Planning for a Smooth Onsite Check-In Experience

name badgeYou know what’s coming.

Your conference check-in opens in 48 hours. You and your team are spread across the venue, checking your list, most likely twice. Everything needs to be perfect.

But you have that nagging question in the back of your head – are you REALLY ready to check in 3,000 attendees in a 12 hour period?

You know you have the technology. You know that onsite badge printing on demand keeps those lines short and your attendees happy.

But are you really ready for the rush of opening morning? Of course you are! You’ve done your homework and you know your team will knock it out of the park. Looking back, you review what you’ve done to get to this point.

Documenting your Event Processes

A month or two before the conference, you started documenting all of your technology processes. You wanted to make sure your team, onsite staff and volunteers had a simple set of guidelines they could refer to during training and during the actual event. At this point, you’ve completed your volunteer and staff training, and your supervisors have all documented processes handy in a binder that always stays by their side.

Testing Technology Early

No matter how many conferences you have organized, you have always stayed true to one concept – test early, test often. You set up actual computers and printers, using the actual wireless network you plan to use onsite.

And you checked-in lots of test attendees.

  • You tested using QR codes from their emails
  • You tested typing in their first and last name
  • You tested what happens if the attendee still owes money
  • You tested when someone unexpected showed up without completing a registration form
  • You even tested what could happen if the Internet went down

Everything worked as expected. You’ve got this!

Plan for Backup

One thing you have learned over the years is that you never know when technology or people will fail you. Printers jam, staff call in sick, Internet fails. It’s Murphy’s Law – if it can go wrong, it will.

For the most part, you know things will be great. But you never really know what the future will bring, and you never want to be caught unprepared.

  • You are bringing a couple of extra printers and computers
  • You are bringing extra supplies for the printers and onsite office
  • You even save a full set of name badges as PDF files, and make sure extra copies are saved onto a couple of USB flash drives

Better safe than sorry has never been truer than when you are preparing for a busy conference!

Preparing your Onsite Technology

You’ve been a meeting planner for a few years, and you have seen how reliant everything has become around the cloud. Everything you do is connected, and so are your attendees!

When you contracted with the venue, you made sure that your internet was compartmentalized from the attendee’s wireless network. You wanted to make sure that you had wired connections for your onsite check-in and office needs, since that always is more robust and secure than wireless.

You tested access points around the venue, and you made sure you knew how to find the technology vendors during your event. Downtime is not an option!

Finally, remembering Murphy’s Law, you always bring a 4G router to connect to the venue’s internet connection. There’s a 4G sim card in the router, and if there ever was an outage, your router automatically switches to an external data service.

You never stop saying it – Be Prepared!

Bringing Your Technology Onsite

While you are pretty technical and know how to set up the check-in stations and printers, you also know you are managing an entire conference with dozens of staff members and volunteers. You can’t be everywhere at all times, and you really don’t want to be babysitting the network and technology at your onsite check-in.

For your bigger events, you always bring your technology guy with you…having someone who is part of your team and knows your technology has always proven invaluable to you.

For your smaller events, you always make sure your registration team can contact a support person at any time. Your technology works reliably, but it’s always best to plan for the unexpected.

To keep things flowing, you also set up some self-registration kiosks next to your staffed check-in desks. Some attendees just like to scan their email and pick up a badge, and others like to ask questions and chat with your staff. The great thing is with today’s technology, it’s easy to do both, and both have their use!

Role Play Scenarios

This is one area you always insist on. When you are training your volunteers and contracted staff, you assign everyone to play out sample scenarios, using your real equipment. For example:

  • You hand out confirmation emails and have your staff go through a self-registration or assisted registration check-in
  • You assign a few folks to try to check-in without a paid in full account
  • You leave a few messages for a few attendees to make sure they receive their messages
  • You make sure your staff knows how to load name badge stock and printer consumables
  • You participate in role playing and ask various questions – making sure they know how to deal with the question and handle any problems that present themselves
  • You make sure your staff knows how to escalate requests from your client

Role playing increases everyone’s confidence and goes a long way to make sure your attendees have a smooth and professional check-in experience.

Delegate Authority and Maintain Accountability

Even though you are thinking about your onsite check-in, you know that how you manage your staff can make a huge difference for the check-in experience (as well as every other aspect of your event).

Your number one guiding principle as a professional organizer is to delegate appropriately and making sure authority is extended along with appropriate responsibility. There is never enough time during a conference for someone to have to seek you out for your permission, especially during a busy onsite check-in.

At the same time, you hold your onsite check-in team accountable. You start each morning with a kick-off meeting, reviewing expected check-in numbers and special challenges, such as VIP check-in or dealing with unpaid onsite registrations.

This holds true for your contracted staff and volunteers. You always make sure your contracted staff has an onsite supervisor and for the conferences you manage that have lots of volunteers, you always make sure there’s a volunteer coordinator on hand as well. These supervisors will work with your onsite registration manager to make sure your onsite check-in operates like a well-oiled machine.

Your bottom line is simple – take care of your attendees and take care of the client. Fix problems promptly and professionally, with a smile on your face and a positive attitude. If someone on your team can’t manage that, be prepared to send them home. It’s that important!

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