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event manager at event check in
Katie MoserSep 25, 2023 3:04:23 PM7 min read

How to Improve Conference Check In for Your Next Event (10 Tips)

Your check-in process is typically the first in-person experience your attendees have at your conference, so it's vital to make a good impression. We've all dealt with the nightmare of attending a conference and not knowing where to go, or having to stand in line for a long time waiting for your turn to get your badge.

People expect more from conferences today, and there are lots of ways to make that first touchpoint incredible. Let's take a look at 10 ways you can make your check-in process incredible.

1. Set Yourself Up for Success

Even before the event starts, there are ways you can make event check-in a breeze for your attendees. First off, you should always send a pre-event email that details everything they need to know for the event. This can include things like:

  • Where to stay
  • What time to arrive at the event for check-in
  • What to bring to the event (I.D., ticket, a smile)
  • Where to enter the event and where registration will be
  • Any challenges or issues they may face (e.g. the registration desk is a bit difficult to find, so make sure to take this escalator to this hallway)
  • Who to contact in case of questions

When you're onsite for your site walkthrough, make sure to walk the space from your attendees' perspective. Pretend like you've never been to the venue before and you don't have the knowledge about the space that you do as an event manager. 

Consider every aspect from the second they walk in the front doors. Is it easy to find the registration table once they enter? Is it clear what table or check-in kiosk they're supposed to go to? Is there clear branding for your event? All of these things should be considered thoughtfully so you can address any challenges prior to the event.

Lastly, make sure to thoroughly train your staff on your check-in process. Have an onsite schedule that details who will be staffing what areas when, and make sure everyone clearly knows their responsibilities. Also, make sure there is a clear line of command so that any questions or issues can be raised to the right person onsite.

2. Choose the Right Technology

Registration and check-in technology is a huge factor in whether or not your event will make a good first impression (or create headaches for your onsite staff). Choose technology that will allow you to customize your registration to your needs and that will easily integrate with your onsite registration processes (i.e. badge printing, onsite registration, hotel changes, etc.)

Here's our list of recommended registration platforms to help you narrow down your search.

3. Ask the Right Questions

During registration, make sure to include any relevant questions that might help your check-in process.

For instance, if badges need to have stickers on them to indicate food preferences, make sure that question is included so you can print the badges with the appropriate indicators.

Or, if you're looking to include a personal touch in each person's welcome bag, you could include a question around preferences to help streamline that process.

Make sure you also clearly indicate what name should be used on the person's badge to streamline check-in. Some events prefer to use the attendee's formal name (mainly for internal events) while others will allow for creative names or titles to be included on badges. Think through what makes the most sense and make sure you indicate that during the registration process.

4. Make Sure the Flow is Clear and Smooth

As mentioned earlier, it's extremely important to consider the check-in flow from your attendees' perspective. Where do they go to receive their badge? Where do they go to get a gift bag? Then where do they go and what do they do after that?

Things like signage, agendas, and staff will be extremely helpful in facilitating this flow. Make sure there is signage pointing toward registration and above the tables, plus staff properly placed to direct traffic. 

If you're doing an in-person check-in process, have your staff direct attendees to the next step (e.g. "general session starts in an hour, you can grab a snack at the buffet to your left"). If you're doing self-check-in, consider having staff to the side to direct traffic once people print their badges.

The other factor to consider is lines.

How can you prevent lines and specific areas from getting too crowded? You can consider setting up a table far away from registration for people to receive their gift bag, or placing them under the general session seats, for example.

You'll want to take a look at the space you have and consider different ways to run registration or different areas to have people go after they receive their badge to lessen the amount of congestion in one area.

You can also consider self-check-in kiosks, which we'll discuss below.

5. Think About Including Self-Check In

Self-check-in kiosks can be a great way to reduce lines during registration and also release some of your staff to help with other event tasks. 

These have become very popular in recent years to make the check-in process smoother and also feel a little "cooler". You can integrate these kiosks with your registration platform to make the process extremely personalized and quick. Plus, any issues with misspelled names can be quickly managed in real-time and won't require reprinting badges.

However, you'll want to consider cost for this setup. The hardware tends to be much more expensive than printing badges. Plus, you'll need technologically-savvy staff onsite to help manage any issues that may arise with the kiosks.

Overall, these can improve the attendee experience by creating an efficient way to check in, but you'll want to closely evaluate value for your event.

6. Designate Welcome Staff

Even if you have self-check-in, it's important to designate a certain number of staff to welcome and direct attendees to the right places. These people are essentially the face of your event and will be a very important part of your first impression.

We recommend not giving these staff members multiple jobs (such as registration AND welcoming) so that they can really focus on making the first experience for attendees positive. They should be well-trained on how to answer questions and how to welcome guests, and be able to relay any issues to the event lead so those issues can be addressed quickly. 

7. Include Personal Touches

Personalization is incredibly important for today's attendee experience, so you can try to incorporate personal touches throughout the check-in process to elevate it just a bit more. 

These don't have to be complicated things. Spending a couple extra seconds chatting with someone about where they flew in from or what they're most excited about can be a great way to make the person feel welcome and excited about your event.

Obviously, you'll want to balance this with wait times for registration, but hopefully by employing the other strategies above, you'll be able to slow down and give each person a personalized experience for their check-in.

8. Consider Additional Touchpoints

Your attendees' check-in experience at their hotel is also an important aspect of welcoming them to the event. If you're managing room blocks for the event, consider speaking with the hotel about special ways they can welcome guests.

Provide a customized itinerary from the hotel that provides directions to your registration desk (or venue), ask them to include a welcome amenity, or have them provide a welcome message on each room's TV.

These little extra touchpoints can really make the check-in experience feel unique and personal.

9. Keep the Same Energy Throughout the Conference

Now that check-in is over, don't lose that energy for the rest of the conference. Channel the same attention to detail to each experience your attendees have, from the wait they might have at the bar to the time they sit in listening to general sessions.

Consider unique ways to make the attendee experience even better, from making your sessions more interactive to offering fun networking opportunities.

10. Mix It Up - But Don't Forget Your Attendees

What are some ways you can make the check-in experience completely different?

Maybe it's offering a lounge area for people to mingle and get their badges more casually throughout the morning.

Or perhaps you integrate check-in with your event app and make it a completely touch-free experience.

Maybe your attendees like a lot of interaction, so they'd prefer a multi-step check-in process that includes receiving customized recommendations for the conference or a personalized gift bag.

Really think through your attendees and what type of process they would appreciate the most. Not every "cool" new technology works for every group, so it's vital that you understand your attendees' unique preferences.

And don't forget: it's the personal touch that matters. Even the coolest event technology can't replace interacting with the event hosts.

Make Your Conference Check-In Process Shine with GoGather

Ready to look at specific strategies to improve your conference? Let's chat about your goals and discover new ways to make check-in not only streamlined but fun.


Katie Moser

Katie Moser is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at GoGather. She has an extensive background in creating content and branding for events, working with speakers, and managing agendas for conferences. When she's not updating blog posts and sending out social media posts, she helps clients identify areas of opportunity for their events from branding to communications. In her downtime, she enjoys spending time at one of the many beautiful San Diego beaches, exploring new breweries, or chilling at home with her cat.