Five Options for Tracking Conference Session Attendance

There are a number of reasons why a meeting planner would be interested in tracking attendance at a conference session: verifying attendance for continuing education units or certifications, determining the popularity of a session for planning purposes, understanding the demographics of an audience, Sunshine Act requirements for medical conferences, credential verification and signaling possible room size issues. Equally as diverse are the number of ways in which attendees can be tracked. Here’s a rundown of the various methods available:

  1. Room monitor. One easy way to track attendance is with a room monitor who manually counts heads and seats. This non-technical solution is inexpensive and usually not accurate. The downside is that it can be a slow process and inefficient for very large groups.
  2. Portable barcode scanners can read 1 D and 2 D barcodes or QR codes on wristbands, badges and mobile devices. The process requires room monitors to hold the scanning device, but the process is very accurate and efficient and the process of printing barcodes on badges is inexpensive.
  3. Attendance tracking with iPads can read RFID badges or QR codes utilizing the iPad’s camera. This solution can also be utilized for access control at exclusive sessions and events. No electricity is required for this solution which makes it extremely portable.
  4. Tap ‘N Go are devices of various types mounted on podiums or stands. This solution requires attendees to manually tap their badges to the device in order for their attendance to be registered. The solution reads barcodes and functions with or without Internet. They are very flexible (can be placed anywhere) and relatively inexpensive.
  5. Enterprise RFID (radio frequency identification) uses readers mounted over the entrance of a conference room. Every badge, wristband or button with an embedded RFID tag will be read and recorded. The solution doesn’t require any effort from either the attendee or a room monitor. The benefits of this solution are it’s highly accurate and secure, unobtrusive, and requires no attendee interaction.

The choice of attendee tracking system depends on a number of factors:

  • Budget
  • Attendee motivation (to tap badge at kiosk)
  • Requirement for accuracy (getting the correct data)
  • Need for speed (eliminating lines)
  • Requirement for security (authenticating identity of attendee)
  • Badge type (barcodes, QR codes, magnetic stripes, RFID)
  • Reporting needs
  • Availability of Wi-Fi
  • Availability of electricity (a consideration for outdoor venues)

Working with a company that can provide a number of solutions based on the above criteria can make it easier for planners to make the appropriate selection.