I love plugins and I love WordPress. The two go together like peanut butter and chocolate (or bread and butter if you are allergic to peanuts). The one two punch has made it possible for meeting and event planners to take the web design portion of their event marketing strategy and bring it in house without the need for costly web developers, designers and other people that used to suck tens of thousands of dollars from your event budget.
Your event or conference site can wow your attendees and give them functionality that has never been seen before and all for the price of night out, not the price of a small car.
Because event marketers have a hunger to learn how to make their websites better for the attendee experience, one of the questions that I get asked quite often are what plugins do I use on PlannerWire to make it tick. What I always tell them is that they don’t necessarily want the plugins that I use here because they may not be the right tool for the event website job.
After kicking around the idea for a few months, I thought I would go ahead and name my top 10 plugins for a conference or event website.
A Couple of Ground Rules
I am not going to name the obvious plugins that are good for all WordPress sites. I know that anyone can Google “Best Plugins” and get the ones that every WordPress install should have. Plugins like Akismet, All in One Seo, Google XML Sitemap… These are must haves, not optional equipment in my opinion.
If you are looking for the best all around plugins, here are a five posts that can help you get that monkey off your back.
- Site Sketch – 15 Best WordPress Plugins to use in 2011 (link does not work anymore)
- TripWire Magazine – 35 Best WordPress Plugins – Want Unfair Advantage?
- Five Best WordPress Plugins to Use in 2011
- Top Tut – 100 Best WordPress Plugins You Will Ever Find
- PCMag – 20 Best WordPress Plugins
I want to share what I think are the best plugins for meeting and event marketers and their events.
10 Plugins Every Meeting and Event Website Should Have
For registering event attendees there are quite a few plugins and even more third party platforms that are available. They are either way expensive like CVent and RegOnline or don’t work that well. Event Espresso is an affordable solution for meeting and event planners that want to bring their registration in house while giving their attendees the robust, quality experience they are expecting.
I had a post in the past about online form builders because there are some amazing solutions out there for event websites that are not hosted on the WordPress platform. If you are using WordPress, Gravity Forms should be your go-to solution for any and all contact and other forms that you might need. One of the cool things is that Gravity Forms can even be used as a registration solution if your event is not that complicated (maybe a one or two day conference).
Tweet Old Post
This one will make it onto many general plugin lists and that is OK, it is important enough to list again. Tweet Old Post does exactly what its name implies. It takes your past event blog posts and sends them back out to your Twitter followers gaining new traffic and giving new life to old content. What is nice is that you can dig way down on what the plugin should Tweet. For example, if you have an older time sensitive post like the expiration of an early bird rate, you can tell the plugin to skip that on its hunt to re-purpose your content.
TopQuark Conference Plugin
One of the hardest things for many meeting and event planners is getting all of your speakers listed on one page with a link to their bio and more information. This has been vexing until this little plugin came along. All you do is install the plugin and then upload your speaker spreadsheet and BAM, a nice page for attendees to get all of that speaker stuff.
The other nice thing about this plugin is that it will also turn your event or conference website into a mobile app that attendees can put on their smart phones without you having to pay thousands of dollars to get it done. This plugin pulls double duty and does it well. Check out my review here.
Pop Up Domination
This may be a little controversial but I think that every event website should have a Pop Up that encourages visitors to register for the event or at the very least, get on the mailing list.
There are many that would say that you will lose attendees, you will piss people off and you will just be annoying and to those people I say… Good for you! You can sit there and be all high-and-mighty about Pop Ups while my clients are looking for a bigger space for their event.
The trick is to use pop ups wisely.
Set it to only pop up on the first visit and then not again for a week. Have your pop up contain an amazing offer that will grab the visitor and pull them in, not piss them off. Pop Up Domination offers so many settings that you can create a pop up that is beautiful, useful and won’t tick off your attendees. For more on how to use Pop Ups, check out this post by the amazing Kristi Hines.
S2Member is the best membership plugin hands down and I do not care what anyone else says. This thing kicks ass and is the easiest way to create a membership website.
Whether you are running a small association website or a large event, you are offering membership and there are parts of your website that need to be “eyes only” for a certain group.
S2Member allows you to have parts of your site that are only for attendees, parts that are only for exhibitors, parts that are only for speakers, etc, etc. S2Member just works and works well. Get it now, get it now, get it now. What is really cool is that they have amazing video tutorials that walk you through the set up so easily that anyone can do it in about an hour.
A nice added bonus is that S2Member also integrates with big email providers so that people get on your mailing list when they sign up for your site
Disqus Comment System
I like Disqus for commenting because it is easy to install, engages readers and allows them to view threaded comments and replies, be notified by email and they can subscribe to comments via RSS.
One of the nice things is that Disqus aggregates social mentions which is a bonus. There are many that will say that you should use the Facebook comment plugin or use the native plugin feature in WordPress and for some, this may be the best option but for me, the best is Disqus. You can give it a try by leaving a comment on this post!
Analytics, the art of knowing your web statistics. Who is clicking on what, where are they going and when are they leaving. Woopra takes it to the next level by offering live analytics, instant statistics and even live chat with site visitors. Event Marketers cannot be effective if they do not know what is working on their site and what is driving people away. That new marketing effort might actually be turning folks off and if you are not watching your traffic, you might not find out until it is too late.
Woopra is a stand alone platform and the plugin ties your WordPress site to Woopra.
Twitter Facebook Social Share
Huh? I know that three people just shrugged and said “Why?”.
This is a simplistic little plugin that offers your site visitors the ability to share your posts and pages on Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and StumbleUpon, that is it. Look left and you will see it in action.
Many marketers may argue with me but I think that is all you need. There is no rational to putting 8000 Share links on your site that link to services that you have never heard of. Grapevine and TechyWhat??? I have never heard of them and neither have your attendees. Seriously, this is the best plugin for this job and it is so easy it is freaking ridiculous.
Put the social networks that attendees use front and center and forget the rest.
Seriously, this one is a no brainer. If you have time sensitive information, one of the easiest ways to get the information out there is to put it at the top of your website. I have said that I am not all that convinced about the effectiveness of site top bars for standard messages like “find us on Facebook” but for really important stuff like announcing a venue change, room change or other important stuff, they do come in handy.
There are many site top bars out there but the best I have found is Quick Notice Bar. Light, simple and free (for a basic version), this is the plugin to use and you can read my full review here.
After your users read a post, you want them to do something (LIKE REGISTER). afterRead makes this possible by allowing you to tailor what the reader sees at the end of a post or page. They can be linked deeper into your site, bounced to a registration page or you can show them a list of related articles. This is one of the most important interactions you can have with your site visitors, don’t screw it up by doing nothing.
Meeting and Event Websites have very different needs than the average business website or blog. The plugins that we use will guide the user experience and make or break how they feel about the registration process.
Use your power wisely and do not bog down your site with a thousand and one plugins that do nothing and keep your navigation simple. If you do this, you can create an awesome registration site that leaves attendees looking forward to the event and not sitting perplexed as to why they got involved with you in the first place!