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Better usability in conference websites

Posted by Michael Reynolds

May 7, 2012 2:11:00 PM

Conference_ChairsI love to travel for both business and fun and I've attended lots of conferences. As an attendee, I register for events online and consume information primarily online via the conference website. As a speaker, I attend and present for a lot of conferences. I also submit proposals for presentations with the intention of presenting at the conference.

As I analyze conference websites, I see a lot of opportunities for improving usability among them. Why is usability important on a conference website? Probably the most important reason is that it can play a huge part in determining how many people actually register for your event, as well as the quality of the speakers.

Here are some things to think about as you plan your conference website or landing pages.

Online registration is a must

I know it seems surprising but I still see conferences that do not have online registration as an option. They require you to call, mail, or fax in your registration. This puts up a huge wall between your event and your prospective attendees. Who has time to mail in a registration these days? Not me. I need quick, easy, secure online registration with credit card or I’m probably not going to bother. The same goes for your exhibitors.

Use online forms for speaker proposals

As a speaker, few things irritate me more than having to print or fill out a Word document to submit presentation proposals. Many speakers like me are submitting proposals to a variety of conferences and the more cumbersome it is to apply, the more likely I am to skip over your conference. I think I have a lot to offer and bring a lot of value to conferences when I present but making it hard for me to submit a proposal often keeps me (and other speakers) away. Make sure speakers can fill out application forms directly on your website.

Create landing pages for each session

I sometimes see conference websites that will give a general outline of the sessions for each day but do not break out sessions into individual landing pages. It’s important to give each session a specific landing page because this allows your speakers to promote their own sessions better, which in turn helps market your conference. It also gives you more specific content to publish on social networks and for search engines.

Make your conference website socially-aware

In addition to session landing pages, each session page should allow easy social media distribution. Two great ways to encourage social sharing of your conference material are with a Re-Tweet button via TweetMeme and a share button via AddThis. Both services are free and allow website visitors to easily market your sessions for you with one click. If you make it easy to announce your sessions, your will find that your speakers will help a great deal with your marketing efforts.

List all relevant time and location information clearly

This seems like a pretty obvious one but I still see conference websites that neglect to list the times and locations of breakout sessions. Not everyone wants to attend every session so make it easy for them to see exactly when and where each session is. Also, make sure your website includes interactive Google maps to your location so that your attendees can easily find it.

Include detailed speaker bios and photos

Few things are more boring than a big chunk of text listing presentation titles with no information on the speakers. Be sure to include speaker photos and bios with the session pages and perhaps even create speaker landing pages to help showcase them. Link out to their own website and social profiles, as well. This helps your attendees feel more connected to the speakers and can sometimes encourage people to register because they have an interest in seeing a particular speaker.

Paying attention to some basic usability details can make a huge difference in the quality of your speakers and the number of people who attend your conference. Do you need to make any adjustments to your conference website?

Topics: marketing, website

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