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Not all online registration vendors are created equal, so it pays to do a little research and ask a few questions before you sign-up with a vendor. Check out these six important questions you should ask before choosing which vendor will help you with your event. 

1. Do you have to let the vendor access your server or install software on it?

Most online registration companies will “host” your online form on their own servers. This means the vendor manages the information and you don’t have to worry about any software installation or maintenance and tech support issues. Ideally, this is what you should look for in a vendor, as running the registration off your own server will only bring you several problems.

First, you'll have an increased security risk, especially if you are giving outside people access to your server. Also, you'll incur the additional cost of installing software and using your own technical people (if you have any) to set up and maintain the system for the duration of your event.

2. How are credit card payments handled?

With many online registration vendors, payment processing is handled through their merchant account. This means that you do not have to have your own merchant and gateway company accounts. Sounds pretty great, right?

Some online registration companies will give you the option to open up your own merchant and gateway company accounts. However, this means you need to carefully review all of the set up, monthly and processing fees associated with your own accounts. In the long term, having your own accounts can be more costly and will carry more responsibility and obligation on your part.

3. Are there other payment options?

Not everyone wants to use a credit card, even in the 21st century. The good news is that some vendors will offer a way for you to securely collect credit card information and process the payment as if it was obtained by fax or phone.

Otherwise, you'll be looking at manually inputting all of this data. While manual processing is more labor intensive on your part, it can be less expensive to use depending on the cost of labor and the number of expected replies you're dealing with on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis.

4. What will your registration form look like?

The display of your form will range from vendor to vendor, depending on the software they use to build your form as well as what their typical design is like. Some online registration vendors just provide a standard look for the online forms while others provide forms that can look like their own website.

We suggest trying to find a vendor that provides branded online forms to match the look and feel of your website and/or printed materials. This synchronicity will appear more professional to your users and will offers a seamless transition from your website to the online registration area.

5. How will you access the data stored in the online database?

While this preference will typically depend on your work flow, there are two primary options.  First, you may want to download your registration data from the database to a spreadsheet you can manipulate on your own computer. Otherwise, you may want to access this data in real time via online reports on the internet. 

Both options are typically possible with online registration vendors. However, we still recommend that you ask your vendor about the reporting they offer to make sure it meets your needs.

6. Does the online registration vendor have any references?

It's key that you ask all of your potential vendors for direct references and then follow up to check them. This review will allow for you to make sure you are dealing with a reputable company that has a track record of providing great customer service.

Too often you'll see the same old stock images with uplifting testimonials on a vendor page without any sources attached. While most people might fall for it, make sure that you do your homework on this one!  

Planning an event, especially a big one, can seem like a daunting task. There are a million things to do and, if you’re like most organizations, very few people to help. But don’t worry! We’ve broken down the event planning process into nine simple steps for overall success. Check out our free guide 9 Steps to Event Planning below!

9 Steps to Event Planning