Over on LinkedIn, Maureen Akal (Hi, Maureen!) asked this question to which I decided to contribute a response.

I quickly discovered that my verbosity (or thoroughness, if you prefer) exceeded LinkedIn’s 390 character limit.

With that in mind, I decided to post it here.

I hope it’s helpful.


This is such a subjective question that any response would be doing you a disservice.

Instead, here are some things that our customers consider when selecting an online registration solution. (There are lot more things to consider than the few listed here, but these immediately come to mind.)

  • Business Conference, Trade Show, Consumer Expo, Annual Association Meeting, Fundraising Gala - or something else completely?

The differences can vary widely or subtly, depending on your needs, which will drive a lot of your selection process.

  • SaaS (Eventbrite, Regonline, eTouches, etc.) or self-hosted platform (Event Espresso, etc.)?

SaaS tools are (usually) easy to setup and use but the incremental costs might impact your budget. Hosted platforms are great because you can customize them to your exact needs and you’ll save money on transaction costs, but you may need technical assistance.

  • How important is branding? Do you want registration to occur on your web site (or at least appear that way)?

SaaS tools make this harder to do while self-hosted platforms are usually better. (Well, if you’re running WordPress or Drupal, for instance.)

Splash and EventFarm are great for tightly controlling design and make the event page look like your web site. Others aren’t so good at this.

  • Will all your registration funnel through this system or will it come from other sources, like customer or donor lists?

Uploading attendee data to some platforms varies from non-existent to horribly complicated. I can’t think of one system that does it well. We’ve had to compensate for this while building our service.

  • Is attendance strictly monitored? Do you sometimes need to make substitutions?

You might need a platform that provides integrated check-in and access control, allows you to make changes to attendee data and, (if you’re using badges) print them on-site.

If your attendance policy isn’t as rigid, you can discount this in your search criteria.

  • Does checking-in kick-off another whole set of processes?

Some organizers print badges and meal tickets or update a database or mobile app when someone checks-in. There are few publicly available SaaS platforms that can accomplish this out of the box, though many can be customized to do what you need for an additional fee.

  • Does it have an API (Application Programming Interface) that enables it to integrate with other systems?

If the platform you like doesn’t do all the things that you need it to do (like the items I mentioned in the previous bullet), you might be able to accomplish those things by connecting to another system that can.

This is how our service works - we integrate with the available API’s of registration platforms to provide our services.

  • How important are Analytics?

For most platforms, there’s a wide range of quality here, too. Eventbrite’s reporting tools are pretty good, especially their cross-event reporting.

  • Do you require Group Registration?

As a company that manages event data, we hate Group Registration. Why? Because in most cases, someone will register a team of people and associate one email address and phone number with each attendee. This is a real problem if you’re providing lead retrieval to exhibitors or you require attendance tracking.

The good news though, is that this feature is readily available on most platforms. It then becomes a question of ease-of-use.

  • Do you need on-site registration and badging?

Some of the readily available SaaS platforms aren’t very robust when it comes to handling on-site registration and badging.

You could use something like Square to accept payments but it won’t be integrated with your SaaS solution. (BusyConf has a great on-site registration workflow, sans card swipe. Full disclosure: they’re a partner of ours, but we have other partners whose strengths do not include on-site registration.)

We’ve had to compensate for some of our partner’s on-site registration shortcomings, but it’s one of our value-adds.

The Event Manager Blog is compiling research on registration platforms for a guide they’ll be releasing later this year. Be sure to check it out when it’s ready.

Comments are open on this post, but why don’t you head over to LinkedIn and answer Maureen’s original question, eh?