My top 10 tips for fast guest registration at your next event

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Picture this. You’re on your way to an event that you’re super excited about. You are graced by the parking gods and found a great spot. You’re ready to go in, get a drink, and have a good time talking to your kind of people. This is going to be awesome!

So you pull out your ticket, ready get in line.

Except, there are people everywhere you you can’t find the line. After a couple minutes of searching, you finally ask someone and they point somewhere over to your left.

You finally find the line and join the queue. And then you wait. And wait…and wait some more.

You look around the people in front of you to see what the hold up is. You’re not sure, but you keep trying to be patient.

Finally, you get to the front, get checked in, and enter the event.

Would you still super pumped for this event, or could the thought “I could be at home right now watching Netflix” cross your mind?

Unfortunately this scenario happens for event goers every day.

But it doesn’t have to happen to guests at your next event! You can create a fast, easy check in process for them that makes them feel really welcomed and keeps them in a great mood.

Today I’m sharing the top tips I use for EVERY SINGLE one of my event welcome tables. In fact, this is the exact checklist that I used to organize a welcome table that checked in 700 guests in 30 minutes! Crazy, right?!

It’s also the way that I organize all of my clients’ registration tables.

So here are the things you need to organize a smooth, easy check in table that will impress your guests and make them love you!

Write a list of everything you want to have happen at check in

You might have just gotten the urge to scroll past this step, but hear me out.

The first obvious point on this list is that you want guests to be able to actually check in. That’s great. Are you also wanting them to get or make a name tag? Swiping credit cards into auction software? Are you giving them a program or other materials? What about drink tickets, wristbands, or even goodie bags?

Write out a list of all of these things so that you can use it to break down all of the parts of your welcome table. We’ll go into why this is so important in later tips.

Decide on the fastest way to check people in

Now that you have a break down of what you want to happen, what is the fastest way to do it? For some groups, paper check in is easiest for their event. Personally, I love free apps like Social Tables where you can upload a list and check in guests with just a swipe of your finger.

For other events, like a gala with a silent auction, a live auction, and a fund a need for example, maybe you want to upgrade to software that also saves credit cards.

The goal is to think about how you can organize your registration table ahead of time so that guests spend as little time as possible checking in and out.  

If you are using software, have backup plans

Have you ever had your fancy expensive software crash at your event? I have! The worst part of this was that I wasn’t prepared with back ups. I just KNEW the software would work! Needless to say, the line quickly became a nightmare. We had to start giving guests wine in line, the wait was so long.

Learn from my nightmare. Make sure you have back up plans ready to go at your event at a moments notice.

If your venue has wifi that you plan on using, set up a hotspot as a backup. Also make sure to have printed guest lists ready to go at each station. Prep your welcome table stations with pens and highlighters as well. So if anything glitches out, the check in team can seamlessly switch to paper and back if they need to. No pausing to shuffle through boxes to find the lists. Everything is out and ready to go.

It might seem like overkill, but trust me, it’s way better to have it and not need it, rather than need it and not have it!

Just be sure to recycle all that paper once your event is over.

Make sure your check in table is in the most logical place that guests would naturally look for it

I’m a visual person, so long before an event, I like to do an exercise where I walk in as if I’m walking in to the place for the first time. The very first place your eyes land is probably where check in should be.  Don’t assume that just because you know where your registration table is, that your guests will also.

If you can, make it so people can even walk straight towards check in immediately after entering your event, instead of even having to turn their heads to look for it.

Pro Tip: Have a designated person directing the flow of traffic in your welcome area to tell guests where to go next.

This is huge for check in stations with lots of guests because this person can make sure none of the check in stations are empty. Often times there are so many people that guests can’t actually see that a check in station is open around all the people or over heads.

Or they are talking to their friend, or on their phone. Whatever. It’s your job to walk them through the process, not theirs.

I also like to give the registration team little flags so that they can wave people over.

The bottom line is, if your guests have to think at all at check in, you have more work to do to make the process easier for them.

Have enough people working at the table

A huge part of checking guests in quickly is just having enough stations going at once. Depending on how complicated the check in process is (see how many steps you have in the list you made), I recommend 1 check in team member for every 75-100 people. If your stations have more than one step, you could do one team member for every 50 guests.

Choose the right people to work the tables

Remember, this group of people are the first to talk to guests at your event They set the tone for your entire guest experience.

Some people think that being stuck on registration at an event sucks, but to me, it’s absolutely the most important job and it’s where I put the people that I think are the most effective and most friendly, who do well under pressure.

Make sure that you choose people for this team that are warm and welcoming, and can repeat information without getting that tone where you know they’ve been repeating the same thing over and over (you know that bored/ irritated tone I’m talking about).

You want folks that will smile and give the experience of actually feeling welcomed and appreciated to every person they talk to.

This is of course much easier to do with people you have worked with before.

