Online Event Registration – Custom or Off-the-shelf?

Online Event Registration

Medical event planners must be agile and quick on their feet. When the moderator’s plane arrives late or your KOL’s microphone suddenly goes silent, the game plan can change at a moment’s notice. But the real heavy lifting comes before the first attendee ever even walks into the meeting room. Selecting program participants, navigating busy schedules, and negotiating travel accommodations can consume your whole day, taking focus away from content-creating and relationship-building. And with the Sunshine Act in place, there are more details than ever to track—and a simple reporting discrepancy can lead to a letter from the FDA or worse for your client. That’s where online event registration comes in.

Taking the Process Online

With the convenience of up-to-date, downloadable Excel® reporting, automated emails, and electronic forms—scientific communications professionals are using online event registration tools to streamline the planning process and save time.

The benefits to online event registration websites are clear.

  • Electronic Forms. Capture contact information, travel arrangements, hotel accommodations and special requirements with one click.

  • Online Surveys. Get instantaneous real-world feedback to measure the effectiveness of your program.

  • Automated Outreach. Confirmation and reminder emails streamline the communication process.

  • Password-protection. “Admin” credentials make it easy to securely access and edit attendee and meeting information.

  • Database Power. Store speaker, attendee and KOL information…then create easy and accurate up-to-the-minute reports.

Build or Buy: Is Off-the-Shelf for You?

Out-of-the-Box platforms can offer the features described above. However, depending on the number of programs you run per year, a large-scale software platform may not make sense. The cost per user may seem affordable, but there are some additional fees that you should ask about up front, for example:

  • Licensing Fee. Typically, each user needs a license. Thus, if you run eight programs this year with 100 different attendees at each, that’s 800 licenses…plus any internal employees who need “Admin” access.

  • Software Purchase. This blanket fee may have to be paid annually.

  • Customization. You’ll encounter additional charges for corporate branding, service or system upgrades, etc. Some software companies might even require you to include their logo or copyright line somewhere on the site, which can cause compliance issues.

  • Technical Support. With off-the-shelf software, you get a product that has been tested extensively—but that doesn’t mean bug-free. Compatibility issues or functionality glitches are all-too-common and can require extensive reprogramming. You’ll probably get limited support for a short period of time. After that, every phone call or customer support “ticket” for IT issues, functionality glitches, etc. will cost you.

Build or Buy: Do You Need a Custom Solution?

Don’t automatically assume that building a custom online event registration website is a complicated or expensive process. An agency that specializes in all aspects of scientific communications can bring several important benefits to the table.

  • Efficiency. A good agency will use their birds-eye view to ensure that you pay for exactly what you need…and nothing you don’t.
  • Freedom. The sky’s the limit for design, branding, functionality and features. Off-the-shelf software usually requires that you stay within tightly-prescribed templates to function properly.
  • Industry Expertise. Medical meetings don’t work like gatherings in most other industries. Use a company that specializes in event planning specific to the healthcare community. Then make sure the development timeline they give you includes plenty of system and functionality testing. Finally, before you hire anybody do your research, get recommendations and ask lots of questions.
  • Cross-Platform Compatibility. Ask about compatibility with other systems or hardware that you or anyone who accesses the program might use. And keep in mind that increasingly, meeting attendees manage event registration from their smartphone or tablet while they are on the go. So be sure to consider mobile options.

Whether you decide to buy off-the-shelf or build something customized, answer these important questions before getting started:

  • How many events will you run in a calendar year?

  • How many users will access the site (include admins, attendees, and speakers)?

  • On what device will they be log in (desktop, tablet, mobile phone, etc)?

  • Do you need email capacity for invites, RSVPs, reminders, and confirmations?

  • Will your event(s) offer multiple “tracks” for attendees (e.g., workshops or breakout sessions)?

  • Will meeting materials need to be archived for post-program access? Will that include video or audio capacity (i.e., requiring more storage and bandwidth)?

  • Will your participant database need to integrate into a larger enterprise database?

  • What other information needs to be captured (for example, KOL mapping/affiliations, speaker, venue and accommodation information, etc.)?

Parting Thoughts

Need help getting started? Call Creative MediaWorks or send us an email to speak with our Multimedia Manager at We specialize in multimedia solutions specific to the healthcare and scientific communications community with extensive experience developing custom Event Registration Websites and Speaker Training Websites. Contact us to learn more about how CMW can help you tailor a solution that’s an exact match to the needs of your company, your program attendees and your clients.

As our blog grows, we’ll be diving deeper into online meeting registration to examine specific features, new technology, and some real-world examples. So keep checking in. And if you haven’t joined our email list, click here to sign up!