Should our association offer registration before we have the seminars?

Your meeting attendees are probably working on longer timelines than ever before. Jobs are more demanding, personal time is more demanding, and electronic calendars and organizers are found everywhere.

Given the pressure to plans their lives further in advance, it may make sense to offer registration to your association meeting or event further in advance than ever before. As you consider doing so, there are a few thoughts to keep in mind:

– Do the details matter? If the primary reason that attendees come to your association meeting are for networking and exhibits, then the list of seminars may be less relevant, making “super-advance” registration more feasible. On the other hand, if your keynote speakers and seminars are key drivers for your event attendance, offering registration too soon may hurt the perception of your association conference as unorganized, irrelevant and lacking solid content. You only get once chance to register some people, so if the details are important, it may be better to wait.

– If the pressure to open registration early is coming from the greatest, most loyal fans of your association conference, you face a somewhat ironic situation. While you want to please your most loyal attendees whenever possible, you also realize that even if registration does not open extra early, they will still register for the association’s show.

– The best solution, of course, is to get the association event planning moved up to accommodate your attendee’s needs. This is often easier said than done, particularly if you have seminars that are time sensitive. But you may be able to at least lock in the topics and titles in advance, even if the actual content flexes a little due to the time sensitivity.

Ultimately, it in the association’s best interest to get the details wrapped up as far in advance as possible to meet the needs of the attendees, particularly the most loyal attendees. If this isn’t possible, then an alternative may be to allow for general registration in advance, but allow attendees to make updates and additions – easily – as the association event grows closer.

How far in advance does your association plan its seminars? Do you allow registration prior to locking the seminars and keynote speakers in place? Has that strategy been successful for your association?

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