Updated Guidance for Using YouTube Live vs. Google Hangouts with RSVPMaker for WordPress

You may have already heard the news: Google is killing off Hangouts on Air in September. A few months ago, I made a big deal out of announcing support for Hangouts on Air in RSVPMaker and using it for my own live events. That work wasn’t actually wasted, and “killing” in that headline is a little misleading, but the instructions I shared for setting up these events will be obsolete soon when the Google+ version of Hangouts on Air goes away on September 12.

Google’s new answer for basically the same thing is YouTube Live, which you can set up to work almost exactly the same as a G+ Hangout. In fact, the YouTube creator UI still makes some references to Quick setup (using Google Hangouts on Air) as a label for the technology, but YouTube Live is now the favored branding.


The biggest difference from my point of view is that the Hangouts Q&A tool is going away. That was one of the features closely tied to a Google+ identity. In most respects, this change is a positive because there’s no longer a need to explain to people why they need to get a Google+ account just to post a question in your webinar. However, the question is what to use instead. Google’s announcement said something about using a Q&A tool in Google Slides.

What I’ve decided to do instead for a webinar I’m planning for the WordPress for Toastmasters project is use the Facebook comments system as an easy way for anyone with a Facebook account to post questions. After creating my YouTube Live event, I plugged the YouTube url into a blog post. In the RSVPMaker confirmation message I send to people who RSVP, I include the link to that blog post with some explanation of how the event will work. I also set up a reminder message with the same information to go out a couple of hours before the start of the event. Here is what that looks like:

Confirmation Message: Marketing Your Toastmasters Club and Organizing Meetings with WordPress for Toastmasters Wednesday August 31st 7:00 PM EDT

This event will be conducted using YouTube Live, Google’s free video broadcast service. You will find the YouTube video feed embedded in this blog post:


You can post questions in the comments section of that blog post before, during, or after the event, and I will try to answer them “on air.” If you would like to be invited into the on air event, contact me with an explanation of what you could contribute to the discussion.

You can also view this event on YouTube and it will be archived for replay:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bqnly_IrH4o

Just remember that if you want to ask questions, please post them via the blog.

I followed the WPBeginner tutorial on adding Facebook Comments to the WordPress for Toastmasters website. Previously, I was using Disqus on that site (as I do on RSVPMaker) but engagement has been so low I thought it was time to turn that off and try something new anyway.

I will report back here with more prescriptive instructions once I’ve seen how this works.

Posted in Tutorial, YouTube Live | Leave a comment

Using RSVPMaker With The SendGrid API Plugin

The latest update to RSVPMaker includes some tweaks for better compatibility with plugins for improved email delivery and particularly the SendGrid plugin, which I may start standardizing on for my own RSVPMaker projects going forward.

The plugin improves delivery of basic transactional emails such as password reset messages. RSVP notices to site administrators and confirmation messages to site visitors can come along for the ride. This is API integration with the SendGrid transactional delivery email service, which is different from connecting with SendGrid via SMTP. Instead of setting the SMTP options on the RSVPMaker settings screen, make it “None – use wp_mail()” — the SendGrid plugin will override the default wp_mail() function.

The SendGrid mass email delivery service offers accounts that are free for up to 12,000 messages per day. If you have more activity than that connected to your site, hopefully you can afford to to pay for the service. Paid accounts include additional features, but even the free version should give you more reliable delivery of email.

After setting up your account, you will create an API key in the settings section of the SendGrid dashboard. The service will generate a long alphanumeric key that you will need to record in the SendGrid settings screen in WordPress.

SendGrid WordPress settings

SendGrid WordPress settings

Include a default email from name and sending address to be used for password resets and such. You can ignore most of the rest of the fields for setting a template etc, which are not relevant for the use of this plugin with RSVPMaker. Content-type should be set to text/plain for compatibility with plaintext messages such as password resets (this will not prevent RSVPMaker from sending HTML formatted content).

