Five Ways To Spring Clean Your Online Registrations

April 3, 2012

A new year brings new opportunities to make your programs and events better than ever.

image of workers cleaning a laptopYou likely already zeroed in on your big-picture challenges – such as program content, presenters, location and event extras (some of which are discussed here). Perhaps now is a good time to move on to some of those things you can do within ABC Signup to freshen up your programs and improve your customers’ experience. Here are five tips to getting more out of your registration software:

1. Throw out what you don’t need

Sure, you can archive events, view past events and even see your test events. But after a while, your software dashboard might get a bit cluttered. Use our “purge” tool (just visit help>purge events for details) to delete events you don’t need and make your ABC Signup easier to navigate.

2. A little redesign might help

Revisit your registration form and update your questions to get the right information. You know how the software works and have seen its powerful reporting – consider what other information you need from registrants to make administration of your programs even easier, then ask for it!

3. Add a fresh coat of paint

Use our new, easier Theme tools to recreate your event pages, calendar listings and registration forms to mirror the look of your website or reflect a theme you think works well for your programs or events.

4. Not exactly a yard sale, but

Our software is loaded with event pricing options – options that might increase participation or encourage earlier signups and less last-minute, are-we-going-to-meet-budget stress. See if our various discount coding options – such as early-bird discounts, group rates, multiple event rates – makes sense for your event.

5. Finishing touches to make next year easier

You want to know how those big picture items mentioned above were received by your customers – was the content right, did the presenter nail it, was the location perfect? Use our evaluation tools to find out. And if you already use these tools, be sure to update your evaluations to make sure you are asking the right questions to improve your programs. You can now even “weight” scores on various questions to see how things you emphasized fared.

If these ideas sound good to you but you are a little rusty with the software are unfamiliar with some of the newer functionality, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a quick refresher. A lot of functionality and features have been added to ABC Signup over the past year, so even our refresher has been refreshed.

The Hunger Games Needed Good Registration Software

March 28, 2012

Never mind what you think about the concept of the futuristic “Hunger Games,” where pairs of young people from distinct geographical areas are pitted against each other in a nationally televised, winner-takes-all battle to the death.

What about the registration system used to select the unlucky participants? No registration software or online signups – just names dumped into a bowl and identification by a blood prick.

How crude.

The Capitol – with all its high-tech glitz, hovercraft, bullet trains and computer-created game settings – couldn’t handle Hunger Game registrations online with cool software like ABC Signup?

Think about what they missed. They could have offered early-bird signups that offer an incentive, such as reducing the number of Hunger Games entries per registrant. They could design each district’s registration page with a theme unique to that area, like some cool flames for District 12. They could use the registrant database to know exactly how many times an individual was entered each year and when they run out of eligibility. They could have even dropped a cool Mockingjay logo on each participant’s name badge.

But no, there is no registration software in author Suzanne Collins’ tomorrow.

If that’s the future, don’t sign us up.

It’s Class Registration, not War & Peace

March 15, 2012
Filed under: Event Planning,Registrations,Training — Tags: , , — @ 10:23 am

According to CNN Money and other sources, mobile devices with reader capabilities were bought in the millions each week at the end of 2011. You can literally write a book that people will read on their mobile devices.  But should you, if you’re writing information for your student registration software system?

registration info should be brief for mobile devicesIf it’s your job to make class enrollment easy, that includes limiting the quantity of reading and scrolling a registrant must do when signing up. The tips for writing for mobile devices are the same as for traditional delivery platforms, only amplified because the screen is smaller.

Make it easy on your audience
Put the most important information at the top of the page, including your registration form link. (Insert the link again at the bottom, too.) Keep away from florid, prose-style paragraphs. See this example.  Keep it simple. Be succinct. Use 25-cent words in place of their five-dollar synonyms, etc.  Use headings and subheadings. Use bullets. Eliminate unnecessary words in lists, such as “the” and “a”.

Here how the above paragraph might look instead:

Your tips list

  • Lead with big stuff
  • Limit scrolling
  • Be succinct
  • Use short words
  • Lean on bullets
  • Employ headings/subheadings
  • Eliminate words such as articles (the, a)
  • Try it out

If you’re reading this blog on a mobile device, it’s gone on too long already. Enough said.

