It’s all about experiences these days and sadly, experience begins at a potential attendee’s first thought of your chamber event. It begins with your invitation and marketing. But the place most people pay attention to is the physical event. And the first taste of your physical event is most often check-in. If your chamber event check-in is a mess (long wait times, scattered staff attention, and chaos), people will immediately develop a bad first impression.
Don’t start your event off in the negative. Instead, find a way to streamline the check-in process, making everyone feel welcome and excited to be there. Here’s how you can do that.
Tips for a Better Chamber Event Check-in
Pre-plan and Provide the Info
One of the easiest ways to streamline the check-in process is to create the same VIP experience the theme parks do. If you have people who have purchased tables, place their company name on the tables ahead of time and instruct them to go straight there. Danielle McFadden, President & CEO of the Lowell Chamber of Commerce shared what they do, “For our big events we email everyone in advance. If they are at a reserved table, we tell them to look for their company name on the table. If they aren’t at a reserved table we tell them to sit anywhere that says open seating. In the email, we encourage them to bypass the check-in table and head straight into the room to find their table. We also give information about when doors will open, when food will be served (particularly breakfast buffets), and when the actual program will start. We let them know that we’d like them to grab their meal before the start of the program. They love having all the details in advance so they can plan accordingly.”
Technology can tame nearly any check-in process. Some chambers are now using a check-in process that is similar to what airlines do–scanning. Hope Kennedy, President & CEO of the North Tampa Bay Chamber uses a QR check-in process through ChamberMaster. She shared recently that QR codes have eliminated the need for a check-in table and the chamber has stopped accepting payment at the event. The process of using her CRM is easy. She shared the directions from ChamberMaster “…at your event, using the Staff App, you can scan the users’ QR code right from their smartphone or a printed version of their email. Once scanned, the attendee will immediately be marked as attended in the system.”
QR code scanning can be helpful in another way too–avoiding that awkward moment when someone’s name is on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite think of it. As Cyndi Bester, CEO of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce said, “Scan the code and then welcome them by name. “
ChamberMaster isn’t the only business offering a QR code entry. Kristen Pyrz-Brown, CEO of the Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Australia shared that Humanitix uses similar tech to make check-in a breeze. Eventbrite has the functionality as well.
Mobile Check-in App
If you’re a technical person (or you have access to one) and you host a lot of events, you could develop a mobile app for check-in purposes. Attendees would download and use the app to check in upon arrival in much the same way they scan an airline ticket. But other software companies have the tech in place so unless you want to offer something special in the app, there’s no reason to recreate it.
Offer a Sign-in
One of the most frustrating things about check-in is when some poor chamber staffer is furiously searching the list looking for a name while the attendee stands over them. When there’s a long line, it can be very stressful. At the Callaway Chamber of Commerce & Visitor’s Center, they’ve started mailing tickets for their large events. Then the attendee brings the ticket with them on the day of. No searching for names on a list.
But what if someone shows up to a big event and claims they left their ticket at home? CEO Tamara Tateosian admitted the process “…helps get people in the door faster. (But) If someone shows up without a ticket, we have Ambassadors working the door. They have them sign in. That way, I can check to make sure they paid and registered. Also, it is another way to recognize your presenting sponsor by putting their logo on the ticket.” For smaller events, she said they sign in as they come in the door. No more waiting and searching.
Check with your event vendor to see if they have self-service kiosks with touch screens for attendee check in. If so, you’ll need to provide clear instructions to guide attendees through the process. While this will streamline the check-in, you can’t eliminate humans entirely. Know there will always be someone who can’t figure it out and blames the machine so have someone on hand to troubleshoot.
Train event staff on the check-in process to handle any issues smoothly. Have dedicated staff available to assist and guide attendees through the process. If you can help it, keep new people off the check-in table. Experienced volunteers will easily recognize attendees and get them checked off quicker without the guests giving their names.
Express Check-in for VIPs
Offer an express check-in lane for VIPs and special guests. Ensure a seamless and exclusive experience for key attendees. If that line doesn’t have a lot of check-ins, you can always move people out of the regular line. Hotels with loyalty programs often offer a similar check-in for VIP guests.
Ever notice how theme parks handle lines? Some have TVs. All parks snake the line around so you have no idea how long it is. Some use characters or music as distractions. You can use these ideas at your event too. Encourage mingling and ensure the line doesn’t go out the door. Bring food or entertainment into the main area. Make waiting in line a pleasure (or at least bearable).
Additional Tips for a Smooth Event Check-in
While how you check in guests is important, there are also a few things that can help you during and after the event including:
- Utilize communication channels (email, SMS) to send reminders and updates.
- Keep attendees informed about the check-in process and any changes.
- Have a backup plan in case of technical issues.
- Ensure there are manual check-in options to handle unforeseen circumstances.
- Collect feedback from attendees about the check-in process.
- Use the feedback to make improvements for future events.
By incorporating these ideas, you can create a smooth and efficient check-in process that enhances the overall experience for attendees at your chamber event.