Planning an Event? Great. I’m sorry to say I can’t help you much with the event itself. What I perhaps can help you with is avoiding some major mistakes with your online presence. During a recent project, I’ve had occasion to look at a lot of events sites. And I’ve come to realize that there’s way too many folks out there damaging their prospects. Starting with the obvious; make sure to communicate the What/When/Where asap! Amazingly, many just don’t do this.
Remember, we live in a search, filter, sort world. Your push marketing efforts may work, especially in easily addressable niches. However, even if you manage to gain awareness of your event, there will be some percentage of your target market that will use search to try to find you again. And when they do, they’re going to want some basic info. So the obvious thing to do in a world where ambient fundability matters is a) make yourself easy to find and b) payoff on the user effort to get to you.
Put in the Event Dates. Prominently.
No. I’m not kidding. During some event site automated crawling and manual checking, we’ve come across a non-trivial number of sites that promote events where the actual Date of the Event was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. Not on the home page. And in some cases, (sadly and partially amusingly, but also bafflingly), there was a “Schedule of Events” Page that didn’t even have the date information! In many cases, these were generally well done, attractive sites. And they were missing one of the most fundamental pieces of information you could possibly provide.
Put in the start and end dates, time of event(s) and so on. Put this on the home page. And put it in text so it can be copy/pasted. If possible, put it in a format that someone can add to their calendar.
If your event repeats weekly, monthly, yearly, whatever; make that clear. And make it clear when the next one is going to be. Or if possible, when you’ll be announcing the date.
Use Text for Event Information
Make sure your basic event name and short description is clear and available in text on your home page. Don’t use all capital letters in your Event Title or Short Descriptions. (And do have short descriptions.) Other site editors might not like it as you’ve made it harder for them to cut/paste your info into their blog or news story or events calendar. And instead of re-typing it, they might just leave it out so their site doesn’t look like garbage with such noise. Reminder: You only have three key pieces of info: the What/When/Where. Why do you care about other site editors cutting and pasting your information? Read on.
Clarity of Address Info
When it comes to describing your event address, make it easy! This can be harder than you think. Events may be at well known venues, but they can also be in parks, in various sections of parks, near intersections, etc. Sometimes it can be challenging to describe a venue. And, perhaps oddly, even named venues can be problems because sometimes they have long names or descriptions that take up multiple address lines. This might not seem like an issue, but there are event listing sites and other directories that may be challenged in accommodating all of these fields. And even a well known venue might not be familiar to everyone. Perhaps your event has been found by someone from another city. Or who is new to your area, and so on.
In any case, realize that after deciding your event has value to them and they know the dates, a next up priority will be finding out “Where is it?” And one day getting there. As you likely know from your own behavior, we all use our Magic GPS’s to get around these days. Give people a GPS target. This can be:
- A Clear Venue name WITH it’s street address.
- A valid Street Address
- This means you check it on Google Maps or Bing Maps or MapQuest or whatever to make sure it’s both real and findable with common mapping tools.
- Don’t overload address info with extra info that’s not really part of the address.
- If something really is at an intersection, (or maybe will be taking up a whole block), try to get an actual street address anyway. Use a first line to explain, “Intersection of 14St & 10th Ave, closest to…” and on the second line put “205 14th St.” followed by city, state, zip. This way, there’s at least one field that can be used by a user or site editor to make sure to capture a valid address, and that could potentially be clickable to get to a map. When I say “fields” here I’m assuming that either you or someone else might put the information into a format that actually has address entry fields. You might be just typing the info into a WordPress article. But assume your info could end up in a directory with dedicated address fields. And make it easy for that to happen.
- If you’re in a Park or off of a typical map landmark location, you should still be able to drop a pin in a map program, and either embed the map or get the latitude/longitude. Using this data for a typical end user is really a hassle, but at least they’ll have something.
- But c’mon, you should be able to embed a map easily enough! Or at least link to a map with an appropriate pin drop!
Is this obvious to you? Well, it doesn’t seem so for a lot of event sites! The best way to put in this information is also to consider using schema.org address formats. We’ll look at that issue right now.
Use Rich Snippet Event Formatting on Your Site
Unless you build web sites for a living, you probably haven’t heard of schema.org. This is a site that has standards for how to define and tag data in your web site so search engines of various types can understand more about your content. They have a section that defines the schema.org codes for events. Ideally, event listing sites will use such codes, but even supposedly professional services are at varying levels of sophistication and currency in their product offerings. So ask them! If someone is coding your web site by hand, (that is, basic HTML pages), they should go to Schema.org and learn how to insert the codes. Google has an example of Event Rich Snippets code in their developer docs.
Fortunately, for those using WordPress for their Event info, (which is a great many), there are plugins that allow for definition of these tags. These plugins will often be called “Rich Snippet plugins.” (Here’s an explanation of Rich Snippets for you.) Note that you can add these codes manually in WordPress, but there’s many free plugins that can just make it all a lot easier. (Adding and managing plugins for WordPress isn’t something I’m going to go into here as there’s plenty of places to find this info. Either have your site builder do this or do some basic searching to learn how to add and use plugins.)
