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.

Media Uploads, Testing Coming to ABC Signup

March 7, 2012
Filed under: Registrations,Training,learning management system — Tags: , , — @ 10:37 am

Imagine your website offering on-site training programs supplemented by online video instruction – complete with the ability to manage registrations and online payment, test registrants on the content, process evaluations, award continuing education credits and more.

image of online learningIf you are an ABC Signup customer, that soup-to-nuts functionality is just around the corner. Basic online course delivery and testing features, typically associated with learning management systems, will be the newest capabilities of the software by the end of the year.

No, we are not having an identity crisis. Our core product remains the most feature-rich, robust registration software for the money on the market today. These new additions, while significant in terms of the options they give customers, are consistent with our approach of adding functionality complementary to our core registration solutions.

The newest of these features allows users to upload and display a variety of files and multimedia. The media upload component, which could be used to post videotaped presentations and courses, integrates a third-party hosting and encoding system into our software. The second new feature, the coming-soon testing component, will enable users to instantly test registrants online upon completion of an on-site or online course.

“We are committed to providing the features that our customers want, that make sense for our business model, and that make our software more valuable and attractive,” said Todd Chandler, president of ABC Signup. “We believe these two new capabilities accomplish meet these objectives while further differentiating us from the competition.”

Customers interested in the new features should contact ABC Signup for more information.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

February 1, 2012
Filed under: Marketing,Registrations,Training — Tags: , — @ 12:16 pm
That is the question – well, for many of us, anyway.

Blogging isn’t an easy task to take on, nor is it simple to gauge whether the effort put forth will pay dividends.

Common objections to blogging include not having the time; not having a platform to blog upon; not having an audience to write to; not having content to regularly fill a blog; and not having the skill set to create interesting, useful copy.

All are sensible reasons – but definitely on the wrong side of the trend. That handful of blogs on the Internet in the late 1990s has mushroomed into hundreds of millions of blogs today. As many as one out of six people now blog for a variety reasons, and the number of bloggers will continue to rise as the barriers to entry disappear. Considering that you can go to a site like WordPress and set up a free blog in less than an hour, the only remaining barrier today is Internet access.

But, just as every 16-year-old boy doesn’t need a car, everyone doesn’t need to blog. It just makes a lot of sense for some of our online registration software customers, especially those of you in the training, professional development and events fields.

A blog can help market your upcoming events. It can reinforce subject matter with follow-up content after a workshop or class. It can generate dialogue (or collaboration) about the subject matter and even create a community of sorts around your programs.

Blogs can also build relationships between providers and customers, aiding your brand, loyalty and sales in the process. And, each blog entry creates a new page to be searched (and found) via the Internet and further establishes your site as an authority, two drivers to improving your SEO or search engine optimization (which makes your site more likely to show up in Internet searches).

If you can find time, business rationale and motivation, add a blog to your organization’s marketing/communications arsenal. There are hundreds of blogs that will guide you through starting a blog, great success stories to inspire you, neat case studies to keep you on track and expert tips to help you increase your traffic.

As always, we welcome your feedback. And, if you already blog and have tips to share with others, by all means comment 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.

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?

Getting ‘Off-line’ Registrants Into Your Online Registration System

November 8, 2011
Filed under: Registrations,Training — Tags: , , — @ 1:54 pm

Not everyone is online.

In fact, slightly more than one in five Americans do not have Internet access. That’s difficult to fathom for some of us, but it’s very real to planners of events and programs. Their “off-line” registrants create additional challenges, especially to planners accustomed to the efficiencies of an online registration system.

Fortunately, there are a few ways – short of handing out Internet-ready devices – to move offline registrants into your system without doing tedious data entry every time they want to sign up for a program or event.

its easy to import existing data into ABC SignupOne of the first steps taken by ABC Signup customers is to upload any existing databases of registrants into ABC Signup. Registrant data is attached to an ID and password, making it easily accessible for registrations for future events. New registrations received by fax or mail will still need to be added to the system, but once they are added, the ID and password enable quick completion of future registrations.

