Every time someone helpfully suggests 'Why don't you use EventThing to handle bookings for BiCon?' I am taken back in time…
When I was looking for a venue for BiCon 2008, I went to a couple of conference events. These give a chance for organisers and people selling venues and associated stuff to see each other, and it's particularly nice to be reminded that you have quite a lot of power in the relationship: there are lots of people who want your money and their jobs depend on getting it.
One group of the 'associated stuff' wanting my money were selling booking systems. Usually for lots of money. As well as that ruling them out of the question, none of them were a good fit for BiCon.
I wonder how many are still around now there are plenty of online ticketing companies. But they're not a good fit for BiCon either.
- Having a sliding scale and residential / 'no accommodation' tickets means that there can be more options and prices than some systems can cope with.
- We have often allowed people to pay in instalments. Lots of systems simply cannot cope with that.
- We have allowed payment options like bank transfers which can happen days after the booking has been made. Another one systems have huge problems with.
- We want individual details rather than allowing 'plus one' bookings.
- There isn't a limit on, say, how many 'unwaged' tickets are available, but there will be a limit on how many people can book accommodation, regardless of which band they're in.
- Quite a few attendees have a 'preferred name' that's not the same as that used by any payment method.
- And although going to BiCon doesn't prove you have any particular sexual orientation, it is sensitive information, so it's not something any random company should be able to know.
A booking system for BiCon needs to be able to cope with all of these, and more. If you know of one that does, and is preferably free or very low cost, let us know. (It won't stop people mentioning it, but Eventbrite doesn't – it's an option that might work if you're running a free event, though.)
For several years, we used Event Espresso, a reasonably priced ticketing plugin for WordPress. It did work, but was sufficiently complicated that only one person really knew how to use it. Since then, a couple of 'forms' plugins have been used: people enter the data on a form, and their answers are both emailed to the organisers and available to download to a spreadsheet.