By using this format, you’ll not only make it easy for search engines to index your key info, you’ll also be looking at a checklist of items you should be making sure are visually exposed on your site.
Do Whatever You Like!
I’ll offer you some suggestions for sections you can consider below. Here’s the thing though… whatever content you have, consider the following minimal bits and pieces. I’ll tell you why first. It has to do with what I said earlier. Your communications outreach is not just about the one time read a visitor will give your page. It’s about making sure the content is quickly and easily digestible by people, but also useful for event calendar sites and search engines. And you also give any news or local bloggers some easy to grab snippets they can use for their own sites.
Remember that you don’t know the user’s context. Maybe they want to cut/paste into an email to send to multiple friends. Maybe a blogger wants to reference your event. Put the information in formats to account for the reality that you don’t know how others might want to use it. In this situation, it’s not like you’ve got proprietary information behind a paywall that you don’t want shared. You want people to share the info. So make it easy.
- Title: Have a clear title and ideally make it as unique as you sensibly can. “Annual Veg Fest” will get thousands of results. “VegFest Tuscon” gets potential web searchers to the right place. This matters because beyond an initial search, you’re depending on some degree of recall on the part of users. Make it easier for them to re-find your site. And either way, you’ve got a location as part of the title which will help with search in general.
- Short Description: Create a short description. Try to make it under a couple hundred characters. Your goal is to make it easy for anyone to not only understand what this event is, but allow others to cut/paste the info. Yes, you’ll have Share buttons for social media, etc. (or at least you should), but make it easy for people to share how they’d like to share.
- Long Description: Somewhat self-explanatory. But the idea here isn’t necessarily to tell your whole story. Think about it like a longer description on an ecommerce product detail page, where as your short description was almost like a sub-heading. Again, you’re trying to get the basics across quickly.
In other words, by all means, tell your whole story. But before you talk about your organization’s history, goals, and so on, just pay off on the main reasons your users probably came in the first place. So Again, this is the What/When/Where. Tell them what they probably want to know first. Then tell them what you would also like them to know.
For many events, a super simple one pager can do the trick. I’m not talking about a long scrolling page. I’m talking about just ONE short page. For other events, of course, there can be a whole giant support site. The purpose of this post isn’t really to make suggestions for a large scale professional event. Most people doing that – ideally – have some clarity on their needs. This post is more in reaction to my experience seeing some very poorly done small to mid-size local and small city event sites. My hope is that this info can help some of those site owners.
If possible, consider an info strip at top of site, (or bottom or both), that has the basic info; event name, dates, and location), and put this strip on every page.
Categories to Consider
You probably don’t need all of these! This is just a checklist to consider options.
- Home (with the required elements mentioned.)
- Sponsorship Opportuniteis
- Volunteer Opportunities
- Archive (of past events’ articles,etc.)
- Media Kit
- Calendar of other events.
- Registration/Tickets (if any)
- Our Team
- Create a Facebook page and other pages where appropriate. (E.g., LinkedIn, Meetup or whatever makes sense for your category.)
Event Listings Sites
Make sure to post your event to free event posting sites as well as any vertical market sites you can find. (Note that many jockey for position to be “the” event listing site, but many don’t make it. If any of these sites disappear, please let me know and I’ll update the list.)
- AllConferences.com Global Online Conference Directory
- Yelp Events
- Don’t forget your local newspaper or locally focused news sites.
- There are too many industry/niche specific sites to make a list here. Do searches for things like “event listing [your category]” and you should be able to find appropriate venues if they exist or have any degree of popular usage.
Event Planning / Management
Some of these sites help you create event detail information and provide you with everything from a landing page with information to the ability to sell tickets and manage registrations. They may or may not also have listing services or submission services to search engines and other event listing directories.
Promoting via Social
Obviously, you’ll be using the typical social venues to promote. Paid advertising can be effective, but many events are hobbyist in nature or have low budgets due to their being as much – or more – special interest than wholly commercially oriented. If you’re dong professional commercial events, I’d trust you already know what you’re doing in terms of paid ad venues. For those scraping by with more gorilla tactics, just make sure the following well known channels are covered.
- LinkedIn (if business appropriate)
- Snap and Instagram may be usable, but only close to event time. These tools grow cold faster than those emails you let scroll off to the bottom of your inbox.
- Google Groups
- Industry or Special Interest appropriate forums
Using the Channels
- Use sites like YouTube and SlideShare to post content from past events or promos for upcoming programs. Make sure the meta data, (that is, descriptions, etc. are updated for any upcoming events.)
- Hashtag Strategy: Try to have a unique and descriptive hashtag. Shorter is better, but clarity should win out. Use this across multiple platforms.
That’s about it for now. If you think of anything I’ve missed, please let me know.