SMTP Plugins

The latest RSVPMaker release should also work better with various plugins that alter the wp_mail() function to make it work with an SMTP server. However, I can’t necessarily test for these. When I tested it in combination with one called Easy WP SMTP, it seemed to override some of the email header settings in the RSVPMaker code so that RSVP notifications came in as “from” the email address set in the plugin, rather than the email address of the attendee.

SendGrid Versus MailChimp

RSVPMaker supports another email delivery service, MailChimp, for mailing list integration, suitable for sending out event invitations or email newsletters. Although there is some overlap between the way SendGrid and MailChimp are used, SendGrid is best known for its capability of sending large numbers of transactional emails like registration or order confirmation messages.

One difference is that with SendGrid, we’re not typically broadcasting to a predefined list or relying on the service to manage unsubscribe requests. Like any other email service provider, they will monitor you to make sure you’re using the service responsibly and not spamming people. RSVPMaker only supports sending messages to site administrators, event attendees, and members of your website (with user accounts), so you shouldn’t be using it to email anyone who is not expecting to hear from you.

MailChimp actually has a transactional email service of its own called Mandrill, but I haven’t worked with it yet. Mandrill currently offers a free trial, but not a free tier of service.

Posted in Announcement, Email Notifications | Leave a comment

Wanted: Translations and Translation Updates

Several people and organizations have been kind enough to produce translations of RSVPMaker into different languages over the years. Unfortunately, some of those are outdated and all of them are incomplete because they do not cover recently added features such as the email broadcast capability. I’m going back to past contributors to see if they will help again, but I am also looking for volunteers.

To be clear, this is not translation of content (such as the title and description of an event) but of the menus and explanatory text used within the software. I have made a concerted effort recently to ensure all those strings are properly coded for translation. Now, I just need some bilingual people to help.

You don’t need to be a programmer, but you do need to use some specialized tools such as POEdit (shown below) or an equivalent. POEdit displays the original language (English) side-by-side with the translation (in this case, French). The words and phrases in French are the ones for which no translation has yet been supplied.

POEdit translation tool

POEdit translation tool

The translation/localization process for plugins is explained in this WordPress.org article.

The source catalog containing all the translatable strings is here:

Note that the WordPress.org open source organization is in the process of changing how plugins translation is handled, so that you will be able to do it through a web-based tool. However, they are adding plugins to that project based on their popularity, and RSVPMaker has yet to make the cut. So for the time being, you will need to use a tool such as POEdit and email me the .po and .mo files it generates.

In the true spirit of open source, you will be making RSVPMaker more useful for yourself and others at the same time. Thanks!

Posted in Announcement, Translation | Leave a comment

Use RSVPMaker + MailChimp To Send a Weekly Newsletter

Here is how you can use RSVPMaker’s built-in email utilities to send a weekly newsletter built around your upcoming events and recent blog posts. You can send to a MailChimp mailing list or to the members of your own website (if you provide user accounts).

I’ll be hosting a webinar on these techniques Weds. July 20, 2016 at 4 pm EDT.

The newsletters will look something like this when they arrive in the recipient’s inbox:


In a separate tutorial, I showed how to create an email broadcast built around an individual event or blog post. Here the idea is to set up a template for a broadcast that will go out on a regular schedule, including some standard elements.

The RSVPMaker events post that serves as the basis for this newsletter consists of a couple of WordPress shortcodes, placeholders for the dynamic content to be included. In the WordPress visual editor, the rsvpmaker_upcoming shortcode is represented as rounded blue box that you can click on for a popup menu of options. Here, I’ve set it up to pull only the webinar events off the RSVPMaker site (since most of the other events are demos).

The other shortcode displays headlines and excerpts from recent blog posts.


If I were to preview the email with just those settings, here is what I would see. The subject line would be the title of my post, RSVPMaker Roundup.


To send this out on a schedule, I need to set the options in the Scheduled Email section.


Newsletter basic settings

Here I have specified that this newsletter should go out every week to the RSVPMaker email list, on Wednesday at 10 am. Also, I want a preview sent to me 2 hours prior to the scheduled broadcast (a reminder of any last-minute changes I might need to make).

