Third: Plan Out Your Registration & Check-in Area

Planning a proper check-in

Are you checking in or registering people for your event/auction as they arrive onsite? If so, you need to ensure this process is seamless and moves along as quickly as possible. 

Here are some things to consider:

  • How many checkin stations do you need?
  • What equipment is necessary? 
  • What are the roles needed at checkin? 
  • What is the ideal checkin staff person like?
  • How should my checkin area be organized? 

Ok that may feel like a lot, but we are going to pack it into one article, so get ready! 

How many check-in stations do you need?

The number of stations you need will largely depend on

  • The number of guests coming to your event. 
  • Your event timeline (e.g. how long can you afford checkin to take?)
  • The size of your checkin area
  • Your budget
  • Your process

Lets cover each of those:

Number of guests coming

A skilled agent can checkin about 1 person per minute. Of course this varies based on what youare asking the agent to do.  But as a starting point, count on registration taking about one minute per person/couple. As stated above, we always recommend a minimum of three check-in stations, more depending on the size of your event. The time it takes to register a guest can be impacted by a number of factors:

  • Are you collecting additional information? (address, etc.)
  • Are you collecting a credit card?
  • Are you assigning or giving them a table number?
  • Is the person already registered in your guest list?
  • Does the person already have the Handbid app installed?

If you have an event with 350 people, it is our estimate you will register somewhere between 150-200 people (assuming some come checkin couples and bid together). Three check-in stations would be able to handle 50-70 people each and it would take about 50-70 minutes to get everyone registered.  Do you want to make check-in go faster? Require less information, get people registered in advance, or add more check in stations.  

If you need a simpler formula, here is one we often use:  Have 1.5 stations for every 100 persons you expect to checkin. Expecting 600 people to attend?  You need 9 people doing checkin (6 x 1.5)


How your budget impacts your checkin staff

So you may be thinking, there is NO WAY I can assemble the team I need to conduct a good checkin at my event.  Therefore, you ask your mobile bidding company to staff the entire checkin.  If you can afford it, this may appear to be a necessity and not a luxury.  Let us suggest, instead, that if you feel you need help, you hire 1-2 highly experienced (senior) staff from a mobile bidding company and allow them to turn your untrained unskilled volunteers into a formidable checkin team! We've done it here, so we know it can be done.  Besides, many mobile bidding companies (not us) simply use temp staffing agencies to staff their events anyways. Why not just cut them out and hire those people yourself. 

How your process affects checkin staff

What information you gather and what you give your guests can impact checkin time.  If you have your agents collecting addresses and kids birthdays (yep, seen it) or if you have your guests completing registration cards (we had one school have their parents update their contact info on a card at checkin) - expect your checkin time to take a while! 

We Hate Name Tags... Or our leave favorite thing at checkin - NAME TAGS!  Especially the ones that are pre-printed.  Outside of the guest that needs a new one because they replaced someone else, or the ones who had their name mispelled, name tags do nothing but slow down checkin. If you must have them, consider either having the guests write their own names or have the name tag station beyond the checkin area.

Our suggestion? Keep things simple at checkin.


How your timeline affects checkin staff

If people are expected to be sitting for dinner at 7 and your registration starts at 6, then you have an hour to run checkin.  So if you have 400 parties to checkin and you have 60 minutes to do it, that is 400 minutes of checkin time (e.g. 1 min per party) / 60 = 7 checkin people (we rounded up... always round up when counting volunteers..)


What equipment is necessary?

For most situations we recommend laptops/chromebooks/surface tablets.  Many agents like having a full keyboard and a mouse when doing checkin and laptops will afford them that luxury. 

You can do checkin from iPads and this can be a really slick way to do it.  But make sure your agents are comfortable using a tablet before you toss one in their hands!  Here is an article on how to do a checkin from iPads.  

Want to speed up the process of adding cards?  Then consider using a credit card reader on either the iPads (you rent those from Handbid) or from your laptops (you can buy these yourself).  Here is an article on credit card readers and how they work with Handbid.


What Roles are needed at Checkin?

Not all volunteers are alike. The types of staff you put at registration can make or break your checkin process.  We recommend the following roles:  Checkin Agent, Paddle Card supplier, Seating Escalation person and Greeter/ Marshall.

Selecting your checkin staff

Consider these traits when selecting your checkin staff:

  • Should be skilled on a computer.  This means they can navigate around a computer, use a mouse, and most importantly, TYPE! If you see one of your volunteers hunting and pecking around the keyboard, best to swap them out soon! (Let them hand out paddle numbers instead!)
  • Should be personable and friendly to your guests.  Remember, this is likely the first person who greets your guests (well hopefully not if you establish the greeter role).  Make sure this person is friendly.  After all, they will be collecting personal information from a guest including their credit card. No reason to make the guest feel uneasy about any of that!
  • Should be presentable.  We will let you decide what this means. You know your guests.  If you need to have a dress code for your volunteers in order to make them presentable at the event, then do it. It is your event. 
  • Should be able to hear.  Say what? Sorry, we couldn't hear your name over the 5 piece band the charity decided to put in the checkin area to entertain the guests.   Make sure your staff can hear because they  have a lot of questions to ask and some critical data to enter.  (And take note of the indirect knock on those events where the checkin area is so loud its nearly impossible to hear anything... save the band for inside)

Selecting your line Marshall (greeter)

This is an important role and is often not staffed at most events. You need one. Well we think you do.  The job of the line marshall is to keep the line moving!  They should greet your guests, explain to them what is about to happen (they will be giving the agents their information and also most likely a credit card to put on file) and they should direct people in line to the next available checkin station. 