Odorless Badges Work Just Fine

March 13, 2012
Filed under: Event Planning,Registrations,customer service — Tags: , , — @ 9:49 am

You’ve probably heard it in a registration queue: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges,” the oft-quoted line from the movie Blazing Saddles and a parody (though slightly misquoted) of a line from the famous Western film, Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

The truth of the matter is, you might need badges, especially if you coordinate programs and events with more than a handful of participants. It doesn’t matter if it’s a workshop or a conference, if the event offers opportunity for interaction between the presenter(s) and the participants, name badges make sense.

Guidelines for name badges or tags are pretty simple. Content should at least include the individual’s name and (if appropriate) organization, in a font size large enough to read from 10 feet away, according to this name tag guru. The badge could include the event logo, and possibly show the first name in a large font (with other typeface smaller). The badges should be worn on the upper chest, right side, so they can easily be read upon shaking hands as the eyes move upward toward the face.

Customers of online registration software provider ABC Signup can quickly create custom name tags for their programs and events through the registration system’s custom name tag tool in the event setup module. The user simply places fields (e.g. [name], [organization]) for data directly onto the template, assigns the appropriate name tag label form (e.g., Avery 5384), lets the system pull in the registrants’ data, and then prints away.

Name badges make events more open, social and friendly. They can also help organizers confirm attendance, pinpoint feedback and target specific follow-up, and give registrants a sense of belonging and an appreciation for the event’s organization.

Please feel free to share your name tag best practices – or stinkin’ horror stories – below.

Five Ways to Guard Against Blah Presentations

January 16, 2012
Filed under: Event Planning,Sales,Training — Tags: , , — @ 11:07 am

Most of us think our lives would make a pretty boring memoir. We can’t all be Kim Kardashian after all. The fact is, even the most vacuous life can be made interesting to its audience if presented well. Again, Kim Kardashian comes to mind. What some might consider a boring topic can be quite engaging with strong presentation skills, or an interesting subject may fall flat if the presentation isn’t likewise.

Five basic tips to avoiding the blahs:

Too much PowerPoint is poopy
Don’t overdo the slides, both in length and content. A PowerPoint slide shouldn’t look like a page torn from a Tom Wolfe novel. If you can’t read the slide’s contents in the blink of an eye, you’ve got too much on there. Use graphics, video and audio when appropriate, but don’t fancy you’re Quentin Tarantino. Too much color, movement and sound can detract from the core message. You are much more interesting than anything on the slides.

Talk, don’t read
Reading what’s on your slides is a big no-no. Unless your audience is a group of kindergartners, they can read what on the PowerPoint as easily as you can. Don’t read too much from your notes or use index cards either.  Your everyday conversational voice is much more interesting than your reading voice. You don’t want your group to get the one-hour-after-lunch catatonic feeling at 9:00 in the morning.

Heavy on the Q&A
Blogger and public speaker Seth Godin suggests you go heavy on the Q&A part. Think about: It’s the most casual and unrehearsed part of the presentation – and it’s often the most interesting. The Question and Answer time also best demonstrates your expertise, but it’s usually relegated to the last few minutes of the presentation/training.

Be a snoop
If you want to give a good presentation, you’re talking about practice.  It also helps to gather intelligence on your audience ahead of the presentation so you can tailor accordingly. Shameless plug for online registration here: Ask qualifying questions on the signup form for your event to gauge the knowledge and interests of your audience. And then…

…give ‘em what they want
Nothing keeps an audience interested more than giving them the information they came to get. So go easy on the biography, the off-topic stories and the jokes, and get to down to business. You’re the expert. Give the audience your expertise.

Arguably, there’s no such as a boring topic, but there are plenty of boring presentations and trainings. Keep the needs of your audience in mind, and they’ll remember both you and your topic and being engaging.

2011: Tough Act to Follow

January 10, 2012
Filed under: Event Planning,Registrations,customer service — Tags: , — @ 11:52 am

In business, one always hopes that the transition to a new year raises the question, “What do we do to top that?”

For ABC Signup in 2012, that means trying to outperform a year (2011) in which the company achieved a number of milestones, from adding many new features and improving software functionality (detailed here) to exceeding the “100,000 events” and “one million registrations” marks earlier in the year. We delivered timely and effective customer support, we doubled the number of newsletter subscribers and we were one of five finalists (out of hundreds of applicants) for the 2011 Inc.credible small business award. Most important of all, we achieved a company-record 95% customer retention rate.