The “Test for” option allows me to set a condition, such as that the email newsletter should not be sent if there are no upcoming events on the calendar.

This gives me an email newsletter that can go out week after week, always with fresh content. However, I might also want to highlight specific items or add some particular customization to a specific week’s broadcast. The Editor’s Note section allows me to either enter a note or specify a blog post to be featured in the next scheduled email broadcast.

This also modifies the subject line, with either the title of the featured post or the headline of the editor’s note appended to the email subject line.

Example: RSVPMaker Roundup – Wednesday Webinar on RSVPMaker + MailChimp


Adding an Editor’s Note

The settings shown above would give me an email newsletter that looks like this. This note and headline would only be applied to the one specified week’s email.


Editor’s note

Here is an example of a newsletter with a featured blog post included up top (note that the featured post is not repeated in the “From the Blog” section generated by the recent posts shortcode.


Featured blog excerpt

This combination has served me well, and I hope you can also put it to good use.

Posted in Announcement, Tutorial | Leave a comment

How to Change the RSVP Now! Button

One of the basic customizations I should have documented long ago is how to change the RSVP Now! button. Here is the default button, originally created for a political campaign (hence the red, white and blue):


You can change the text, the colors, the fonts to be whatever you would like by modifying a snippet of HTML code with embedded CSS styling. It’s an option on the Settings -> RSVPMaker page about halfway down. Continue reading

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How to Promote Events with MailChimp + RSVPMaker

Here is how you can promote events through a MailChimp email list and get people to register or RSVP, while driving more traffic to your website in the process. MailChimp support arrived in RSVPMaker with version 4.0 and makes it easier to craft broadcast email messages that incorporate RSVPMaker events and other WordPress content.

You begin by composing the content of your event using the standard WordPress editor. I will use the example of a July 20th webinar I’m planning.

Composing an event

Composing an event

Below the content editing area, you will complete a series of event options such as the date and time. Here, I’m asking for people to register so I’ve checked the Collect RSVPs checkbox.

Event options

Event options

Because this event is a webinar, I’ve created a detailed confirmation message that includes the links people will need to follow to attend. You can see a little of it on the screen above, but I composed it by clicking on the Hangouts Setup link and following the prompts to set up an HTML message like the one shown below. (See more about support for Google Hangouts on Air).

I’ve also set the website to send a reminder message to attendees two hours before the event.


Confirmation and reminder messages

I also customized the signup form, mostly to simplify it by eliminating options like the blanks for adding guests (which make more sense in the context of an offline event).

I also specified that I would like an “Add me to your email list” checkbox to appear on the signup form. This will allow people who aren’t already on my email list to join it at the same time that they complete the RSVP form.

In other words, I hope to build my email list at the same time that I am registering people for the event.

Setting up the form

Setting up the form

Once I am happy with the event I have created, I can create a draft of a broadcast email message based on that event.

A Send Invitation link now appears on the listing of events. There is also a Content for Email screen you can use to select content to be included in an email broadcast (which also allows you to import blog posts or listings of posts).

Send Invite link

Send Invite link

Imported content is loaded into the WordPress editor, now being used to compose email content. The default title includes the title of the event, along with the date. The email message does not necessarily have to include the verbatim content of your event, but you can use this as a starting point for your invitation email. The imported event includes the RSVP Now! button to encourage people to respond.

Imported content also includes a placeholder (the “INTRO” text) for you to add an introductory message.

Composing an email based on the event post.

Composing an email based on the event post.

Once you are happy with the content of your email broadcast, you can preview it on your website. It will be displayed in a special template specific to events. You can customize the HTML to be used in the template from within WordPress to add elements such as a logo or change the default background color.

If you see changes you want to make, click Revise to go back to the editor. I also typically send a preview version of the email to myself before submitting it to MailChimp.

When you are ready to send your broadcast, check the MailChimp list checkbox, confirm that you have the right list selected, and click Send Now.

Previewing and preparing to send the email.

Previewing and preparing to send the email.

