Event Registration Rant

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Back in the spring, there was an amazing, fantastic, wonderful event sponsored a terrific organization called Express Employment Professionals. The program itself was a dynamic lineup of speakers, including Indy’s own Peyton Manning. The staff executed the event flawlessly and I think the crowd was tremendously impressed. In fact, I only have one complaint—and it has nothing to do with the day of that event.

Unfortunately, that complaint is a doozy. This event had a terrible registration experience. Settle into your seat, this is going to be a long ride.

I knew it was going to be bad right from the start, so I took a few screen captures. Here’s how it started out.

The Announcement Email

One day, I got this message in my inbox. Take a gander and join me after the image:

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I’ve got to admit, this isn’t a bad email. The call to action might be a little far down the page, but it’s right there in bold, underlined letters: Request your tickets today. They even include the URL for the registration page right there in the body of the email. That’s smart, because if I’m reading this on a mobile device or someone has printed out the email, I can still “click” the link by retyping it!

So where did that link go? It went to…

The Landing Page

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Well, first I had to go through an interstitial landing page. Okay, another click is a little annoying, but this isn’t that bad. I didn’t really read this page, I just pressed the big button…which led me to…

The Introducing-an-Event Page

At this point I’ve been redirected again to another webpage, which contains oodles of information. Here’s the schedule, here’s the location address, a map, driving directions, social links to Express. Take a look for yourself:

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But of course, none of this is actually relevant yet. I still need to “request tickets” before I care about the all of these details. The exact driving directions to the location do not matter until I have tickets.

I’m not going to go to your LinkedIn page or follow you on Twitter right now. I’ve got a goal in mind: register for your event! We can talk about social media engagement after I get my tickets. After all, aren’t a zillion other Peyton Manning fans trying to get tickets at the exact same time?

Okay, button clicked, which leads me to a familiar form called…

The Actual Registration Page

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Yeah, that’s me commenting. You may recall that I’m interested in the idea of one-click event registration. I guess I was a little surprised that world-class email marketing from ExactTarget (love you guys!) and world-class event management software from Cvent (love you guys too!) would not have delivered a unique link that pre-populates my data. At a minimum, you know my email address!

Well, at least I’m done now. (Oops, almost hit “cancel” since it was so close. Say, I wish Jakob Nielsen had identified these as a terrible idea over ten years ago. Anyway…)

The Actual Registration Page, Continued

But apparently, one registration page isn’t enough. We need a second page for some reason.

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Maybe in case people abandon the form once they get to this one? It’s not as if the form does any actual validation. Yes, I tried entering a zip code that had all letters and a made up phone number. And I clicked “Save and Next” (I was going to “Save” my work, but it wasn’t that much work.) This lead me to…

The Confirming That You Wanted to Register Page

Yes, in fact I typed things correctly! That’s what this page says and requires I click yet again.

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Now we should be done. Finally! So now it’s time for the

The Registration Confirmation Which Isn’t a Confirmation

In big letters on the tab heading it says “Confirmation.” But if you read the text, which I’ve blown up for you in the screen cap below, you can see that in fact this is not really a confirmation. In fact, now it seems like the chance to “request a ticket” is really an opportunity to “request the chance to be considered for a ticket.”

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Note: I later spoke to some folks with Express Personnel, and this approach makes sense in retrospect. They wanted to promote the event to a wide audience, but they also wanted to try and ensure that preferred customers and prospects were first in line. I told them that in my view the language in the email and the promotion did not imply any kind of selection, and that I felt like I had just wasted five minutes of my time. I think they probably made a smart business decision in terms of choosing attendees that would be good for their business, but I am not a fan of the wording that brought me to this point.

Now, I am still pretty unimpressed by this registration system. Not only has it made me click through a half dozen screens while allowing me to give mostly fake information, it apparently doesn’t have the ability to determine the current date. If it did, I would not be required to look at my own calendar to figure out if it’s currently before or after April 15. The system ought to be able to display the right message!

Anyway, I’m done. Guess I’ll wait until May 2 to hear if I get a ticket. But wait, there’s the…

Email Confirmation That I Must Save

Surely this registration system knows who I am. Yet I have to save an email for a free ticket? Obviously I’m the only one with this email address.

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And surely this registration system can count. The phrase “availability of tickets” implies that the system is not able to keep track of the number of seats that have already been assigned!

The Surprise Email

On April 22, I received another email. I assumed I would be learning if I was going to receive tickets. But instead, I got something which was much more confusing:

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At this point, I wasn’t sure what was going on. Had I been “selected” to attend with regular tickets, and then also had the chance to enter this contest? The appearance of the “Request Tickets” button at the bottom was also disconcerting. This led back to the very same form I had already completed. So perhaps my original registration had been ignored? Clearly they sent this to the same email address, as indicated in the footer.

I decided to leave well enough alone. And then…

The Actual Acceptance Email

On May 4, I got this email message. It looked familiar at first, but then I realized I was in!

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I didn’t understand why they wanted to come by my office to give me tickets. I could have just printed the email. And somebody did drop them off under the door, but no one was here at the time so I think it might have been a waste of a trip.

In Summary

I can’t tell you how great the actual event was on May 18. Perfect in every way. Fantastic speeches. Great execution. Beautifully decorated venue. Good food and very energizing. But the lead up was pretty awful, especially considering the world-class reputations of the two companies involved in event registration. What happened?

My Theory

I think that ExactTarget and Cvent are just platforms, and you can misuse them like you can misuse any other technology. I think there was probably an organizational problem with setting up the event registration system and the team that did this did not leverage available expertise to design the registration experience. The message should be clear, however: great events should have smooth, easy-to-use event registration. That’s part of your marketing! More people will be more engaged throughout the experience if it’s easy to sign up, easy to go, and easy to understand what you provide.

Thus ends my rant.


  1. 1

    The event may have been amazing, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they lost so many great registrants along the way due to the frustrating and ridiculous steps.  I won’t give them a pass – regardless of their company and the process. What they were saying was it made sense to “them”… not that it made sense to “you”.  And “you” should always matter more than “them”.

  2. 2

    Staggering. Something like that would have made me not want the tickets just on the principle of the thing. But if they’re willing to deliver the tickets to me, I’ll be happy to give them directions. First they have to get in the car, and start driving. I’ll tell them which direction after they have driven 12 miles.

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