Event Registration is a Part of Event Planning!
2020 marks the sixth year I have been a part of the Rendezvous Event Planning – first as a Circle Ten event and the past 4 years as a larger Area 2 event.
And we are about a month out and (without fail) this is the time of year I get nervous. #EverySingleYear. Why? Because we are planning a 400-person event and we only have 30 registrations 30 days out.
Well, we have noticed an increasing trend of Crews and individuals registering at the last minute. This practice of registering at the last minute places a tremendous level of uncertainty on the event planners both from an event and financial perspective.
Having been involved in many council and national training events (e.g., Wood Badge, Seabadge), we regularly see last minute registrations. I understand we all have schedules that can change at the last minute – but I have a hard time believing that half the participants at a recent training event didn’t know their schedule more than two weeks in advance. And these are our leaders!
Now, I know there are some very well-meaning leaders who are thinking ‘plan ahead’. And if they don’t “plan ahead”, then don’t allow them to attend.
So, what is more important? The opportunity of another trained leader? The opportunity for another scout to participate in the event / program? Or adhering to the principle of “you should have planned ahead”. I think most of us will recognize that the former beats the latter every day of the week.
That being said, from ordering food to planning for the actual activities, everything becomes less expensive if we’re able to know who is planning to attend. We have tried incentives (event t-shirt included if you register by a given date) and penalties (additional cost to register after a particular date).
From a large-scale event planning perspective, neither incentives nor penalties work particularly well.
Incentives increase the cost of the event which works against affordability (next year, for example, it is very likely that we will only offer t-shirts for Venturing Rendezvous at an incremental cost – they will no longer be included in registration – which means we should be able to lower the event cost).
Penalties, on the other hand, are slightly more effective in that they have generally shielded us from losses but there is often surplus left over. There are two issues with this. First, there are no guarantees that this strategy works. Second, from an economic perspective, penalties resulting in surpluses are inefficient as the funding was not able to be used to support the event.
An illustration. For a 400 person Venturing Event, costs exceeding 10-12K are common. This number relies heavily on volunteer donations and stems from larger program and food costs. As our Scouts grow, so too must the program to remain relevant. (If you plan Venturing event on a Cub Scout / Scouts BSA budget your need to plan future Venturing events will diminish quickly). If you assume 40% of your attendees are last minute / walk-ups, and you commit 40% of your budget to that assumption – and nobody shows – you’re in the red. A 4K deficit is something no event planner wants (Several years ago, some planners of a major Venturing event absorbed a several hundred-dollar deficit to avoid going “into the red” for reasons which were directly related to late registrations). At the same time, if you charge a $10-15 penalty fee (large enough to be effective) you can end up with a food shortage while having money left in the bank.
I have another (related) blog entry I’ll write in the future about the decision-making process that goes into canceling events and the outcomes related when we have to go that route.
I could go on. But here is what I would like to leave everyone with.
- We are all volunteers.
- The event planning for many of these large-scale events are more complicated than may appear at first glance (in many cases, we are opening and closing a substantial portion of summer camp in a single day or weekend).
- The most painful / risky issues associated with planning go away when participants register early in the process (>2-3 weeks out)
- Please, please please – Register Early! It really is part of the event planning process!
By the way… Register your Unit NOW before the early bird pricing ends on March 5th and you get the incentive (Event Shirt!) and avoid the penalty (+$5/$10)!