Event Attendance Tracking in 2021: Tips & Tools

Maggie Korte

Event attendance tracking is an important source of data for organizations, no matter your industry. Attendance tracking data can be turned into actionable insights that improve your approach to event planning.

Tracking the attendance of potentially thousands of attendees can seem like a daunting task. However, the right tools and the right techniques can make it surprisingly simple. We’ve created an easy to follow guide for event attendance tracking your organization can get started with today.

Why Event Attendance Tracking is Important

Smart businesses owners know that using data to make decisions is key to success. There are multiple benefits associated with effective attendance tracking for events, such as:

Gaining a Clear Picture of Your ROI

Calculating an event’s return on investment (ROI) is vital to understanding if an event has hit its goals–but can be difficult without the correct data or tools. These goals might not be purely financial in nature For example, tracking event attendance gives organizations insight into whether they hit their participant engagement goals and if they had raised enough funds.  

However, event attendance tracking can have other uses. For example, it can also be used to build a clear picture of how many attendees decided to sign up as volunteers or were recruited for participation in an upcoming event.

Understanding The Effectiveness of Your Marketing

Excellent marketing is key to putting on a successful event. However, without a good understanding of event attendance, it can be difficult to judge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Tracking the number of attendees against the number of invitations you’ve sent out is an effective yardstick for measuring how well your marketing efforts worked and allows you to refine communication tactics and strategies.

Meeting (or Exceeding) Attendance Requirements

If your event requires attendance, such as an educational event that counts towards continuing education credits, then you need a way to track attendance and export that tracking information as proof. Using software such as EventSprout is an effective, affordable way to easily gather participant information to provide to third parties after the event.

Ensuring Safety and Security Strategies are Successful

Obviously, the safety and security of your event and its attendees is paramount. Being able to accurately track attendance is a foundational step towards ensuring that safety and security.

Depending on where your event is being held, tracking how many attendees you have in attendance at a certain venue might be a legal requirement. Being able to control and monitor attendance is also critical in stopping unticketed persons from attending ticketed events.

Planning Effective Follow-Up

The best event follow-up plans are driven by data. Tracking event attendance allows you to properly understand who to survey for feedback, how to implement contact tracing, and allows you to provide that data–with the proper permissions–to your sponsors and stakeholders.

Alternative Attendance Tracking Strategies: Less Desirable Methods

While a single point of entry event might seem like the easiest way to track event attendance,  bottlenecking at one entrance is a serious consideration. The last thing you want is to have guests standing around and waiting while you sign them in–they may get frustrated, leave, or post negative comments about your event online. However, there are some quick and easy ways to track event attendance and unnecessary queuing.

Social Media or Self Check-In

The first and most prominent option is to have your guests check-in themselves. If you’re using an event attendance tracking app (we’ll talk more about those later), your guests can simply check-in through the app once they reach the venue. Many social media platforms, such as Facebook, also allow attendees at an event to check in at a certain location.

The obvious downside to this is that you have no control over whether or not guests actually check in. If you’re running an event where attendance is required, self-check-in might not be a viable option.

QR Coded Tickets

If you’re running a ticketed event, sending out a digital ticket with a QR code attached to it is a great way to implement event attendance tracking. Most mobile devices can scan a QR code and store that data in an app or spreadsheet program. This makes event tracking as simple as having the guest present their digital ticket and scanning it with a mobile phone.

Venues with multiple points of entry are better able to accommodate slower forms of event attendance tracking, including:

Swipe Cards

Personalized swipe cards are normally the slowest and most complicated way to track event attendance. However, there are a number of benefits to assigning an identification card to each attendee.

If you are hosting an event that requires attendance or has different levels of access depending on the ticket type, ID cards are an excellent way to ensure you can track your attendees. The downside of swipe cards is that you need additional staff to check your guests in and give them the correct card.

