A COMPELLING WEB SITE has become very important in promoting and supporting your meetings. Here's my list of the five most important things to do on your meeting Web page.
Don't focus your attention just on the obvious target audience for your meetings site — the potential attendees. Many other visitors may find your site, including past or potential attendees, suppliers, vendors, funders, exhibitors, board members, employees, volunteers, job-seekers, content-seekers, media, and the competition. Consider whether and how to engage them, and what outcomes you'd like to achieve.
Content-seekers — people who find you through a keyword search because they're interested in the content of your meeting — are important if you admit the public to your events. They might require different communications from regular participants.
If you're looking for publicity, a press center is important. This should be easy to find and contain all the information that a reporter on a tight deadline would need to cover your event.
Many people have asked me whether it's dangerous to put too much good information on your Web site “in case the competition sees it.” My answer? If your competition can't see it, neither can the people you want to attract!
What will be your measures of success for this site? What are the desired outcomes — registrations, exhibitors, media attention, discussion forums, etc.?
Consider the site expenses against potential savings. If you're implementing online registration, you want to know that your system can replace (and improve on) your current processes cost-effectively. If you're offering program materials online, compare this to the costs of printing and mailing — but make sure not to overwhelm users with large files.
Your site should be written from the visitors' point of view. What's in it for them to attend, and why they should care? What are their problems or issues, and how will this meeting address them? Include testimonials from previous attendees throughout the site giving examples of how they've benefited from this event. And if you're welcoming visitors from overseas, as many medical groups do, include a section on United States travel requirements, with links to resources for visas and other advisory services.
It's all too easy to throw online roadblocks into the paths of your visitors. A couple of my favorite examples of this are:
Site search engines that return “no results found,” making the visitor feel foolish. Instead, offer to have a representative call, or provide further help with your search process.
Asking for registration details before you've created enough trust. Privacy and spam concerns are barriers to volunteering information.
Every page on your site should have a clear path to action. Invite the visitor to interact with you, or go to the next page — but make it easy and obvious. So, at the appropriate place in each page (or at several points), include a link to the appropriate form, such as “Register for this meeting,” “Ask for an exhibitor packet,” or “Download the presenter disclosure statement.”
Philippa Gamse, CMC (Certified Management Consultant), president of CyberSpeaker, Santa Cruz, Calif., is a Web strategy consultant and professional pgamse@Cyberspeaker.com. For more ideas, visit www.CyberSpeaker.com.. Her healthcare clients include Novartis, Reid Psychological Systems, and Health Foundation of South Florida. Gamse can be reached at (831) 465-0317, or