With nearly 20 years of experience in the events industry, Sam Corbett knows what it takes to run a good event. As LiveBuzz’s Operations Manager, he’s never shy of offering up his pearls of wisdom. We managed to pin him down to just five though. Want to know the fundamental principles of running a great event? Then read on…..

Never forget: register – badge – attend

The mechanics of visitor registration may be complex but the overarching aim is very simple. Register visitors, give them a badge, get them into the show. Anything which delays this process should be avoided at all costs. This is why I get concerned when the latest fad technologies are applied to what should be a straightforward process. The risk of unnecessary distraction or delay is high.

Some of these technology bandwagons strike me as cases of being clever for the sake of being clever. The hype around using RFIDs a few years ago could be seen as a good example; where did that get us? I’m not anti-technology but I am against anything which has the potential to delay people from getting into an event. Effectively, exhibitors foot the bill for these shows. They want people through the door. Walking through a door should not be a complicated process.

Putting the technology concerns aside, the registration process should never be too intrusive. Some people resent even being scanned in or out of a show. For those people, an overly long registration form can be an absolute killer. Don’t take any chances with this.

Always ask yourself “why” when posing a new demographic question.  What is its objective and how are you going to use that data?  Make every question count and only ask it if it’s vital.


Investigate the ‘Other’ demographic

Within any registration process, I’m always intrigued by the “Other” option which people can select when choosing their job title. I believe that if the number of event visitors who list their role as “Other” is too large, then it suggests that the organisers don’t really know their audience that well.

When confronted with such a statistic, my advice is always to interrogate that data; to find out what those job roles are which sit outside the list which the organiser has been able to define (and to then add them to next year’s list of options). There could be a whole new audience segment emerging within that data which the organiser is unaware of; a segment which the organiser may not be addressing directly in its promotional activities. Ignore them for too long and they could be gone.

Any event whose audience remains exactly the same will stagnate and could eventually die out. The answer to finding a new audience could lie within that tranche of “Other” data if only organisers could be sufficiently motivated to go digging into it.

Do not see registration as a necessary evil

Yes, there are probably more exciting things to spend money on, like advertising, branding and promotional activity, but registration is a complex undertaking which can’t be done on the cheap or with minimal forethought. 

It’s worth remembering that, in the run-up to a show, the registration supplier may have more engagement with an individual visitor than the event organiser does. The latter may engage fleetingly with a visitor over email but the registration process will engage that visitor – on the registration supplier’s own digital platforms – for longer.

If you think about it, registration is the first really meaningful part of a visitor’s event experience, whether this happens virtually or at the venue. It’s a core part of the live brand experience. Why, therefore, would you risk damaging that by using a supplier forced to operate at such a low margin that they can’t supply the service your visitors and exhibitors deserve?

From what I’ve seen, the best registration experience stems from a strong relationship between organiser and supplier where the registration process is valued and appreciated. Conversely, a relationship whereby registration is seen as an easy place to point the finger of blame for visitor numbers being low – or as an easy-to-manage commodity where price deserves to be screwed down – will always result in a less-than-ideal outcome.

Scrutinise your registration supplier’s data capabilities

As suppliers to the events industry, we shouldn’t under-estimate the powerful attraction of big data in its simplest form. As human beings, we just can’t help ourselves; we seem fascinated by that big spreadsheet of data. No matter how many whistles and bells we work into the data offering, it is remarkable how many times organisers or exhibitors simply want a big data draw-down in nothing more sophisticated than an Excel spreadsheet or .csv file. The least we can do therefore is to ensure that this data is clean.

So, the advice to organisers is to look beyond those whistles and bells and look at the fundamentals of good data husbandry. Top suppliers should have tight systems which leave little room for data to be entered incorrectly at the front of the registration system. As part of their standard service, those same suppliers should be tidying up the errors that do creep in. Just half a day’s work could see 5000 show records tidied up and de-duplicated. That shouldn’t be an add-on; it should be part of the core offering.

Swamp the audience with email at your peril

It sounds obvious but we should never take any chances with anything which may frustrate event visitors – or even possibly dissuade them from attending. I do fear that, on occasion, some events can do exactly that with the amount of emails they bombard potential visitors with.

Determining the optimum number of emails to send – and the frequency with which they are sent – is a tricky, and probably time-consuming, undertaking. The ‘right’ answer will vary from show to show yet figuring it out will be time well spent. That’s because glibly firing off more emails to an audience without really thinking through the full ramifications of yet another unsolicited message dropping into their inboxes is a dangerous tactic.

As technology allows for deeper and easier segmentation of data, now is the time to adopt a more personalised visitor journey.