I’ve had the experience of having someone at the welcome team that wasn’t a good fit. They were snappy with guests, and when people didn’t get in their line fast enough, they actually started yelling. No bueno.

That was the one time in my event planning career that I actually stopped the entire registration line to reset the expectation on how to treat guests. It’s that important.

So in addition to doing your best to choose the right people, make sure that you go over exactly how you expect people to greet guests. Even doing a quick practice where you go through exactly what you want them to say and how, as well as body language is a great, quick training to do beforehand to have a smooth check in.

Train your registration team ahead of time

A huge part of having a quick check in table is making sure everyone on your team knows exactly what they’re doing. Even if its a quick training 30 minutes before the doors open, plan on going through everything step by step and give them a chance to ask questions.

It’s great to even include time to actually practice checking someone in during training.  If you have software with multiple steps, you can add a couple of fake guest names to your list so that each person on your team can go through every step of checking someone in ahead of time.

Pro Tip: if you use demo guests, name sure you start all of their names with something similar so you don’t have to waste time remembering them or scrolling through guest names to find the fakes.

So instead of using names of celebrities or something, give them name like Test McTesterson, Test Smith, and Test Doe. That way they are all easy to spot and are together on the list.

Have a way to pre-register as many guests as possible

Most events have a way where guests register or buy tickets ahead of time. This is huge for planning, so that you actually have an idea of how many people will show up.

If you have a list of folks already, this is the easiest way to make sure your welcome table is quick and easy. This isn’t just printing out a list, or uploading it to software.

Say you hope to have 200 people show up, and you have 150 RSVPs. That means that while you’re stuffing those 200 gift bags, you know to have at least 150 ready to go to quickly hand out on top of your gift table.

Or if you want everyone to have name tags at your event and you know the names of those 150 people you can make their name tags ahead of time. While this step takes more time, it makes your event look a bit more polished, and those 150 guests go through the line faster because they aren’t stopping to write a name tag for themselves. And you’ve found a small way to make your event a little more convenient and easy for them, improving their experience. Win!

Think of all the ways that you can speed up the process for people you know are attending your event. Speeding up the process for them speeds up the process for everyone.  

And that takes me to my next point...

Have a separate table for guests who didn’t pre-register

So this one I was hesitant to try at first, because I was worried about how people would react, but it has been an absolute game changer and I insist on it for all of my clients.

If you have an event where the majority of your guests RSVP (which if you’re not asking for this, you really should), then it’s super easy to set up your main registration stations up like you normally would, prepping as many event materials for those pre-registered guests as possible.

Then, for anyone else who is attending, set up what I call a “Special Accommodations” table. This table is for anyone who didn’t RSVP, brought another guest with them, wants to change their seat or meal for a formal event, has questions, or anything else under the sun.

So who do you put in charge of running this table? It should be a couple of people who know the most details about the event. Maybe it’s an assistant who is super familiar with the guest list.

Who ever it is they should be the most skilled at customer service and problem solving. You can definitely train people to do this position. I recommend having an extended training for this position while you train your registration team.

Having a separate table for all of these situations is huge because it allows the main lines to keep moving quickly, which all of your guests who took the time to register will appreciate.

If you’re like me, you might be worried about people’s reactions to being sent to a separate table, but I found that guests actually really appreciate it.

Remember that team member who is in charge of directing line traffic? Part of their job is to talk to guests so that they know which line to go to in the first place (think of TSA at the airport telling you what you need to do to get through security faster).

Then, guests who go to the Special Accommodations table get to talk to a knowledgeable, super helpful person on your team who knows exactly how to help. Boom!

Separate out other welcome information at different tables

Another thing I started doing at events was to look at my list of registration tasks (see point 1) and moving anything that didn’t have to do with actually checking in to another table or station.

Have you ever gone to a welcome table at an event, and been overloaded with information? The person behind the desk smiled at you, but they talked a mile a minute explaining a bunch of random stuff as they handed it to you.

You smile and nod back, but by the end of it you have no idea what they told you and what all the things they handed you are for. But you’re embarrassed to ask again so you just keep walking like you understood.

That’s totally happened to me before. And it happens at events all day, every day.

Taking things like programs, drink tickets, making name tags, and goodie bags away from the main check in table and adding them to other tables at your welcome area can be huge for guest experience.

Your welcome team doesn’t feel as pressured to go over so much, so they can take their time greeting people. Your guests don’t get overloaded with TMI, too quickly, so they can relax enough to actually pay attention.

Your guests also get the experience of getting a smile and “welcome” from another group of people, which sets them up to have a good time.

There you have it! That’s my registration checklist that I use to organize all of my client’s welcome tables. I hope you find this helpful. If you try these at your next event, let me know how it works for you. I’d love to hear about it.

Are there any other things that you make sure to do to have s smooth, fast check in experience for your event guests? Drop it in the comments below. Sharing is caring so that everyone can learn!

Quierra Trammel

Tribe Table, Oakland, CA, United States