When Conference And Tradeshow Websites Fail

This post is written by Dave Lutz and was influenced by his recent experience preparing for conferences including ASAE’s 2010 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, CA.

Conference and show Websites need better user experience. “More cowbell” wouldn’t hurt either!

Image by Chris Summerlin Chapter Illustrations for forthcoming "Undercover User Experience" book by Cennydd Bowles and James Box (Peachpit).

In my consulting biz, I look at a lot of major conference and trade show Web sites. I’m looking for what floorplan tool is being deployed. How the education program is laid out. How the show is selling and marketing their sponsorship and advertising opportunities. How they’re spinning the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me) to potential attendees. And how they’re integrating social media for attracting and engaging participants.

What I see more often than not, is a lack of relevance. What I mean is that attendees and exhibitors are having a hard time seeing through the Web site clutter to find what interests them most.

Here’s a few tips that succesful major events are implementing on their Web site to improve relevance and the user experience.

1. Exhibitor Search
Access to a real-time floorplan that allows attendees to search by keyword/phrase, primary product category, secondary product category, booth number or exhibitor name. The best shows are refining this list every year to make sure that they are keeping up with the times and delivering search results that match the requests. (Hint – by reviewing keyword searches, you can identify categories or sub-categories that should be added.) To improve engagement, some shows allow users to create a list of exhibitors to visit, the ability to schedule appointments and to request info.

2. Session Search
Similar to exhibitor search, session search allows attendees to search by day, time, speaker name, track and keyword/phrase. A single click allows users to review the session description and speaker’s bio, add a session to their personal schedule and even download the handouts. Conferences that offer exhibitor and session search, and itinerary planners via integrated Web site, mobile and onsite kiosk solutions are ahead of the pack.

3. Attendance Justification
The best shows and conferences identify a finite number of audience segments. They communicate the conference or show experience through their attendees’ segmented WIIFM lens. It’s hard work and pays off big time in moving from promoting the event to marketing it with a laser focus. Start with the top four to six audience segments and add others as needed. Why market this way? Many prospective attendee fence sitters need your help in selling the conference or show benefits to their superiors. Consider this strategy in your print and e-marketing campaigns to successfully increase your attendance.

What else would you recommend for improving relevance and user experience? How are you taking this important strategy to new levels?

This post originally appeared on TSNN.Com

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  1. Conference and Show Websites Need Better User Experience…

    Many conference and trade show websites lack relevance, says Dave Lutz. In other words, attendees and exhibitors have a hard time seeing through the Web site clutter to find what interests them most. What are successful major events websites doing to i…

  2. Great post Dave. To add to #2 I would offer that not only being able to search for the session but to see who else has registered for the session would create a more useful experience. More and more I trust “people like me” so when I see others I trust registered for a session it can serve as a recommendation for me attending as well. Couple that with the ability for the registered community to chat prior to the session, along with the session leader(s) and I walk into the room engaged and ready to tackle an important issue. And yes, EVERY session could use the enthusiasm shared by Gene whacking the cowbell.

  3. Dave Lutz says:

    Kevin, great addition! I think we could add personal connections to #1 also. Too often exhibiting companies are focused on booth profiles, categories, products and not the people behind the company. We can get everything but the people part virtually (except for the buzz of the show). It’s time to put more focus on connections…groups that are able to leverage and enable those on the front end, will yield greater results on the backside.

  4. Well put Dave. I am intrigued by how easy it is to allow for people to connect and collaborate, how powerful that can be (for attendee and for brand) and how little attention it is given. No doubt discussions like this help move the thought along. Thank you for what Velvet Chainsaw is doing to stretch us.

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