Contributing Bloggers

The Hidden Costs of Free Event Registration Systems


Remember the advice “Buyer Beware” when considering a free or really cheap online registration system for your event. It’s tempting to consider such an event registration system if you’re on a budget or it’s a one-off event. But, not to sound too cynical, very little in life is genuinely free, and you should carefully read the Terms of Use before committing to the service. Here are two things to consider as you work out what that free or cheap registration service is really costing you.

The company offering the free service needs to have minimal costs. Where are they finding these savings?

Limited features

Cheap and free registration systems often have just a few features. Are there for what you want the form to do or can you work around any limitations? If this is the first event registration form you’ve put together, you may not know what you need until you start constructing it. The additional cost here may be your time and effort for investigating and experimenting with workarounds.

Customer support

Customer support services are often ignored until you have a deadline and something just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. If you can’t reach an actual person, or the turn-around time for phone or email inquiries is 24 hours, or even longer, then you’ll have to figure it out for yourself or spend time on the Internet trying to find someone who’s posted a solution. Not to mention the costs to your well-being of the frustration and stress involved.

The company offering the free registration form needs to generate revenue somehow. What are they selling, if not the registration service?


Put simply, the goods they sell may come from you in the form of data. The service provider companies can sell your data and, even worse, that of your registrants to third party businesses as mailing lists. This can go beyond just names and email addresses, as your event already draws people with specific interests and even their session selection gives clues as to their focus. Your registrants trust you with their information; consider the cost of losing that trust.


The registration service provider can also sell access to your registrants, in the form of advertising space on your registration form. Not only does this look unprofessional for your business, you don’t have any control over which ads your registrants see — the highest bidder gets the space. Ads can annoy your customers or even offend them.

There is plenty more advice on choosing an event registration service in the white paper “5 Tough Questions to Help Pick the Perfect Online Registration System”.

Jim Romanik

Jim is the president and co-owner of ePly Services. While studying business, event registration was still largely a burdensome manual process and being one to always look for the most efficient way to do things, Jim envisioned an online process. What began as a business plan that he submitted for a course on entrepreneurship has gradually evolved into today’s system that simplifies the work of event planners throughout North America.