Event Planning: When to Open and Close Registration

On-site event registration

This article was written by guest contributor Erin Lemons. 

You’ve planned the perfect event and now you’re ready to start inviting guests. A high guest turnout can ensure a high ROI, but you want to be sure not to go over the maximum guest limit. The key to balancing attendance is to closely monitor opening and closing your event registration.

There’s no exact number of months or weeks for when you should open event registration, and this can feel like a guessing game at times. But, with the help of your association’s member management tools, you can determine the right opening and closing dates to suit your event. Today, we’ll show you how you can use these tools to open and close your registration for optimal attendance rates. 

We’ve distilled strategies from Fonteva’s association member engagement guide to help explain when the optimal times to open and close registration for your next event are. Read on to learn how to implement them in your event planning. 

When to Open Event Registration

When to Open Your Event Registration 

Opening registration means you’re officially ready to have guests commit to attending your event. There are four key times when opening your registration process will be in your favor.  

1: You’re ready to promote to attendees.

Opening your event should not be the first time guests hear about your event. Reach out to your members early on to share information about your event and rally enthusiasm. Your members will appreciate a more personalized approach, such as sending emails with their names included, or referencing the events they’ve attended previously.

Use your membership management software to reach out to members and announce the upcoming registration. Here are some ways to promote your registration opening: 

  • Meeting announcements. Members joined your association to get engaged and for deeper connection within your community, so be sure to highlight your registration in meetings. 
  • Email newsletters. For members who may not attend weekly or monthly meetings, your email newsletter is the perfect place to let them know about upcoming events. 
  • Direct mail flyer. Direct mail has high success rates. Include a QR code for your registration page on the flyer to direct potential attendees to your event. 

Your members will be excited to register for your event, so be sure to let them know registration is open prior to the general public.

Once they’ve registered, they’ll want to know what they can expect from the event as a whole.

Just as you don’t want to open your event registration to the broader public until after you’ve reached out to your members, you don’t want to open it until your event is planned.

2: Your itinerary is ready to share.

Planning your event itinerary is crucial to promoting what members should expect at the event. Share your plan with your attendees by creating an itinerary on your association website or event microsite that they can access prior to the event. 

Providing an overview of the event, a list of the sessions, and keynote speakers can help secure potential attendees who are on the fence about whether they should register for your event. With the help of your association management system, you can create and share your schedule of events with registrants using your event microsite.

Your event microsite is a small website connected to your association’s website expressly for the purpose of sharing information about your event. If your event is annual, you can update the microsite information every year, so attendees always have information about your event ahead of time. 

To encourage registration and clear up any confusion about the event, include a frequently asked questions section on the microsite. Ensure that your event microsite is updated and accessible to your members before you open registration.

3: You have an early-bird registration sale.

Opening early bird registration stirs enthusiasm for your event and helps you get an idea of member interest prior to opening registration to the broader public. Incentivizing early registration can motivate your members to register and help your event fill faster.

Offer members a discount on their event registration costs if they complete their online registration by a predetermined date. As an addition or alternative to this early-bird rate, you can offer early registrants preferred seating at key sessions or first access to meet keynote speakers.

Consider adding your association’s branded merchandise to your early-bird package to further incentivize the event package. You can also offer these products at your event or in your association management software’s eStore. A creative and usable product like a t-shirt can also help spread brand awareness of your association. 

Post updates such as sessions that have been filled, changes to the itinerary, and additional offerings on your event microsite as they occur. This way, registrants and potential registrants will know what they can expect from the event and won’t be disappointed if they can’t register for a specific component of the event.

4: You want to create a virtual event offering.

If many of your members and the public are interested in the event after registration closes, consider opening parts of the event to be joined virtually. Hybrid events can help increase your attendance and revenue.

By making your event hybrid, you’ll allow members who may be unable to travel to join the event and stay involved in the association. If you do create a virtual aspect of your event, make sure members have a clear understanding of what sessions of the event will be digital and which will not be offered online. 

When to Close Event Registration

When to Close Your Event Registration

Closing your registration can be a strategic way to encourage more registrations and keep your event experience optimal and exclusive for members. When are the ideal times to close your registration process? 

1: Key sessions are filling up. 

Event registration can fill up fast, especially if you allow registration to special sessions like keynote speakers. Identify sessions and components of the event that are going to be most popular for registrants, and ensure you close registration prior to them filling up so that you avoid overbooking. 

If you’ve sold out the most highly anticipated or heavily promoted components of your event, include this information on your microsite, association website, and membership portal. This ensures that all members who have registered for your event or are considering doing so will know what is available to them.

When popular offerings fill or are close to filling, close registration. If you want to leave registration space for people to register the day of or for the general public to have a chance to register, it’s best practice to close registration prior to all the popular sessions filling up. 

2: Your attendance is at maximum capacity.

Just as you would with popular sessions that fill quickly, close your general event once you’re at capacity so that late registrants aren’t confused or disappointed when you cannot admit them.

To keep track of registrants for your event and for specific sessions within it, take advantage of the features that your association management software offers. If you’re using a major CRM such as Salesforce, a top Salesforce app for associations will allow you to see how many people registered for your event and the various sessions.

Once your event fills, post this update on your event microsite, your association’s website, and on any social media platforms on which you have a presence. This helps ensure that all of your members know that they can no longer register.

You can also close registration prior to reaching capacity to ensure you still have some space for members or other guests who want to register at the door. Ensure that your team is prepared to register attendees at the door, and wait to close your event until it fills. 

After your event is over, don’t forget to follow up with attendees by requesting feedback about their experience. When you ensure that each of your guests feels valued throughout the process of registering for and attending your event, it’s highly likely that they’ll return for future in-person, virtual, or hybrid events and help make each one more successful than the last!

About Erin Lemons

About Erin Lemons

Erin Lemons joins Togetherwork Association Solutions with over 15 years serving as a marketing director, event producer, and project manager creating robust marketing campaigns and initiatives that focus on the growing and ever-changing technology needs of the association industry. She leads the marketing teams and strategy at Fonteva and Protech.