list!

Automated Confirmation Emails, Invoices and Receipts

Your members are as busy as you and will be discouraged from attending an event if it involves a lot of admin. Be sure to use an online registration system that delivers automated confirmation emails, invoice emails, and receipt emails, so that attendees are able to reconcile their accounts and be reimbursed for any expenses with minimal hassle. With Dash, invoice and receipt emails are stored in the user’s online account for several years, allowing them to log in and locate the information at any time, from anywhere. All of this gives members and attendees great confidence in your association, enhancing your value and boosting your reputation in all the right places.

About the Author

Holly McCluskey is the Communications and Marketing Manager at Dashboard. Dashboard is a 360 degree, customizable association management software solution. We don’t just build Dash—our operations staff use it every single day to manage the operations of 17 non-profit associations. Explore our site to find out more.


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