Overcoming Obstacles in Real Time — InfusionCon 2012 Retrospective

Business is easy when everything runs correctly. For us, that means attendees have been sent and brought their QR codes, our mobile app (iOS or Android) works quickly, and name badges appear almost as fast as we can tear them from the printer. When those three things are working in harmony, the check-in process takes about 20 seconds.

Yes, you heard that right, 20 seconds. For 95% of InfusionCon 2012 attendees, the system worked as designed. Lines went quick, badges and lanyards were procured, and attendees went on their merry way to see Gary Vaynerchuk or Chris Brogan or one of the many InfusionSoft employees that gave fantastic presentations.

But when things DON’T go correctly, say when there’s a software glitch, internet bandwidth isn’t sufficient, WiFi isn’t strong, registrations aren’t filled out correctly, reservations aren’t in the system or (insert your issue here) goes wonky, it’s up to the people on site to handle the issue. And no, it doesn’t always involve fixing a specific issue, because some things just can’t be fixed while in production. And whatever the cause may be, the bigger problem is this: attendees are standing in line longer than they’d like to.

Our main focus, regardless of scope or size of event, is to reduce the amount of time spent standing in line to check in. Once it’s beyond 20 seconds, it’s our problem, regardless of root cause. So when things get a little more hectic than you’d like, learn from what we did to help make the experience better for everyone.

Douglas Adams’s old advice still rings true. Unless panicking, and by panicking I mean glaring at attendees, sniping at your colleagues, pulling an Office Space on your malfunctioning equipment or berating your boss has an extremely high probability of solving your issue — we doubt it does — don’t do it. Just smile. It may be a fake smile at first, but try grinning like an idiot for more than a few seconds and see if it doesn’t help things.

Be Honest
I can’t say this enough. If something doesn’t work correctly, say that. There’s no reason to place blame or give specifics while checking each attendee in, but it’s helpful to share that there’s something off. Attendees will appreciate the honesty, and are likely to empathize if given the chance.

Send Them On Their Way
Once we realized our issues may cause attendees to miss part of the conference, we instructed them to head right in to the keynote. There was nothing to be gained by them standing in line, and certainly no loss in allowing them inside without a badge. We bet most of those people, even if they hadn’t already paid, would be willing to come back and get registered later. We were right.

Smile. A lot.
Tell jokes. Ask questions. Be upfront with those in line. Dance. Sing. There’s no reason why waiting in line has to be a negative experience, so take advantage of the time you have people captivated. Or you could bring them water. Or snacks. Or just smile. They’ll smile back.

Fix The Problem For Next Time
While we always take full responsibility for issues at registration, we know that it’s not always our fault. And if it IS our fault, we make sure to fix the problem as soon as possible. At InfusionCon, we realized that our wireless print server wasn’t behaving the way we designed (and tested) it to, so we bypassed it. Next time, we won’t be so reliant on its convenience.

InfusionCon 2012 was one heckuva event. Looking forward to InfusionCon 2013 at the Westin Kierland!