Today if I saw a conference without a conference website I am most certainly going to give that conference a miss, more like such a conference will hardly be noticeable. The conference website is the single most important source of information for all the attendees, be it delegates, speakers or sponsors. The conference website should be put online as soon as possible and have the relevant information outlined in an easy to find manner.
Start with preparation as early as possible. It is not unusual for event teams to start almost a year in advance. While not 100% essential it is best to use a CMS for maintaining your website as CMS makes it easy to manage changes right through your browser., My current favorite CMS is WordPress (Yes! it is a CMS) if you have the expertise you can try your hand at using Drupal, Joomla or the likes. Website designing is a professional’s job but most CMS system offer templates and themes which are very flexible. It is generally a good idea to keep the design minimalistic so that the content gets undivided attention. It is very desirable to hire a designer if your budget permits it.
Keep your site up-to-date. A frequently updated site promotes your event while all the time helps you save time by avoiding unnecessary inquiries or ambiguities.
Be sure to have the following on your website –
- General info: What is the event about, who is the target audience, what is the theme of the conference (in general or specific for the year), who is hosting the conference, when will it happen, and why it would be a good idea to submit a talk or participate as a delegate. All these should be either linked to the appropriate registration forms or mention dates when they can be accessed.
- Timeline: Put up a timeline with dates for various participants. Speakers, Delegates, Volunteers and Sponsors.
- Information for Speakers: The quality of talks and speakers are the most important factors in the success of a conference. To attract the best speakers ensure you have all the relevant details on your website a quick list would include
- Call for Papers – Mention what kind of talks, demonstration or workshops are expected. Also make clear what is a *no no* e.g.; advertisement of commercial services or products.
- Process of selection – Clarify who will select the talks, what further materials may be asked before the selection is final
- Important deadlines – This should be part of the timeline shown to the speakers. It may include things like, Call for papers opens, deadline for initial submission. Publishing of first reviewed. Call for details (clarification and slides etc). Ensure that you are giving adequate time and heads up to the speakers.
- Venue Guide: Make this more than just about the venue, list information on how to get to the venue from important locations in the city like from Airports, Railway station, Bust stand etc. Modes of transport available and approximate fare charged to reach there. Also list out accommodation available near the venue. A link to the city guide if your city has one is a great idea!
- Delegate registration: These days ability to register or buy tickets online is a must. Sites like Eventbrite make it super simple to sell event tickets online. Check out alternatives available for your country. DoAttend and Aayojak are two popular similar sites in India. Group discounts and Corporate benefits should be listed on this page. Also list related items from the timeline here like – dates for Early Bird discount offers. Furthermore, the deadlines for registrations and the early bird rate should be on this page If you want to highlight any acceptable payment method do it here.
- Conference schedule: shdlr.com can be your one stop shop for creating event schedule. It not only gives schedules in multiple format including a mobile website and subscribe-able iCal files which are supported by every standard Calendar application be it on desktop or mobile, shdlr.com also has downloadable formats of your schedule which can be used for printing the Event Brochure.
- Contact us: This page is a must and should have clear information on all modes of communication including Social media pages.
Each conference will have its own unique bits of information and you should customize your website for them. Do comment and feel free to add anything that you feel is particularly important, but I have missed.