Conference Website Checklist

13 Dec 2016

I love going to conferences. Learning interesting new stuff, getting to talk to lots of awesome new people. For a person like me this is amazing. Sadly there is one part of the experience that I often find troublesome. The website. Which is strange. This is one of the most important communication tools for the conference. And still most forget important details. In this post I want to list things that are important to me. Maybe you find it useful. Please comment if I forgot something.

The landing page

Please don't assume that everybody knows your conference. Even if it's over 20 years old. Start with a small description what your conference is about. Describe the target audience and what you will offer them. In short: don't forget to pitch the conf to potential visitors. But please keep it brief. Nobody will read your 3000 word essay about the last 20 years. And don't forget the dates wink.

Venue details

Have a dedicated page with information for visitors. This should include a detailed description of the venue and how to reach it. Don't forget to check if and how the venue is accessible for wheelchair users and mention this on that page.

A list of good hotels around the venue is a nice plus. Maybe you could try to contact a few of them and try to ask for a small discount for your visitors.

The call for papers

If you have a call for papers, mention this prominently on the landing page. Don't let potential speaker search too long to find the link to the cfp. On the cfp page you should explain what talks you are aiming for. Potential topics, examples of talks you loved. Even more important: communicate till when the cfp is open and when the speakers will get a feedback for their submission. As a bonus explain how your selection process works. A blind selection is the gold standard. Don't let bias influence you. And please reach out to minorities in tech. The last thing you want is a speaker list that only contains white male speakers.

The list of selected speakers

After you announced your speakers, you should have a list of all them and their talk description. A short bio and a photo adds a personal touch, but please understand that some people don't want to share those. The description is the most important part. If I go to a conference I schedule some time for the "hallway track". And I would love to do an informed decision on what talks I can skip. As bonus mention the target audience for each talk (beginner, intermediate, ...).

The schedule

You need to have a page with a rough schedule of the conference. This makes it easier for your visitors to plan their days. A link to the talk description is a must. Don't let them search manually through the list of speakers. It's a website. Websites can have links to other pages. Use that. Sadly lots of conferences forget this cry. As a bonus point keep that page up to date during the conference or at least point out where to get the latest schedule.

Code of conduct

Please add a code of conduct. This should be a no brainer. You want to state expected behaviour, examples for unexpected ones and what the consequences are. A phone number and email address that is checked often during the conference is a must. A good example of a CoC is the Berlin Code of Conduct. A CoC shows your visitors that you care. And please don't just add it because everyone does. Read and enforce it.

Accessiblity

Have a dedicated page for this and link it prominently on your website. Explain what you offer. For example a live transcription, a quiet room or how wheelchair accessible the venue is. Don't forget to add an email address on that page for further questions. Everyone's needs are different and with this you show that you care for your visitors.

Additional Information

If you offer other services to your visitors, advertise it clearly. For example childcare or translation services. The more information you give your visitors, the more likely they will feel welcome and buy a ticket.

Bonus: the alcohol

Yes, this is not about the website of your conference, but it is a very important topic for me. Please read this article and try to follow it. I rarely drink alcohol and would love to have more conferences to actually care about people who don't drink coffee or beer wink.

This Github page is also a nice follow up on more details for running a conference.

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