If you’ve managed registration for a conference, banquet, or some other event, you’ve had several options. For the past couple of years, online event registration has meant Eventbrite. I’ve used Eventbrite on several projects and it’s worked great for collecting registration information, sending tickets, and streamlining entry lines.
But as great as Eventbrite is, it’s not a one-size fits all solution.
- It can be expensive for low cost events. Eventbrite charges $.99 + 2.5% per ticket. This means a $20 ticket costs $1.49 to sell through Eventbrite or 7.45% of the ticket cost. This doesn’t include credit card processing which will be 4% or more.
- Sometimes you don’t need tickets. Several non-profits I work with that produce conferences have a contingent checkin process. For this type of checkin, they generate spreadsheets and don’t use tickets.
- If you’re already selling merchandise online. Eventbrite gives your attendees the option to purchase merchandise at registration, but Eventbrite only allows your attendees to purchase items at registration and Eventbrite takes their 2.5% fee.
Don’t get me wrong, Eventbrite is a great solution and I would recommend it to you if you’re going to use its features and you charge enough for your event that the fee makes sense. If you need scannable tickets to facilitate checkin, Eventbrite is hands down the best solution. But if you don’t need digital tickets and need to sell merchandise, you have another option.
What event registration really is
When you ask someone to register for an event, what are they really doing? They’re providing you with their name, contact information, payment details, and some event specific information. All of this happens through a web form. This is great news if you want to build your own event registration system, because there are a ton of option for web forms from creating your own to using a premium plugin like Gravity Forms.
A couple of weeks ago, I consulted with a non-profit to simplify their event registration and merchandise sales while also reducing unnecessary costs. I spent several hours evaluating registration plugins like WooCommerce Tickets and WP Event Registration. This process made me realize that the best solution wasn’t one that existed as an “Event Registration” plugin, but instead could be created through one of my favorite plugins, Gravity Forms.
The real power of Gravity Forms is in the add-ons
If you don’t use Gravity Forms on your site, you should. It’s incredibly powerful, easy to configure, and one of the best values of any paid WordPress plugin I use regularly. For $199 and less than an hour of work, you can create an event registration system that does everything Eventbrite does except create tickets.
But Gravity Forms does more than what Eventbrite does. There are a ton of features that are available through Gravity Forms’ add-ons. This is why you should buy the $199 Developer license instead of the $39 or $99 license options. Here are some of my favorite features:
If you have merchandise to sell for your event, you can add it to your event registration process. This allows your attendees to pay for merchandise at the same time as their event registration. You can also offer exclusive merchandise only to event attendees at the time of registration. One of the most popular types of merchandise at many events is an event specific t-shirt.
This is an item that can have several different variations such as color, size, shirt material (cotton, DriFit, etc.), and price. With Gravity Forms’ product menu you can setup each item and variation with its corresponding price. Once that item is selected, your attendee’s total is updated.
If you use an email marketing platform (and you should be) to keep in contact with your event attendees, you should buy Gravity Forms just for this. Currently Gravity Forms supports the most popular email platforms: AWeber, Campaign Monitor, and Mailchimp. When someone registers for your event (or submits any other form) they can be automatically subscribed to one of your email lists. This allows you to keep in touch with your event attendees before and after the event, and send email reminders about upcoming events to increase your future registrations.
It can be a good idea to select double opt-in confirmation. This means that an attendee isn’t subscribed to your list until they opt-in a second time through the email they receive. If you have an event with broad appeal, some of your attendees may not find value in your newsletter. On the other hand, if your event is industry specific and you can provide value through your emails, you may not need double opt-in as your email subscriber rates can drop significantly.
Getting paid for your event is probably the most important feature of an event registration platform. Gravity Forms integrates with almost any payment gateway that you’re already using. Authorize.net, PayPal, PayPal Payments Pro, the older PayPal Pro, and Stripe are all supported by default. Gravity Forms also allows you to dynamically calculate prices and pass the value to your payment gateway. This makes it possible for you to sell upgrades to your tickets (think VIP upgrade).
You can create special coupon codes to provide to attendees. These coupons provide either a set dollar value discount or a percentage discount. You can use these coupons to provide discounts to previous event attendees, offer a special value to your email newsletter subscribers, or provide free tickets to contest winners or media.
Bringing it all together
Once you have each field configured in Gravity Forms, you’re ready to launch your event registration. To embed your form inside of a WordPress page or post, you will click the “Add Form” button, select the right form from the drop down, decide if you want to display your form title, form description, and if you want to use AJAX.
If you choose to use AJAX for your form, it means that your attendee’s browser doesn’t have to reload a page to submit their registration. This is very useful if your registration form is on a page with more information about your event. By keeping your visitor on the page once they’ve registered, you can encourage them to share information about the event with their friends to increase your event registration numbers.
Creating your check-in list
Once you’ve made it through your event registration, it’s time to check-in your attendees. Creating your check-in list is as easy as setting up your registration form. Go to the Import/Export tab on the Forms dropdown. You can then select your registration form and select which forms you need on your check-in list: name, ticket type, etc. The event registrations will download as a CSV file that you can open in Excel and print your check-in list.
Event registration no longer means depending on a third-party like Eventbrite to manage your event. Installing Gravity Forms with a few add-ons gives you complete control over your registration process. Gravity Forms integrates with the most popular payment gateways and email providers so that your attendees can register and pay for your event on one screen.
If your event doesn’t need customized tickets, using Gravity Forms for your event registration can result in significant savings. For a one-time cost of $199, your registration can be up and running with an hour or two of work. Thinking outside the box can make your event registration flow smoothly and give you more control over your registration data.