So, what do we plan to do for an encore in 2012?

For starters, we are going to redouble our efforts to meet or improve upon that record retention rate. We view you – our customers – as partners, shareholders, advocates and in many cases, trusted advisors. If we give you a great product and service for your investment, we know you are more likely to continue to partner with us and help us to continue improving ABC Signup. So, expect more from our software and our people in 2012.

Second, we will take a closer look at what’s behind some of the many doors our customers open for us. Your requests for additional functionality led us to create tools that lend themselves to complimentary software solutions applicable to niches such as conferences and learning management systems. While online registration software remains our core product, we think it is simply good business to see if our software expertise can bring additional value to you as well as other markets.

Third, we will continue to use tools such as our blog, our website, our Facebook page, instructional videos, white papers and more to provide information that makes your job easier. Our customers come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a number of universal truths to using ABC Signup’s software, managing registrations, and coordinating successful programs and events. We want to continue to share what we know on these topics, and encourage our customers to share their best practices.

Of course, there are several, more specific objectives we hope to accomplish in 2012. But we figure if we excel at listening to our customers, delivering what they want and keeping them informed, we can achieve a new set of milestones in the coming year.

As always, we welcome your ideas and comments.

Training: Game on

January 5, 2012
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Registrations,Training,Uncategorized — Tags: , — @ 1:32 pm

Five years ago, few organizations knew what “social network” was, let alone could use it as a verb. “We need to get our social network up and running this year so we can social network with all our customers.” Now, you can’t toss around an idea for Internet marketing without hitting someone waxing philosophically about the criticality of social networking. Because the start of the year is all about making predictions that no one will remember a year from now, we’ll go out on a limb as say the same will soon be true for gamification. judging scores to illustrate concept of gamification

Gartner, the IT research and advisory company, agrees with us (or maybe it’s the other way around).  They believe gamification will be big stuff in about three years.

Gamification uses the same principles of gaming (earning points, status, rewards) to excite an audience (customers, employees) to engage in something that might normally generate low participation either because of time restraints, or it’s (dare we say it?) a bit dull. Not to say that anything that requires online registration is dull, but maybe your audience isn’t always as eager to sign up for something as quickly you’d like.  Or, if the event isn’t required, maybe they don’t sign up at all.

Here’s how gamification works: Let’s say you want your employees to register online for series of elective classes. You could award points for each online registration, and then post a list of the top ten point earners throughout the year. Perhaps your employees are required to meet certain CE requirements, e.g. a minimum of 10 units a year. You could award virtual badges to the top five earners.

Like so many other things, the word “gamification” is newer than the idea, which is a proven concept. Take Amazon for example. Customer reviews are gold for any organization, and, according to one TV show, gold can be hard to find. For years, Amazon has given status to its reviewers, not just for the number of reviews, but for the quality of them. The result has been tons more reviews for products on Amazon.

Gamification might play for some aspect of your program. If you think so or already employ it, let us know. The first response earns 5 ABCpoints, the second 4 points and so on. See how we did that?

Data: Use It, Don’t Lose It

December 21, 2011
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Surveys — Tags: , , — @ 10:48 am

One of the wonders of the Internet is the amount of marketing data available and the extrapolations that can be made using such data. Search engine optimization (SEO) software, for instance, can tell you who visited your site, how long they stayed, what pages they visited, what search keywords might have brought them and what offers they clicked.  Marketers can take that data and create targeted tools such as Google adwords, special landing pages, e-mails and customer-specific offers.

Your organization may not deploy these tools for a number of sound reasons. However, if you use ABC Signup’s online registration software, you might be surprised about what tools you do have to collect and deploy data to embark on your own optimization journeys.

Start with your e-mail invitation to an event or program.

When did recipients respond? Immediately after receiving the e-mail, a few days after it was sent, after a reminder was sent, or just prior to the event? A quick look at this data might help you improve the timing of your communications.

Next, review the content of that initial e-mail over the course of several events. Is there one message or offer that generates a higher response rate than another? If so, double-down on that messaging.

