Registrations: it’s time to adjust expectations

By Nicole Walker, Arinex Managing Director

How are registrations tracking? It is one of the most frequently asked questions in the events industry. Quite rightly so, given registration revenue is directly linked to event profitability.

It is therefore understandable that anxiety levels rise if the number of delegates registering are slow to materialise compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Our industry has adapted in many brilliant ways over the past two years. The most obvious being the rise in virtual and hybrid events. Those that embraced change and explored new ways of overcoming challenges have reaped the benefits.

Now it is time to get comfortable with late registrations.

Many event professionals have noticed registrations performing a little differently than in pre-pandemic years.

Arinex experienced this when managing the 28th Australian Orthodontic Congress in March 2022. Registrations for this virtual event almost doubled to 547 with just two weeks to go.

There are many factors influencing delegate behaviour. Despite international travel resuming, attendees are still cautious about committing too early for fear of having to cancel plans and being financially impacted.

Attendance of a virtual conference, or the virtual component of a hybrid event, involves less forward planning and therefore less urgency to click the purchase button.

Considering this, when should you be concerned if registrations are running below targets?

To help answer this question, Arinex analysed 55 events in the year to November 2021.

The data included 1,387 registrations for physical events, 8,539 registrations for virtual events and 1,300 registrations for hybrid events across a myriad of national and international association events.

While it is important to acknowledge that no two events are the same, the analysis uncovered some interesting insights.

Graph showing the percentage of registrations received for 55 virtual, hybrid and physical events in the year to November 2021

Graph 1: Percentage of registrations received prior to an event.

Graph showing daily breakdown of registrations received for 55 events in the year to November 2021.

Graph 2: Daily breakdown of registrations received prior to an event.

Perhaps the most telling is that 35% of attendees of virtual events registered within just seven days of an event (see Graph 1). Breaking this down further, Graph 2 above shows a spike of 9.17% of registrations within two days of a virtual event.

This data indicates that attendees of virtual events register much later than physical and hybrid events, which attracted 18% and 7% respectively within the same timeframe (Graph 1).

It is also interesting to see that 39% of registrations for physical events came between 8 – 30 days prior to the event, while 62% of registrations for hybrid events came between 31 – 60 days prior to the event (Graph 1). Knowing there is the option to transfer a registration from physical to virtual at a hybrid event gives attendees the confidence to book earlier than for purely physical events.

Key Takeaways

Particularly when it comes to virtual events, there is no need to hit the panic button if your registration target hasn’t been reached a week or two out from the event.

We know that delegates are still interested in attending events that have moved to partially or fully virtual. Targeted marketing activity should continue right up to the event taking place to convert late decision makers.

For all event types, there is opportunity to rethink promotional strategies to encourage earlier registrations, such as extending the early bird deadline or offering incentives such as VIP benefits and experiences.

Additionally, promotional activity should not stop when the event is over. If your budget allows for quality recordings of sessions, there is now significant potential to increase audience reach, engagement and profitability through on-demand access post event.

It also goes without saying that providing Covid-19 safety information, vaccination requirements and travel tips will help delegates to plan for face-to-face meetings and alleviate any health and safety concerns they may have.

While it is difficult to predict how registration trends will change as confidence and travel increases and more face-to-face events resume, being flexible and adaptable in event planning and delivery will improve the success of any event.

For assistance with your event planning needs, contact Arinex on +61 2 9265 0700.