Another tactic is to dedicate iPads or computers at your event to allow registrants to sign up on site. Obviously, this isn’t feasible for every event or every organization, but works for many. In addition, some of our customers offer pricing discounts as an incentive to get registrants to sign up online, and at least one is considering offering a training program for customers that might be timid about using computers or the Internet.

Finally, a sometimes overlooked tool for online registrations is the cell phone or PDA. Technically, any such device with a data plan is already online, but sometimes registrants need a reminder that these platforms, too, can be used to complete an online registration.

As always, if you have a good idea or suggestion for moving off-line registrants into your online registration process, please share by commenting below.

Going Mobile?

November 3, 2011
photo of ABC Signup on an iPad

click to enlarge

Fittingly, you can’t spell Apple® without “app.” The folks from Cupertino, CA and their revolutionary gadgets have created a gold rush for developers creating new applications or shrinking web-based apps to work (and fit) on iPhones and iPads. Today, one billion apps are downloaded each month on Apple devices, and the company has paid $3 billion and counting to app developers.

While there isn’t an ABC Signup “official app” just yet, our web-based, registration software already works on any mobile device with Internet access, including the iPhone and iPad. In fact, there are several features of ABC Signup that can help events run smoother using mobile devices on site.

Some of our users deploy PDAs with ABC Signup up and running to check attendance at a sign-in area, meeting room or classroom. If an event allows walk-in participation, iPads deployed at the registration area allow registrants to quickly sign up and pay on the ABC Signup-built form.

As long as a user has Internet access, just about any registration system task performed on a computer can be done on a mobile device. If something changed during the program or event that impacts an evaluation or certificate or follow-up e-mail, for example, you can make that change on site via ABC Signup on your mobile device. If a registrant brings a check to the event, you can mark them as paid. If you want to post a picture of the event in a “thank you” e-mail, you can do it all right there with a mobile device and ABC Signup.

There are plenty of ways to make the most of ABC Signup on mobile platforms. We mentioned a few, but would love to hear some of the other ways you take advantage of our software on your device. And if there are new ways you would like to use ABC Signup on a mobile device, please tell us. Use the comment section below, or e-mail us.

We don’t have billions to pour into development, but we still find a way to deliver ABC Signup tools wherever you are. After all, you can’t spell “ABC Signup” without “u” and “can” (and some other letters).

When Does Your Program or Event Really End?

October 4, 2011
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Surveys,Training — Tags: , — @ 3:18 pm

Your last presenter signs off, attendees head for the exits, staff packs up whatever needs to be packed, and another conference – or training program or cooking camp or other event – is in the books.

Aside from a few participants’ comments in passing and additional feedback via surveys or evaluations, customer interaction and your opportunity to influence them could end as they leave the room.

It doesn’t have to. And in most cases, it shouldn’t.

There are numerous means to connect with your customers post-event, and just as many benefits of doing so – most notably, retaining them.

At the conclusion of a training program, for instance, consider sending participants a certificate, a synopsis of the materials covered, or links to additional, relevant resources. Tabulate the responses to surveys or evaluations and let them know the results and (if appropriate) how you intend to act upon the findings. Quiz them on the material covered. Post a follow-up article on your website or blog, and encourage them to read it and comment. Send them a thank you, and invite them to the next relevant workshop. And cross-pollinate all of this with your social media platforms, if applicable.

Aside from demonstrating that you go above and beyond for your customer, such extended contact is an essential means of helping training program participants retain the subject matter.

Annual conferences or meetings offer their own opportunities. Post photos and videos of the event on your website, and share the link(s) with participants. Do the same with the keynote address, other relevant presentations, and the details and rationale behind any important decisions made at the event. Again, blogging about the conference or meeting can continue the conversation and provide important feedback.

Some organizations do an excellent job of planning such post-event activities as a means to keep customers engaged, continue adding value and prime them, if you will, for the next sales opportunity. Some even use a step-by-step roll-out of follow-up initiatives, so as not to overwhelm participants with one flood of information, but rather to keep them interested one piece at a time.

