One of our clients, a small-staff association, wanted to improve user experience during the annual conference registration . In the past they just used their AMS, netForum Pro to register attendees but increased customer service calls forced them to look for an alternate solution. This time around they wanted to simplify the registration process and reduce the work that their staff will need to do in managing registrations.
Our recommendation was to use a dedicated web based Event Management software. Some advantages of using an online event management software to manage your events and registration are
- Provides online access and a dedicated branded event website.
- Automate the entire event registration. Users could manage their own registrations. Optionally they are allowed to modify their registrations and even initiate refunds.
- Process credit card payments.
- All event and registration data is secure.
- Affordable for a small staff organization
- Can integrate with the current membership database.
The first 4 features are pretty much universally supported by most good quality event management software.
Its the last feature that we were most interested in. Reducing staff overhead by letting attendees key in information does reduce your staffs overhead, but this information already exists in your membership database, why enter it again at all? Wouldn’t it be better if most of the registration information is already filled in for your members?
Most of the registration information including attendee name, address and contact information is already in your membership database (substitute with your CRM or AMS). Since the organization we were doing this for already used netForum Pro and Abila provides a comprehensive set of web services that provide secure access to your member data, all we needed was an event management software that would support this integration.
This helped us in selecting Cvent since it provides this exact capability we were looking for. They call it Single Sing On (SSO), but it is a little more than just single sign on. In effect they allow externalizing user authentication and also allow for pre-populating user information.
When a user goes to our dedicate event website and try to register, Cvent redirects them to the Organizations homepage. Here they see the familiar login page. Once we authenticate the user with their netForum credentials (username and password), we redirect the user back to Cvent and also send details about the user which includes
- Full name
- Phone number
- Email address
- Membership Information
The interaction is a little more complicated than shown in the previous figure. The following diagram shows some of the HTTP redirection that takes place when performing the SSO –
Since Cvent recognizes the organization as a trust identity provider, it just accepts all the information regarding the user and creates one in their own system. The user now sees most of their registration information already pre-filled and can make changes if something has changed or enter their payment details.
What is cool is that we can even recognize different category of users (in our case just Active Members and Non-members). This allows us to offer different registration fees to different users.
One minor caveat – Cvent did recommend using their SAML based SSO solution. After several tries and working with their support it simply did not work. It was either not installed on their end or their were some configuration errors. Either way it still seems experimental with minimal documentation. We ended up using HTTP FORM based SSO which also uses SSL (and a slight work around for mutual authentication), so it was just as secure if non-standards based. If you are looking at SSO with Cvent, please use this method first and if time permits try the SAML based approach.