December 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio December 2002 Current Issue
December 2002 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Rick Borry


How to view your Web site and forms through the eyes of attendees

Working with Web sites can be tricky. Even after you’ve spent hours reviewing or designing the layout, adding and changing content and coordinating with IT personnel, the pages you know so well still might be confusing to potential attendees. Follow these critical steps to develop a user-friendly site.

Define the goalNo matter how much effort goes into creating the pages, an event Web site is not a popular portal like AOL or Yahoo; most attendees will see it only once or twice.

Some of these viewers will be inexperienced Internet users, which means the online presence should focus on communicating key event messages and collecting the necessary attendee information in the simplest and least time-consuming manner.

To accomplish this, define the goal for the site. Some examples:

• To deliver information about the event and the registration process;
• To encourage attendees to visit the Web site to register for the event;
• To collect requests for invitation or for information;
• To register attendees and collect payment; or
• To deliver confidential details to specific groups of attendees, such as vendors and sponsors.

For all types of events, keep these concepts in mind.

Use an outsourced service provider. If the company does not have a Web server that is available 24/7, planners should select a provider that is equipped to manage Web traffic at any time.

Look like a pro. Those unfamiliar with creating Web sites should get someone to assist in designing a professional image that follows basic Web standards. The planner can focus on the content and overall viewer experience.

Keep it simple. Text should be concise and error-free. Use standard, familiar fonts like Arial, Times New Roman or Veranda for all copy. Colors and graphics should reinforce the branding of the event and draw attention to key content, without overwhelming the viewer.

Find fresh eyes. Someone familiar with the background and goals of the event, other than the person who handled the construction of the site, should carefully review the finished pages and registration form before they go live.

Consider all participants. The content and registration process intended for an exhibitor is different from that of an attendee. When targeting several audiences, review the pages from the perspective of each group.

Registration should make sense. An online registration form should be simple, and it should follow a logical, step-by-step process. Planners using a system that requires them to make compromises in the form design, which might confuse the registrants, should either create a new form or find another system.

Use e-mail wisely. E-mail communiques can be efficient, but frequent updates can be cumbersome for the planner and annoying for the attendee.

Before collecting registrations online, decide how to use the data before taking the site live. While creating reports probably is the last thing on your mind four months before the event, it quickly becomes a priority when registrations begin to roll in. Generating reports with ease makes the difference between managing data and becoming overwhelmed by the data.

After setting up an online form, run a sample report with some test data. If the system can’t deliver the reports you need, change the form or create new reports using existing data. It is much easier to build new reports before registration opens than to wait until two days before the rooming list is due.

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