A staggered roll-out might include a pre-planned, post-event message (a thank you, a reiteration of the event’s theme or central message, a discount offer for a future event, etc.) sent out immediately after the event, followed by weekly links to the types of information suggested above.

Too often, program providers put a lot into planning an event yet still start from scratch trying to attract registrants when the next cycle rolls around.  A post-event engagement plan can help you bridge the gap between events, add value to your offerings and keep your registration list full.

Building a Better Mousetrap

September 7, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Training — Tags: — @ 12:37 pm

How do you build a better mousetrap?Organizations that seek success find ways to improve what they do. It’s a survival mechanism of conducting business in a highly competitive, free enterprise system.

In just the past month, for example, ABC Signup made several enhancements to its registration software, including the following:

  • made it easier to resend certificates to registrants;
  • created the ability to add “auto complete” functionality to validation fields on registration forms;
  • added a prompt for a registrant to retry his/her credit card payment should it initially fail; and
  • added functionality to the discount code setup, giving customers the ability to create discounts based upon registration dates and set a limit on the number of times a discount can be used.

[Note: ABC Signup customers should regularly check the What’s New section in the software to see and learn how to implement the latest enhancements and new features.]

Most of these initiatives were based upon customer feedback. In fact, much of our software is based upon customer feedback. ABC Signup was born on a customer’s needs, and it has evolved over time through input from those on the front lines of program and event registration management.

And, while we can truthfully say serving our customers in this manner is simply good business, we are also doing it to stay one step ahead of the competition. We know our customers have many options, and believe our efforts to seek and act upon such feedback is not only necessary but gives us a competitive advantage.

But, enough about us.

Surely, you do something similar in your line of work. At the risk of patting yourself on the back – but with the potential benefit of helping others – feel free to tell us some of the things you’ve done to improve your programs and events. It could be something related to administration, to program content, to locations, presenters, materials, etc.

Just post it as a comment under this article in the blog section of our website. Your tip might be the solution to someone’s problems, or spark a discussion that ends up benefiting many, including yourself.

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

June 28, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Training — @ 9:54 am

Our blogging community hasn’t exactly developed into the Great Society of event planners and training program administers that we might have naively hoped for. In fact, if you look at the number of comments posted under our blogs, our “conversation” is a bit one-sided.

The truth is, we’ve received plenty of comments, just none related to our online registration-related content or in some cases – our language or even our alphabet system. Our contributors to date consist of malwaristas and spammers, so we haven’t shared their handiwork – until now.

Some of this stuff is kind of entertaining, and the content just keeps coming.

Here’s a comment that could probably be worded better:

Looking for a guaranteed bad credit loan?

Here’s one that couldn’t be worded worse:

I besides believe hence, perfectly indited post!

This “deal” doesn’t quite sound on the up-and-up:

Who wants to hear something refreshing? Easy is as easy does is what I always say. So I found an easy way to make money. This technology was secretly “copied” from one of the top internet enterprises. There is nothing illegal or shady about it… it’s just kind of secret.

Our Kiev office is handling this one:

Я считаю, что Вы не правы. Я уверен. Давайте обсудим. Пишите мне в PM, поговорим.

A new iPad? Should I include my credit card info in that e-mail?

Hey we was just reading your post on my iPhone and I was thinking about how well it will work on the new ipad thats coming out. Fleeting thought. You should consider getting one, all you need is to submit your email. Anyway thanks!

And finally, this comment includes a software descriptor we probably shouldn’t even allow to appear on our website:

Making money with your blog or website has never been easier thanks to the invention of the Xtreme Profit Robot. This is a money sucking piece of software that was sold at some recent seminars for more than $2,000.

There are more where these came from and we will post some of the better efforts in the near future. Meanwhile, if you have anything meaningful to add to our blog site, please feel free to comment. As you can see from where the bar is currently set, your first post will be our best post.

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