Tips on finance/registration for the Mohonk workshop
Dan Ellis <email@example.com>
- The TRANZ330 (fully electronic) credit-card option from the IEEE is
a good deal (it's cheaper when you figure in the handling charge for slips)
and it's a really sweet machine.
- When you gather credit-card numbers be sure to get the expiry date
too. You have to type this in to the machine. I ended up having to write
back to people who had downloaded the original version of my form from
the web asking them to give me their expiry dates. (That's another nice
thing about having the forms on the web site rather than sending out a
paper authors' kit - I could fix the forms as soon as I realized what the
problem was). You don't need a signature.
- It seems like the spaces I left for CC numbers and addresses on my
form were too small. I guess I should have tried printing it out and guess
how large people will write.
- Don't panic if registration looks low. By our "early registration"
cutoff date (two months before the conference) I had just 60 registrants
and thought we weren't going to be able to pay the hotel. But we had 125
total, at least 20 of them in the last week or on-site.
- Try to be smart and deliberate about your records keeping. Given that
you're going to register 100 people or more, you don't want to have too
much effort for each one. I used a paper-based registration (i.e. people
faxed or paper-mailed me their registration forms) because I didn't want
people sending credit card information in the clear across the web, but
as a result I introduced some typos into peoples' names, and I couldn't
be bothered to retype most of the information. For the T-shirt delivery,
I had a web-form which was much neater, because the addresses were all
already in electronic format, and the recipients were responsible for all
the typos. Maybe have people type in their addresses electronically, then
just fax you the CC number, or maybe figure out how to have a secure web
- People were interested in sharing rooms and in sharing rides to the
hotel from the local airports. We should have co-ordinated this centrally
on the web site. Even just a way for people to post their names and email
addresses so that others could contact them. Obviously, one goal is for
the committee to stay out of the booking of the rooms, since it's very
convenient that participants do this by themselves at the moment without
- Setting up the budget should be pretty easy if you start with my one.
It's a standard form used by the IEEE (unless they change it), so you just
have to fill in the slots. They give us a loan of $3500 to get us going;
they do make you work for it a little, but I was able to make a strong
enough case. This workshop is a nice little earner for them.
- Registration form/procedure: I designed a form to collect the registration
information (see file: regform.pdf). It laid out the registration rates,
the payment options, and collected name, address, email, phone, fax and
CC information (if appropriate). When I got a form back via fax or email,
I immediately entered it into a paper ledger under the name of the registrant
and the amount, and marked the form so I knew I'd recorded it; this was
in an effort to notice if I mispaced forms before completely processing
them. I then batched up the forms over a week or two, then did subsequent
processing in bulk. From the forms, I used the CC and rate information
to run the CC charges, used the email information to email acknowledgements
- after I had successfully run the CC charge. I then retyped the name,
rate, payment method and email address into a spreadsheet recording all
the registrants which also kept track of the total number of registrants
and the total gross receipts. I was able to extract the data for the mailmerge
to print all the receipts (see file: receipts-template) from this spreadsheet,
and also the names for the nametags. I didn't use the postal address or
phone number info from the form. When I was printing the badges, I thought
it might have been nice to put affiliations on the badges, but I hadn't
asked people what affiliation they wanted to express on the form, so I
dropped it. I don't think this procedure was particularly clever or efficient,
but I describe it just to give a starting point.
Someone commented that the complicated hotel registration details and
contact information should have been printed on the registration form,
since people would obviously filling them both in at once, and it would
have saved them having to look it up on the web site.
- Social functions: We ended up with over $4000 surplus in 1997 (at least, that's what I anticipate), partly because the registration was absolutely maxed out at 125 paying participants. Before hand, I was nervous about committing to have social events with open bars, but we should have done this every night. Mohonk agreed to limit the cost of each one to $800, so they were quite affordable. Too bad the beer was so awful, though.
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