I was chatting with Liz King on Twitter not too long ago, we were discussing conference plugins and I told her that I was so frustrated that I was going to find someone to create one and then I was going to sell it…. she was like “Go for it!”…
I thought “HELL YEAH”.. and then a couple of days go by and I am forced to put my idea on the back burner because, well, clients come first….I guess this would have to wait.
Just then, like a bolt from the blue, I get an email, it might have been a sign. You could hear the choir singing, birds chirping and the clouds parted to show a brilliant sun………OK, not really like that, but it was like serendipity.
The email was simple and had the headline “Guest Post or Plugin Review”.. basically, it was some guy asking me to have a look at his plugin and review it or perhaps he could write a guest post if I liked what the plugin did….You gotta love the email headline because it says that this person thinks his shit is so good that you have to pay attention to him…..
I had to open that email, I just had to, I love shit like that.
So I opened the email and I was introduced to Trevor Mills, a plugin developer from Canada who has a WordPress plugin shop called TopQuark. He is now someone that I am getting to know through many phone and Skype conversations, but let me tell you how it all started.
I responded to his email and said that I would love to talk to him. Now, this is going back a ways, it was just before I moderated an unconference session at WordCamp Chicago back in July.
On our call, Trevor explained to me that TopQuark has created a set of plugins that help meeting and conference planners manage the online layout of sessions and speaker bios and a mobile app that syncs this information to an attendee’s mobile phone.
My call with Trevor would remove any notion of creating my own plugin because, quite frankly, Trevor has hit a home run through his work.
As we got to the end of the conversation, he dropped a bombshell on me that I am still trying to get my head wrapped around.
You get all of this for less than $500.00 bucks.
Now, I was not just plugging my own bad self when I mentioned that I was moderating at WordCamp Chicago, it is actually relevant to my call with Trevor. You see, he was walking me through the pages that he had created using the information from WordCamp Chicago……that is something that I had direct firsthand knowledge of and something that I could understand.
I understood the WordCamp website and the WordCamp program and Trevor demonstrated the power and the ease of this plugin. In a matter of a few hours, he had recreated the entire WordCamp Chicago schedule page, speakers page and individual bio pages. That is pretty slick and what will kill you is that he also MADE IT MOBILE.
So, why is this a big deal for you and your conference or event program?
It is a big deal because up until now, laying out the session and speakers pages has been a pain in the ass and there was no easy way to get this done. I have suffered with these pages for a long time.
Filling the need
I have always been surprised that no one has ever thought to fill this simple need, adding your conference session schedule and speakers page should not be rocket science. You know, those fancy grids that have all of the times and session names highlighted and a speakers page that has a head-shot of the speaker with a link to their bios.
These are pages that must be created to provide the attendee with a great online experience.
How about something that looks like this?
Or maybe this
Now, this looks good, but is it all that?
Is this REALLY the thing that is going to make a meeting planner dump the old web designer and his overpriced, hyped up shit that no one but him or her can work on? I mean really, it is 2011 and some planners still have to call someone to fix a piece of text or change a page. How ridiculous is that. Could this be the missing piece of a long suffering puzzle.
Yes… yes it is because it does even more.
You can also tweak the Conference Plugin to handle sponsors and exhibitors (I will take credit for that idea). This is an added bonus that I was thinking of the whole time Trevor was explaining how it worked.
That makes it really, really good and we have not even gotten to the best part yet!
The best part is there is also a MOBILE APP that can be added to this little sucker and that alone makes it worth the price of admission.
First, let me be clear, this is not a mobile app that is going to direct your attendees to the closest Starbucks, the hot new restaurant or even give them directions to the hotel because, frankly, you can get that kind of an app for about 8 gazillion dollars. 98% of all conferences do not need this type of functionality.
This Mobile App is designed to do this:
And, even this
Here is what the plugin and mobile app is going to help you accomplish.
You will be able to get your conference, meeting or event online and mobile in easy, simple steps.
- You will have your sessions laid out in a way that is familiar to attendees
- Your attendees will be able to search sessions by speaker
- Your speakers will have nice images with a link to their full bio
- Speakers will have a full bio page where attendees can get more information
- Attendees can follow relevant tweets about the conference or event
The Bottom Line
- Your conference, meeting or event will now have a fully functional, affordable, cross platform app where attendees can access the information that is important to them and nothing more
This set of plugins and apps is perfectly suited for small to midsized events that are run by associations or corporations (yes, it works just fine for huge events too).
For both of these types of organizations, this is the piece of the puzzle that has been missing for way too long. This is the piece of the puzzle that will finally allow you to get off of your ass and bring your website in house. You can tackle that website problem you have been bitching about for YEARS and start to run with the big dogs.
How does it work
Ease of Use for Conference Session Information:
The Conference Plugin is one of the easiest plugins I have ever used to get conference information onto a website, it is that simple. Here is the blurb from the TopQuark website that explains:
Use this plugin to manage the speaker and session information for your conference. You can input the data either in the easy-to-use admin interface or by uploading an CSV (Excel) file with all of the data. The plugin keeps all of the data from year to year so as you use it, you build a rich archive of your event’s history.
So, because you already have your session information in a spreadsheet, all you have to do is upload it to your conference or event website using the plugin and BAM, the data is in.
Once you have the data in place, you can update it right from your dashboard and once you are happy with your data, you simply create a page and insert the shortcode and you have a beautiful session page that your attendees will find easy to navigate, simple to understand and 100% idiot proof…. creating the mobile app is just as easy.
So, here is the bottom line:
- No more third party developers, no more million dollar fees (this was the selling point for me), no more hassle.
Let me know your feedback and what you think, I love it and if you are producing a small to medium sized conference and have only a limited budget, this is a GREAT way to wow your attendees without wrecking your sanity, killing your budget or getting fired for using something that does not work.
I love this Plugin so much that we are now an affiliate.
One of the best things I found about the plugin was actually the creator. I think that you would be hard pressed to find someone with more commitment and more love of the job than Trevor. That is huge.
Trevor is a good guy with a good product so let me tell you what happened when there was an issue. Knowing what will happen when something goes wrong can make or break an event and the same holds true for your website.
As I was loading the speaker information, I received and error. Thinking that it was my mistake, I emailed Trevor and let him know what was up. Within an hour I had a response, an explanation and an estimated time to fix (only about 30 minutes).
BAM, try and get that from your high priced wed designer.
Head over to TopQuark to learn more!