Also, examine your responses and registrations for those new individuals signing up. Did they come from an expanded mailing list, did someone forward the original invitation e-mail to them, or did the new attendee find it on their own via your website? This intel will provide insights into ways you can grow your program or event’s attendance, if that is one of your goals.

Take a similar look at your financial reporting to determine who is paying when, and whether you can adjust the timing and content of payment reminder notices to attain payment more efficiently.

Finally, don’t forget ABC Signup’s survey/evaluation tools. This is your way to find out what worked and what didn’t with your program or event. We should always be seeking ways to improve the product, and there is no better guide for doing so than your customers.

As always, feel free to comment below with your ideas for leveraging data to improve your programs or events.

That’s not just a pretty red bow on ABC Signup

December 8, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Registrations — Tags: , — @ 9:16 am

The ABC Signup you “unwrap” over the holidays, per company tradition, again outshines the model you opened a year ago. It’s not just bells and whistles, either. More than two dozen functionality improvements and an easier user interface for page theme creation now adorn the new and improved, 2011 ABC Signup.

Give credit to the company’s development elves, who toil year-around to make the software do everything you need and more.

image of online registration software with red bow“We developed our core product eight years ago based upon customer feedback, and it has evolved since to reflect the real-time registration management needs of their programs and events,” said Todd Chandler, president of ABC Signup. “We’ve stayed true to our mission of doing just about whatever it takes to provide value to our customers.”

The latest upgrade, available this month, presents customers a task-oriented menu making it easier to navigate pages being created with themes, as well as new tools that simplify aspects of theme setup, such as matching the user’s website color scheme and design. Customers will find these “look and feel” improvements where they always edited themes, at Setup (top bar) > Standard Tab > Page Themes.

These new features complement a flurry of improvements made over the course of the year, including the following:

  • A new text editor option
  • The ability to customize the registration list view
  • Caps on wait lists
  • Customizable CE (continuing education) start dates
  • QR (quick response) codes for events and calendars/listings
  • Enhanced attendance certificate re-send capabilities
  • Bar graphs and pie charts for registration and evaluation responses
  • Increased multi-date event functionality
  • Improved archiving
  • More discount code features
  • European date formatting
  • Registration blocking capabilities for overlapping events
  • New invitation list options
  • A variety of reporting features

You, our customers, get credit for most of these upgrades.

“First and foremost, we work our customers’ ‘wish list’ when it comes to software upgrades, targeting projects that provide the most benefit to our users,” said Chandler. “But, we also add our own unique features, and do our best to keep pace with industry trends.”

So, what’s in store for next year? You tell us. While we’ve got some exciting developments in the works, we know that many of our best ideas come from you. What do you want for 2012?

Black Friday and Your Registration Process

November 17, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations — Tags: — @ 9:47 am

photo of mad rush into a store on Black FridayNo other day of the year gives some of us greater appreciation for the Internet than the day after Thanksgiving (or now, Thanksgiving night) – Black Friday – the official first day of Christmas shopping for retailers across the country.

Many physically will NOT go out and shop on that day, and will also avoid driving on roads anywhere near shopping centers. If these folks want to participate in some of the deals of the day, they simply go to that retailer’s website – or Amazon, eBay, etc. – and order it online.

On a much smaller scale, an online registration system provides a similar convenience to registrants who want to avoid the hassle of filling out a form, writing a check, and faxing, mailing or hand delivering the info and payment to the program or event provider. With the right registration software, what once took customers several minutes can be reduced to a matter of seconds.

Such efficiencies are even more amplified for the providers of programs and events, especially for those whose non-ABC Signup registration process might entail:

  • creating event PDFs or fliers with registration forms, and mailing or posting on websites;
  • hand-processing all of the return faxes, mailings, phone calls, checks, cash and credit card numbers; and
  • hoping they can manage that data well enough to communicate confirmations and wait-lists, generate registrant lists and nametags, and track essentials such as attendance, CEUs and payment.

It is simply easier and less time consuming to deploy a system that automates most of those endeavors and provides registrants 24/7 access to events and programs. When it comes to managing registrations, every day doesn’t have to be Black Friday.

Shop at ABC Signup or have us give you a free assessment. Our website is open 24/7, and we’re here in the office Monday through Friday (well, not Black Friday).

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