Self Check-In Kiosks

If you are short of staff but have room in your budget, you can invest in self-check-in kiosks. There are a number of different options on the market, and depending on how much you spend they can perform functions from a basic check-in to creating and printing personalized ID cards. The benefit of a self-check-in kiosk is that they don’t need to be staffed and, while they are expensive, they can be reused for future events.

Tracking Attendance for Virtual Events

When it comes to tracking attendance at virtual events, QR codes are your best option. A self-check-in QR code can be displayed as part of your event presentation which attendees scan into a mobile app to check-in. You can also implement a dynamic refreshable QR code, which is a better option for events that require attendance because it prevents people from signing in from a picture of a non-dynamic QR code.

It’s also a great idea to enable a check-out feature. Asking your attendees to check out gives you a way to check how long each attendee stayed at the event and use that data to scale future events.

Pro-tip: EventSprout makes it easy to host virtual events and even offers event attendance tracking in their platform, making it easy to manage a virtual event in one place. Visit their website to learn more.

Low-Tech Methods of Attendance Tracking

So far, we’ve concentrated on digital methods of tracking attendance. However, there are more low-tech analog options available that can be just as effective.

Pen and Paper

Pen and paper are still effective and viable methods for tracking attendance. Paper is easy to use, doesn’t require training, and doesn’t need a WiFi connection. The downside of using paper is that it’s difficult to share, harder to consolidate, and, unless copies are made in a timely manner, more vulnerable to loss or damage than a digital counterpart.


Using a spreadsheet program, such as Excel, Numbers, or Google Sheets is a step up from using pen and paper. While it doesn’t have all the functionality of a dedicated event tracking program, using a spreadsheet to track attendance makes that data easier to store securely, more convenient to share, and easier to format into presentations.

Best Event Attendance Tracking App Options

Having a dedicated platform for event attendance tracking the best way to effectively and accurately track event attendance because they free up the time of staff and volunteers to actually run the event and they ensure accuracy. There’s no shortage of event attendance tracking apps available on the market, so we’ve researched the best options.


Event attendance tracking in EventSprout Source: EventSprout

EventSprout is the event management software that originally served as the platform for the famous Warrior Dash obstacle racing company and many other organizations. It offers the ability to sell tickets online and track attendance in-person, even if you don’t have an internet connection.

Additionally, EventSprout includes a live streaming feature for online events and a direct integration with Zoom, the most popular video conferencing software on the market. The platform also allows you to create event landing pages, track event attendance, and view event analytics such as participant demographics all in one place, making it an excellent option for event organizers. Plus, since you can pass on any fees to the ticket buyer, it’s absolutely free to use as an event organizer.

OnArrival by Cvent

Cvent’s OnArrival platform is a good example of an all-in-one event attendance tracking platform. OnArrival has different modes, including a contactless kiosk for self-check-in, a payment and signature collection option, and a wireless laser scanner for barcodes.

If you’re using an ID badge system, you can also connect the OnArrival platform to a wireless printer, which will automatically print out the attendee’s ID badge once they check-in. Depending on the size of your budget, Cvent also offers three different levels of event package, from basic event check-in functionality to a white-glove service that includes expert staff and all of your required supplies and equipment.

Certain Arrive

Checking into an event with Certain Arrive Souce: Certain Arrive

Certain Arrive is a simple and easy-to-use mobile app that simplifies and streamlines guest check-in and allows you to service attendees who aren’t pre-registered. This makes it ideal for free or ticketless events, giving you the ability to capture important guest data requiring them to register in advance.

The VIP function alerts members of your team when certain guests arrive, making it great for interacting with VIPs or high-level event sponsors, guest speakers, and events where lead generation is the core goal. In addition to overall event attendance, Certain Arrive can be configured to capture data on session attendance, sales meetings, and booth check-ins.

The Bottom Line: Event Attendance Tracking Made Easy

With the right techniques and some preparation, tracking your event attendance doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. Follow our guide to create a successful event that includes quickly and easily implementing effective event attendance tracking strategies.