Not so long ago, many trade show organizers stopped mailing badges due to improved badge printing technologies. With a simple barcode on their registration confirmation, an attendee could print their badge at the show in a matter of seconds. What this meant though is that there were many more check-in stations required at the event. It would be normal to walk into a convention center to see massive registration areas capable of producing tens of thousands of badges over a few days. 

Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, we were already seeing fewer massive registration areas as shows began placing badge printing stations in other areas outside the exhibition venue. In light of the pandemic, massive registration areas may be a thing of the past. As the industry begins to incorporate stricter health and safety protocols in their face-to-face event planning, decentralized registration is one of the ways that will move the industry forward into this new normal.  

Here are some of the reasons why more shows would want to do away with the one central registration area.

Space is at a premium.

If attendees must maintain a distance of at least six feet from each other, it would make for quite a long registration line! Having multiple areas outside of the venue, such as at the airport or hotel, not only prevents areas where people must congregate, but also enables growing shows to free up that prime space to sell to sponsors or exhibitors.

Registration technology has gone mobile.

Printing badges from registration carts has become easier, as they have their own internet connection, run on batteries, and can literally be rolled to wherever they are needed. Additionally, on-demand contactless badge printing stations enable attendees to punch in a code on their phone to instantly print a badge at the station, eliminating the need for printing stations to be manned and reducing exposure to high-touch areas.

Printing badges from registration carts has never been easier. There is no longer a need to order services from third parties. A registration cart can have its own internet connection and run on batteries! It can literally be rolled to wherever it is needed.

Bring the badge to the attendee and not the attendee to the badge.

What this means is to bring registration to places the attendees already are: 

    • Badge pick up at the airport. More and more shows are adding badge pickup stations in baggage claim areas. This makes it convenient for attendees. Once they pick up their bags they can stop and pick up their show badge at the same time. By keeping badge pickup areas open during the key arrival times, an event can see up to 40% of attendees get badged before even stepping foot inside the convention center.
    • Badge pick up at the major hotels. By placing badge pick up stations at all your major hotel blocks, attendees can now check into the hotel as well as the show. Many attendees will also network in the hotel lobby and hotel bars so try to get badge pickup stations near these high traffic areas and keep them open past ‘normal business hours’ to maximize output offsite.
    • Think ‘outside the center’. Utilize space outside the convention center. Registration tents can achieve the same impact as if the registration area were inside. Also, think about putting badge pickup stations strategically placed outside the convention center such as near parking lots and shuttle bus drop-offs. Remember, the key is to get as many people badged as you can before they enter the building!

Virtual badges.

Perhaps the most decentralized registration option of all, some shows will eliminate printed badges altogether. Instead, they’ll send virtual badges to registrants, which can be added and stored digitally in a mobile wallet. When they’re ready to go on the exhibition floor, they’ll enter a turnstile and scan the virtual badge at a kiosk to gain access, similar to entering a gate at the airport.

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