I’ve actually used related techniques to send email broadcasts and regularly scheduled event roundup newsletters to various communities for several years. That approach has also been standardized as part of this latest RSVPMaker release.

As you can see, I’m planning a July 20 webinar to showcase these features and gather feedback on how to make them better. Try it, and let me know what you think.

Posted in Announcement, MailChimp, RSVPMaker Mailer, Tutorial | 1 Comment

Event Type Pages and RSS Feeds for RSVPMaker

If you assign an event type to an RSVPMaker post, site visitors can now click through to see an archive of related events. This is similar to how you would view all the blog posts in a category, except that only future events are shown in order of event date.

You can now also share RSS feeds of upcoming events and event types. Once you find the url for an event type archive, just add /feed/ to the end to get the RSS. Here are a couple of examples.

A feed of all the upcoming events tagged as featured:


A feed of all the events on the RSVPMaker website:


(Most of them demo events).

Here is an example of an event type archive. If you are ambitious enough to modify your theme, you may be able to improve the default display by creating custom templates. The naming convention is archive-rsvpmaker.php for all rsvpmaker posts or taxonomy-rsvpmaker-type.php for event types.

A listing of posts tagged with an RSVPMaker Event Type

A listing of posts tagged with an RSVPMaker Event Type

Posted in Announcement, Tutorial | Leave a comment

RSVPMaker 4.0 Adds Integrated Mailer with MailChimp Support

You can now use RSVPMaker to send email invitations to events, as well as other messages relevant to the community you have built around your website. If you want to send messages to a large list, you can use RSVPMaker’s integration with the MailChimp broadcast email service. Independently, RSVPMaker will allow you to send messages to members of your website (for community-based sites that provide user accounts to members), to people who have signed up for an event, or to past attendees at events.


Send Invitation option on menu

In addition to sending single messages, you can schedule a newsletter such as a roundup of upcoming events and recent blog posts to be sent out on a daily or weekly basis.

The new options appear on the RSVP Mailer menu, immediately below RSVP Events. By default, the ability to create and send messages is restricted to the administrator only, although you can grant permission other user types on the settings screen.

RSVPMaker has actually included features designed to work with MailChimp for years, such as encoding on the RSVP Now! button that is replaced with the recipient’s email address when a message is sent. Previously, I provided support for sending MailChimp emails through a separate plugin, ChimpBlast, which I made great use of but few others seemed to appreciate. The RSVP Mailer feature of RSVPMaker is a new, improved version of that functionality. It’s also been updated for version 3.0 of the MailChimp API (with the help of a PHP class wrapper by Drew McLellan – thank you!), whereas ChimpBlast was several versions behind.

While ChimpBlast was lagging, RSVPMaker itself had added several email-related features related to confirmation messages and reminders. I have also been hearing from more people who run membership websites who would like to be able to email the members of their organization without necessarily relying on a service such as MailChimp. So adding a more full-fledged mailer only made sense.

You can create an event invitation from the RSVP Events screen by selecting “Send Invitation” from the menu that appears when you hover your event over the title. Alternatively, you can pick an event from the “Content for Email” screen. Imported content will be loaded into the editor, with a placeholder for an introductory message you can add.


Editing the draft of an email event invitation

Other options include importing the headline and excerpt / content from a recent blog post to serve as the basis for an email broadcast. Or you can import a listing of recent posts.

Editing an email roundup of recent blog posts.

Editing an email roundup of recent blog posts.

Once you have edited your email draft to your liking, you can preview it on the website and send it to a MailChimp list, user list, or attendee list. The controls for sending messages only appear when this page is viewed by a user authorized to send messages.


Previewing and approving messages on the website.

To create an email newsletter that works with the RSVP Mailer, I would use a series of shortcodes. Of these, rsvpmaker_upcoming is the familiar tag used to display a calendar and events listing on your website, and you can use the popup editor to modify the settings. Two additions are rsvpmaker_recent_blog_posts, which will display blog posts from the past week (if there are any) and rsvpmaker_looking_ahead, which displays linked headlines of events beyond the period covered in the full events listing.


