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Registration is the area of the convention that deals with the members of the con, in particular in signing them up and in providing the various member services once they have joined.

Often Registration is a part of Membership Services.

Registration can be considered to be two parts, At-Con Registration Desk, and everything else.

At-Con Registration DeskEdit

  • Hand out badges and membership packs to people who have pre-registered. Some people like lanyards, some clips, so have boxes of both. Have generic bags of publications/flyers and personalised envelopes with badges, programme schedules etc, so the personal boxes are smaller.
  • Take money from on the door/at-con memberships and provide badge, membership pack etc. to new members
  • ABSOLUTELY VITAL (this goes wrong far more often than you'd expect), make sure that the money taken at-con is cross-checked against the memberships taken and that everything agrees. Give the money to your Treasurer with a copy of what it is paying for, and then make sure that all those memberships are added to the membership database. Far too often everyone is wiped out at the end of the con and paperwork goes missing or ends up incomplete and this always leads to questions and problems and "did we charge this credit card?" type questions and "why is the cash box £35 short?".

Somethings to think aboutEdit

I (ChrisO'Shea) replied to an LJ entry recently about important things for convention organisers to consider for the at-con registration. The article they pointed to talked about how to handle long queues of people waiting to register, whether to post out pre-reg badges, how to make big visible signs for the various registration queues that can be seen *from* the queue and I replied that there were a lot more things to consider, and came up with this quick off-the-cuff list ...

There's the issue of membership transfers, badgenames that don't match real names, families where the parents have different last names and don't want to be divided into different queues ... where does Larry Van Der Putte get sorted (V, D or P) ... do you put membership packs for guests, dealers, artists, authors, etc. in with general registration or do you lose them in places all over the con where people shouldn't have access to without a membership badge? Do you hand out registration packs *with* the badges or have a separate pickup for those? Do you have programme participant letters in the membership packs or are those available from Green Room? Can you handle credit cards, cheques, Euros. What about people who show up with (or without) some confirmation they have paid but who aren't on the membership list? Do you keep statistics of how many people have picked up their packs? What do you do with the leftover packs and badges after the con? How to keep finances sorted out during the con (if you collect money from the desks regularly during the day, and take the cash box away at night, have you got processes sorted out for the money to be properly reconciled against the memberships sold) ... have you thought about how you might handle refunds for someone who joins, discovers that they are at totally the wrong event and want a refund? Have you thought about someone who wants a day membership but just for the last couple of hours of the day as they have shown up after work and will have to go away again soon, but want to help with a room party for their club or see their friend in the masquerade (can you sell them a cheaper membership or are you locked into a set of values which will break the reconciliation if you sell something cheaper?) Have you thought about how to train the desk staff? Remember this is the first main contact attendees with have with the con, so people will be asking where to find Ops/GreenRoom/Dealers/ArtShow/The Bar/Food/Their Friends etc. and it's a great chance to make a good impression or to start the con off badly for each attendee, so desk staff need to know either the answers, or where the answers can be found. Have you thought about how long shifts should be for desk staff, whether they get supplied with water, how you cover if someone goes sick or has to dash off to the toilet ...

Everything ElseEdit

Pre-ConEdit

  • take memberships at other conventions
  • receive postal memberships
  • process internet memberships
  • send out PRs and pre-con newsletters to members (postal or electronic publications)
  • handle enquiries about "am I a member?", "can I upgrade?", membership transfers, hotel bookings etc.
  • update financial information to the Treasurer so that the income curve can be maintained and the budget can be updated in line with the actual membership income received
  • bank any money received
  • issue refunds (if your convention does so, most don't)

Post-ConEdit

  • update membership database with memberships taken at-con
  • update financials with any money received that hasn't been passed to Treasure at the convention
  • send out any post-convention publications
  • produce an address run for the following year's convention

Computerisation of Registration At-ConEdit

Steve Davies is a computer consultant who has considered the problem, and he says

Here is a piece of good advice. Do not listen to anyone who offers to computerise Registration. There is currently no way of doing this that does not involve either (1) unacceptably large amounts of money or (2) unacceptably lengthy delays at the Registration desk, or (more likely) both.

I have seen it done well precisely once, at Chicon 2000. Doing registration manually is usually simple, cheap and one can throw additional untrained people at it with some expectation of improving the throughput. As soon as you try and automate the process, you lose all this. Do not be misled by professional events which use computerised registration. These usually have spent a lot of money on the problem, have trained staff on Registration who use the system every working day of the year and the whole process is much simplified. Even then, it often takes longer to register someone than is possible with a manual system. Don't do it.

Of course there are people every year that think they can do it better, and one day they will be right, but as of 2008 it still breaks, causes delays and you *must* have a paper backup system for when the network fails, the Wi-Fi hiccups or your hard disk crashes. It's still faster to write it down on paper and enter it in later when the desk is quieter or after the con.

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