One of the most important keys to a successful event in a smooth check-in experience. Long lines, attendee confusion, technical issues can all put a bad taste in attendees’ mouths before the event has started. In order to effectively manage check-in, event organizers can go through a short analysis of their expectations to determine what is required to provide a successful check-in experience.
Step 1: Volume and Velocity
The first and simplest step is to think about how many attendees you are expecting at your event. Every event planner should have a good idea of this. Then think about how quickly you will need to check-in your attendees (you average check-in velocity) and what will be the peak check-in velocity you need to support. For example, let’s say your event will have 500 attendees and your check-in desk will be open from 7:00 AM to 12:00 PM. You might assume the velocity is 100 attendees per hour (500 attendees/5 hours), but that is probably not what will really happen. This is where peak velocity comes into the equation. If you look at a proper expectation over time, it might look something like this:
7:00 AM - 8:00 AM – 100 attendees
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM – 200 attendees
9:00 AM - 10:00 AM – 100 attendees
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM – 50 attendees
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM – 50 attendees
In this scenario, your actual peak velocity is 200 attendees per hour (200 attendees/1 hour) during the 8:00-9:00 AM window. This is the key metric required to now determine the check-in requirements for the event.
Step 2: Average Check-In Time Per Attendee
This is probably the toughest number to estimate as most event planners underestimate individual tasks and don’t account for enough “extra time,” or time spent digging through purses/wallets for IDs, superfluous questions and small talk, changing badge info, etc. The average check-in time will depend on what type of a process you use – self check-in or staff check-in – whether you will using a name search or some automated scan (e.g. QR code), whether you will be asking additional questions during check-in (e.g. special meal requests), and how much security will be part of the process (ID requirements, photo, etc.). Below are some of the items which should be considered (in this example we will assume an organizer check-in scenario):
Organizer Check-In Attendee Flow:
- Attendee walks up to check-in station (5 seconds)
- Attendee provides their name or a code to scan to staff (10 seconds)
- Confirmation of identity (5-20 seconds)
- Badge prints out and is retrieved from printer (15 seconds)
- Lanyard retrieved and badge attached (5 seconds)
- Badge and conference bag handed to attendee and attendee question(s) answered (10 seconds)
This does not account for “extra time,” which could be an average of 10 seconds per attendee, but it could also be 30 seconds or more for attendees with multiple questions, attendees who might be multi-tasking or even on the phone while checking-in (we have all seen that). In this scenario, let’s assume an average check-in time per attendee of approximately 60 seconds.
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Step 3: Throughput per Check-In Station and Number of Stations
Finally, to determine check-in station and technology requirements, the rest is math. In our example the peak velocity is 200 attendees per hour and the average check-in time per attendee is 60 seconds (1 minute). This means that each check-in station can support 60 check-ins per hour, and your event requires 3-4 check-in stations (200 attendee peak velocity/60 check-ins per hour).
So, we’re done, right? Not quite… It's important to also confirm printer throughput and determine the number of printers required to ensure printing does not become a bottleneck. In this scenario, printing time is approximately 10-12 seconds, which means either 1 or 2 printers will suffice. In this case, assuming printer redundancy is also a benefit, I would recommend 2 printers for a 2:1 check-in station to printer ratio.
While this can be used as a template for your own event, it is important to have a partner that has experience and that can walk you through this discussion/calculation and determine your specific event requirements. Another key factor is the risk-level associated with the event – is this event filled with VIP customers or is it an informal internal event? The most important advice I could give is, don’t leave your check-in configuration to chance. Think it through, work with a trusted partner who understands the technology but asks a lot of questions, and make sure the first impression your attendees have of your event is a good one.