[rsvpmaker_upcoming calendar=”0″ posts_per_page=”10″ type=”” one=”0″ hideauthor=”0″ past=”0″ no_events=”No events currently listed” nav=”bottom”]

[rsvpmaker_looking_ahead title=”Looking Ahead”]

The options for setting a schedule for distribution of a newsletter or other scheduled broadcast are at the bottom of the RSVP Mailer editing screen. Once you have turned on this feature and specified which list you want to send to, you will also be given the opportunity to add an Editor’s Note for a specific edition of the newsletter. This is a good way to call attention to a specific event, or a specific blog post, or to add a personal message.

Options for scheduling email.

Options for scheduling email.

The resulting newsletter looks like this:

A sample newsletter driven by RSVPMaker.

A sample newsletter driven by RSVPMaker.

The Email Template screen is where you can set options such as the background color to be used with your emails and CSS parameters for HTML tags and classes. These will be added inline to your HTML content when the message is generated, since email clients don’t otherwise reliably process stylesheets in the head of a document.

Posted in Announcement, MailChimp, RSVPMaker Mailer | 3 Comments

Duplicate Dates Glitch

A few sites have reported an issue where, after upgrading to the latest release of the plugin, the date for an event previously entered into the system will be displayed twice.

This should not be an issue for anyone upgrading to version 3.9.9 from any version before 3.9. However, if you saw this issue crop up after upgrading to one of the earlier 3.9.x releases, updating will not necessarily fix it. Here is a workaround you can use if you have this problem with events currently displayed on your site.

Add the query string ?clean_duplicate_dates=1 to your web domain and load that page. Example:



Then take another look at your calendar to confirm the duplicates are gone.

Posted in Bug Fix | 3 Comments

Using RSVPMaker on Membership Websites

Version 3.9.7 adds better functionality for membership websites, where the people entering RSVPs have user accounts and log in prior to responding.

  • The system will now automatically look up any previous RSVPs associated with the same account (which for unauthenticated users only happens if they click the update link in a confirmation email).
  • Form fields will be filled in based on user metadata, provided that the form field names match the usermeta fields. Example: a membership site records the user’s work number as work_phone, and the form field is also labeled work_phone, so the work phone number on the user’s profile is filled in by default on the RSVP form.

Here is an illustration of that last point:

Adding the Work Phone field in the form generator.

Adding the Work Phone field in the form generator.

The generated code for the form, with Work Code as the label displayed to the user but work_code as the field ID.

The generated code for the form, with Work Phone as the label displayed to the user but work_phone as the ID for a text field.

The work phone number is filled in by default on the form.

The work phone number is filled in by default on the form.

The RSVPMaker form generator is a simple utility that does not address all possible variations. One that would require manual coding is to make a field containing profile data a hidden field rather than a user editable one. For example, a hockey league that contacted me with the request for this feature has a custom profile label for “Team,” which is a value they might not want users to be able to alter on an event-by-event basis. Or you simply might not want to display information including name and email address that is already in the user profile table.

To make the form fields hidden instead of editable, we would manually change the form code “textfield” to “hidden” as in this example:

<p class=”work_phone”><label>Work Phone</label> [rsvpfield textfield=”work_phone” ]</p>


[rsvpfield hidden=”work_phone” ]

Whether this will work with your membership plugin of choice depends on how it handles custom profile data. So far, I’ve tested it with my own RSVPMaker for Toastmasters plugin as well as the Ultimate Member plugin (which is used by the hockey league I mentioned). You can also program your own user profile fields by creating your own plugin or custom theme (with the code added to functions.php). For RSVPMaker to retrieve custom profile data, it must be recorded as standard WordPress user metadata, which is recorded in the database table typically named wp_usermeta (some sites may change the prefix to something other to wp_). The user metadata field names must also follow the convention of being all in lowercase with an underscore in the place of any letters or punctuation, which is the same way the RSVPMaker form generator formats field names based on the label text.

Posted in Announcement, Release, Tutorial | 4 Comments