Here are some important qualifications of your line Marshalls:

  • The should be polite, after all they are greeting your guests, but they also need to have a bit of a task master approach.  They need to keep the line moving.  So make sure you have people who can politely do that.  What are examples of what they should say? (you decide... here is one thought)

    "Sir, Susan can help you right over there get all checked in, have a great night." and "welcome to the Grand Gala, hope you all are doing great tonight. We are going to get you checked in here in just a second.  We are doing mobile bidding tonight, so make sure your phones are ready and charged up!  One of the team up front will get you registered if you want to bid and will ask you for a credit card to put on file to help you zip out of here quickly at the end of the night. While you wait, feel free to download the Handbid app to your phone if you have not done so already."

    Sound like a lot? Well then print that out on a small card and hand that out to guests when they arrive. 

  • What else? Line Marshalls SHOULD NOT know everyone. This is not a good job for your social butterflies or "huggers."   This is not a good time to catch up with the guests when they arrive and find out about their kids.  The line needs to move.  Leave the huggers and social butterflies for the "bid helper" jobs in the auction area.

If you have a large event, you may want to consider splitting the Line Marshall and greeter roles.  In fact, you may opt for 2-3 greeters (or more) that can work the line while the line marshall stands up near the front of the line and directs people to an checkin station. 

Bidder Card retriever

Anyone can do this really provided they can hear and they can pass out cards.  Believe it or not, certain people LOVE this job. Don't deny them the opportunity!  

This person's job is to stand behind the checkin agents, see which bidder numbers are being registered and hand that agent the correct bidder card that matches the paddle number in Handbid.  Once registration picks up, this goes really fast and the bidder card retrievers (if you have more than one) start to get a rhythm going on where cards need to go.  Believe it or not this process flows well. 

What skills do they need? Good enough hearing to hear the agent ask for the appropriate card.

Guest List Escalation Person

If Linda Jones is not happy where she is sitting (if your name is Linda Jones, sorry! We just made up that name for the sake of this example... please don't be offended!), it is not ideal to have the checkin agent deal with that.  There are a few key reasons why:

  • The agent likely is not familiar enough with the guest list to even know why Linda is not at the table she wants to be at.
  • The agent really needs to check in more people and these issues can take quite a bit of time to sort out. 

So we recommend someone who knows the guest list sits in the checkin area with a laptop and the power (authority) to make adjustments to the guest list to accommodate guests with seating issues (or just guests with issues in general).  

Setting up your checkin area

It is one thing to have 600 people attend and plan for 9 checkin agents. It is another thing to put them in an area where 600 people an 9 agents can not fit!  You would think that never happens but it does! Here are some things to consider when setting up your checkin area:

  • Use a big enough room that can hold at least 25% or more of your guests.  Make sure there is ample space to allow people to get in the door and get in line. Waiting outside for check-in may be uncomfortable if the weather is not suitable for long (or even short) periods of waiting. 
  • Do not put your checkin area right at the top or the bottom of an escalator.  We will let you picture in your head what happens when you do that. 
  • Make sure your checkin area is well lit and has WIFI access for your stations (and power)
  • Limit the extraneous noise in this area.  That means no bands or entertainment.  Just drinks (yes highly scientific studies show that giving a guest a drink when they arrive has shown to diffuse checkin stress by 90%).
  • Check-in works best if your check-in volunteers are standing. This makes it easier to have a conversation with your guests without them having to lean over. This can be easily accommodated by using "high top" cocktail tables, easily rented at any event location. 

Want to read more? See our attached ZEN and the Art of Checkin EBook.

If you would like more information on the credit card readers we prefer to use Click Here!


A Few Final things to Consider about Checkin (call them best practices)

  1. If your biggest fear is a line, well lines happen!  If you have 600 people coming and all of them show up at once, you will have a line (unless of course you have 600 checkin stations).   Don't freak out about the line - just keep it moving.    Consider offering a drink to those when they arrive to diffuse their line waiting stress. 
  2. Give your checkin staff water and mints.  They are talking a lot and their mouth will get dry. And their face is right in the face of your guest. It's a best practice that they have good breath. 

  3. Our list of Don'ts
    • DO NOT put paddle cards on tables. No no no! It does not save time, it wastes time. If that card is not tied to a registered bidder in Handbid, you will have a difficult time figuring out how to get that bidder registered and paid up at the end of the night (and for weeks to come)

    • DO NOT segment your checkin area by last name (unless you go through the pain of making sure the segments are all even). We have never seen this work well.

    • DO NOT allow guests to arrive with auction items and hand them to your checkin staff. Have a process for getting these and putting them into Handbid that does not involve your checkin team doing it.


Need more info or materials?

  1. Download our Zen Checkin eBook  
  2. Review our Webinar on Guest List Checkin
  3. Review our MasterClass Series on the Dreaded Checkin