Learning patterns/Setting-up a conference registration form
What problem does this solve?
So you are organising a conference. You know your audience and now you're going to start inviting people to register. In order to not come back with emails "oh, and we forgot to ask you this: …" or defend yourself over too many questions asked, you need to know beforehand, what info you want to gather and why. Here we list various possible sections of a registration form, of which you might need only some, depending on the case.
What is the solution?
- Do you need a registration form in the first place?
The premise for this learning pattern is Wikimedia CEE Meeting - a rather large international conference, with a hundred participants from different countries, and lots of information was to be asked from attendees. For a national conference one needs much less information, since section about visas is not needed. If one, say, organises a conference for attendees from the same city, travel and accommodation sections won't be needed either. If it is an anonymous gathering then a wiki page will be enough for signing up
The example we're talking about was made on Google Forms platform. It suits the needs and naturally follow if organisers have history of using this company's mail service. However, Google Forms are already controversial in parts of our community, in case you use them for registration make sure to give indication what data you gather, how long you will store it and who will have access to it, and better do it right on the first page. (Or don't, if you're going to follow A fine selection of mistakes for organizing an international conference).
There are lots of form services online (Typeform, Engageform, Responster, SurveyMonkey, Cognito Forms etc), so if you foresee possible concerns, find a service that won't have them.
- Conference program
We find it useful to ask several questions about the program of the future conference at the beginning of the form, when the users still have fresh mind. These can be
- Please name up to three thematic areas you would like to focus on during the conference. Why do you think they are important?
- Please name one or two skills, tools, or resources, that you want to be able to bring back home to your local organization/group/community.
- What skills, knowledge or insights can you bring to share that others can learn/benefit from?
It would be easy to ask vaguely, What presentation would you like to see at the conference?, but if you want usable suggestions, ask inducing questions.
- Attendance information
Next you can ask about attendance: if your conference lasts several days or consists of several parts, then it's possible that attendee won't be able to be present the whole time but only part of it. If 40 people register to your closed event but 20 of them will be able to attend both days of the conference, 10 - only first day, and 10 - only second day, then you only need room for 30 people, right?
If you provide food, ask people if they have food preferences and/or allergies, this is important to know beforehand (see Meals during conferences).
Also ask people, if they have a disability or any additional special needs. Sadly, not all venues in the world are truly accessible, you might need additional preparations.
- Personal Information
You'll need a contact channel, probably email. When you work with Wikimedians, you also want to know usernames. When you provide food, accommodation, access to closed venue, you also need real names. Respect those who don't want their name and username linked, ask if real names can be used publicly and if people say "no", be sure to follow their wish.
For international conference we also asked to fill in emergency contact information.
If you provide accommodation, you ask people if they need it. Maybe they don't, maybe vice versa, they can accommodate someone else at their home and someone else would like to stay at other Wikimedian's home rather than in the hotel - take these possibilities into account, they can reduce cost of event and help socialising.
If you provide transportation, you need to know possible means of transport and departure points, preferable date and time, so that the arranged travel was satisfactory to the person.
If you don't provide transport, it is still useful to know when people arrive and depart.
- Visa support
Inviting people from abroad, ask if they need a visa to come.
When a person needs a visa to get to your conference, they heavily rely on your help. To write a good invitation letter you'll need to know passport details and preferably name of the consul.
- Passport information
You ask passport information if you arrange services for the person, the usual list looks like this:
- Passport number
- Issue date (dd/mm/yyyy)
- Expiration date (dd/mm/yyyy)
- Place where passport was issued
- Country that issued passport
Please explain your participants what are you going to do with personal data. Inform them whether you will
- publish list of participants' names anywhere,
- take photo-, audio-, video- recording at the event,
- upload materials on Commons or elsewhere,
- pass any information to the third parties,
and give a possibility to say no.
Make sure that your data policy complies with laws of your country, explain it in a nutshell in the form, so that people know to what they agree, filling it in.
Participants have to be aware of the friendly space policy in force.
- Form optimisation
- Test how much time your form takes to fill in and include a note about this at the beginning.
- If the form gets long, add contents at the beginning, too.
- If you have sections with long answers, ask to prepare them before filling in the form: no one likes to face bad internet connection destroying long passages written into the form.
- Don't make people fill in the parts of the form that are not applicable to them.
Things to consider
Explore other conferences learning patterns here on Meta.
When to use
Organising any event called a conference.