As event managers, we all have to face the reality that the people who make up the rules for an event are not always on top of how events work. When an association’s board decides the rules for who pays and doesn’t for particular aspects of an event they usually decide things without understanding what you may or may not be able to do in your registration system.
Take for example Exhibitor registrations. Your exhibitors will bring staff with them to the event and the board decides that each booth is allowed two staff members for no additional fees. There is also the opening night reception, plus a banquet one night and maybe a special breakfast on the last day. The board decides that because exhibitors usually want in to the banquet, the price of an exhibit booth includes 4 people coming to the banquet, but the breakfast is not such a big deal, so all booth personnel have to pay an additional fee for the last day breakfast.
You now have the following rules: 2 complimentary registrations for the reception (all others pay), 4 complimentary for the banquet (all others pay) and all pay for the breakfast. So you get into your event registration system and you start to set this up. There are a few ways to go with this type of multi-person registration logic. One way is to put all the options out there and trust that the exhibitors will be honest and pick the right options. They will register five people from the conference, and they all want into the reception as well as the banquet and three of them want in to the closing breakfast. When you list all the options for each registrant, you might have to monitor things more closely because all people might be marked as complimentary, which means you need to call the registrar for that company and explain that they need to change the registration or pay more money. If you force everyone to register themselves separately, your registration system has to be good at keeping track of people from the same company coming to the event so they can keep track of counts, which may be a challenge for the system and not a good experience for the registrar of that company who has to register everyone separately.
What we have found works best is logic to control the display of registration items when you register multiple people. The idea is to have your registration system first let you create the list of all registrants, then have the system use parameters that allow you to display the first two registrations as complimentary for the reception then a second item that starts displaying on the third registration that charges for that item. The idea is that the items people pay for can be controlled so that you tell the system what registrant to start displaying the item on and how many registrants should see that item. Taking the example above, the complimentary reception item should display on registrants one and two then the paying option should start on registrant page 3 until the end. The banquet should have the complimentary option display on registrants one through four, then they paying option will display.
Using this technique, registrants only see what is available to them on their registration page. The third person in the list must pay for the reception or choose not to go, the fifth person on the list must pay for the banquet, and everyone must pay for the breakfast. This process will insure that you collect the right amount of money for the attendees, and your back end work might be editing a few registrations to mark someone complimentary while making someone else on the list the paying attendee.
Do your conferences have complex registration rules? Can your event registration system handle them? If not, it may be time to start looking for a new event registration system.