I’ve been looking at attending some local and international conferences in 2014 and I’ve found a lot of issues with conference websites that really aren’t doing them any favours in terms of piquing interest or getting registrations.
Conferences aren’t cheap but price isn’t the only issue that matters to potential delegates (or exhibitors and sponsors).
I’ve put together a list of things you need to keep in mind when working on your conference website and hopefully this goes a long way in improving the end user experience and of course, your bottom line:
1. Clear dates and venue visible throughout the site (header and footer). Your event and venue isn’t a secret! This should also be prominent on the homepage, perhaps in a header image if you have one.
2. Clear venue location map and directions (car, walking, public transport). People will attend the event using different means of transport and even locals may not be familiar with the venue so providing as much info as possible will be welcomed by all guests.
3. Provide heaps of accommodation suggestions. Consider organising deals with nearby hotels and making these prominent. But also consider suggestions for accommodation within a 5-10 or even 20km radius to cater to everyone’s budgets. Tie this up with #2 above and you’ve got a winner. Review sites can help people identify good vs bad options but if you provide some recommendations, that helps seal the deal.
4. Clear visa information. For conferences that will attract international visitors, this is important- especially if you have wide appeal. It’s just something extra to help improve the end user experience.
5. Clear registration buttons. Unless you plan to enjoy a party of one, you need to make it very clear how people can sign up! Further to this, the registration process needs to be as clear as possible with as few distractions as possible and a nice confirmation page so people know it’s all good. Nothing worse than paying for an international conference only to realise payment didn’t quite go through!
6. Include Countdowns: event date, earlybird cut offs, registration deadline. I think it’s handy – it provides a sense of urgency and can help you squeeze in a few more registrations. I would highly advise that you mark off dates and times very clearly. If the early bird finishes on 15 April, is it at 11.59pm on 15 April? Don’t leave anything to imagination – be specific and people will feel better informed and less cheated.
7. Event hashtag. You need to be using social media for your event – for pre-launch promotion, during the event and afterwards. It’s not an option in my books. Your event needs a hashtag and this should be prominent on your website and of course, at your event (make sure it’s mentioned regularly!).
8. Very clear agenda and track options. Some events have one simple track, others have multiple. either way, make it clear what the event will cover and the times for each session. You may wish to convert this into PDF for a number of reasons (people often link to agendas to justify attendance based on content, as an example). You’ll probably have this in the conference showbag but some people like to print off and read beforehand (on the plane there).
9. Clear information about speakers. Often, the speakerlist is the biggest drawcard so this should be promoted heavily if it’s what will draw in the delegates. Aim for unique bio info as well as info about what they may speak about if it’s already known. I think in this day and age, it’s perfectly normal and should be expected that there would be links to speakers twitter profiles – include these where possible.
10. Include reviews and testimonials. Goes without saying, really. Some events don’t need these because they’re always popular (SXSW for example) but it doesn’t hurt to have them. Consider video reviews as well as text reviews. Like any other site, these work best when they are from real people with real insights into what value the event gave them.
There’s other obvious things like optimised meta data (seriously folks, include date and venue info in the homepage meta description!!) and a very fast loading website (slow website = I give up and not bother registering). If people can’t figure out what your event is about, where and when it will be held or how to register, then there’s a serious problem. You may even like to consider A/B testing for what it’s worth – you may find some surprising results.
Hope this helps you with your next conference website. Let me know about issues you’ve had with conference sites in the past – that could become another blog post.