Making RSVP Fields Match Pricing Choices

RSVPMaker now does a better job of handing more complex event pricing scenarios, such as a scenario where attendees may or may not pay for all the meals at a weekend conference. If they select a price that does not include a dinner, then we shouldn’t show them the meal choices on the form.

I have seen this handled elsewhere with a multi-page form, where your choices on the first screen narrow the choices presented on the second screen. Instead, RSVPMaker can now dynamically change the form to hide and disable the form fields that do not apply. You specify the setup for this in the pricing section of the editor for an RSVPMaker event.

Conditional display of RSVP form fields.

Conditional display of RSVP form fields.

You can see the effect of these choices in this sample event post:

Friday May 4th, 2018
Saturday May 5th, 2018
 
Private Citizen Obama

Private Citizen Barack Obama

Sign up early for our best Toastmasters district conference ever! Our keynote speaker will be former President Barack Obama, with a presentation on how to use “Um’s” and “Ah’s” to make yourself sound thoughtful.

The educational seminar program is going to be dynamite, and you will not want to miss our district-level Table Topics and International Speech contest competitions.

Early bird pricing will be available until April 1, so register today for the best deal.

RSVP Now!

Posted by David F. Carr on April 12, 2016

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Introducing Timed “Early Bird” Pricing for Events

The latest release of RSVPMaker supports more complex pricing scenarios with different price breaks, associated with deadlines for each tier (“early bird”, “on time”, and “late” registration for an event). This is one of several ways the new RSVPMaker improves the process of setting up events and accepting payment via PayPal and adds flexibility.

The example embedded below is loosely based on the variety of pricing packages my local Toastmasters district uses for its regional conferences. Click on the “RSVP Now!” button, and you will see two sets of prices with the “early bird” rates available until about 1 month before the event date. After that deadline, all the early bird prices will disappear from the options website visitors can select from the menu. (I picked a date in 2018 to keep the expiration dates from arriving too quickly.)

Timed pricing options

Timed pricing options

The corresponding administrative user interface for setting up pricing looks like this:

earlybird-admin

Pricing setup

Friday May 4th, 2018
Saturday May 5th, 2018
 
Private Citizen Obama

Private Citizen Barack Obama

Sign up early for our best Toastmasters district conference ever! Our keynote speaker will be former President Barack Obama, with a presentation on how to use “Um’s” and “Ah’s” to make yourself sound thoughtful.

The educational seminar program is going to be dynamite, and you will not want to miss our district-level Table Topics and International Speech contest competitions.

Early bird pricing will be available until April 1, so register today for the best deal.

RSVP Now!

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RSVPMaker Webinar Replay

Here is a replay of the February 24 webinar, which gives a pretty good tour of the site’s features.

One thing I said I was going to explain, but then forgot to, is how to embed an event in a blog post. The scenario here is that you’re announcing an event that you want people to start signing up for, but since the event is months away it wouldn’t show up prominently on the list of upcoming events. So you create a blog post promoting the event, with your boosterish marketing copy about why everyone should sign up soon, but you want to embed the actual event listing in that post.

Here is what that looks like. First, I click the calendar icon on the WordPress editor’s button bar:

calendar-button

Then from the options on the popup form, I use the Pick One? drop-down list to select my event.

Targeting a specific event.

Targeting a specific event.

Note that when you pick a single event, most of the other options become irrelevant because we’re not showing a whole calendar of events.

Here is a live example of an event embedded within this post:

No events currently listed

 

 

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New Form Builder, Guest Form Options

The new RSVP form builder allows you to specify prompts that should be included for both host and guests, such as meal choice at a lunch or dinner event. Here is how it works:

From the editor, click the Generate Form button under the RSVP Form field to get the pop-up form builder.

RSVPMaker form builder

RSVPMaker form builder

The default form includes a “Phone” field with a dropdown list that lets people specify whether a phone number is work, home, or mobile. In this case, we’ve unchecked the box for that and instead specified a field called “Work Phone.”

In addition, we’ve added “Meal” with radio button options in the format “Meal:Steak,Chicken,Vegetarian” and checked the box saying “Include on guest form” with the result shown below.

Custom fields for host and guests.

Custom fields for host and guests.

Note that the form builder is currently a one-way code generator. All it is doing is helping you generate the mix of HTML and WordPress shortcodes used to format and output the form fields. You can still manually edit the code if that’s what you prefer, and there are some options available to coders that the form generator doesn’t necessarily support.

In code, you specify that a field should be repeated on the guest section of the form by adding the guestfield=”1″ attribute.

[rsvpfield radio=”meal” sep=” ” options=”Steak,Chicken,Vegetarian” checked=”Steak” guestfield=”1″ ]

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Video: Simplified PayPal Setup, Plus Payment Process and RSVP Form Improvements

As part of my preparation for a webinar on RSVPMaker, I have been working on satisfying some longstanding requests from users of the plugin to simplify the PayPal setup and the setup of the RSVP form itself. These improvements are in version 3.7, just released.

Just the other week, I heard from a wedding planner who wanted to prompt users for a meal choice for themselves and any guests — and including those choices for guests was not something RSVPMaker handled well until now.

Another bit of motivation is related to my WordPress for Toastmasters project, which is based on extensions to RSVPMaker. It used to be that enabling PayPal support required manually editing and uploading a configuration file. But now I’m hosting sites on behalf of Toastmasters clubs in a WordPress multisite setup where it wouldn’t be practical for those who want to add PayPal support FTP access. So I’ve provided a little PayPal Setup wizard on the RSVPMaker settings screen to streamline the process.

Note on Security

The reason I didn’t simplify PayPal setup before now is justified paranoia: I didn’t want to be responsible for someone getting unauthorized access to your PayPal account. I still don’t. This is why I don’t store your PayPal credentials in the WordPress database. From time to time, WordPress has been known to be hacked.

While nothing is completely secure, the file system is a little more secure than the database — if an attacker has FTP access to your site, you’re already in big trouble. The PHP file containing your user credentials is set up to prevent someone from browsing to it and viewing the contents. By giving it a random filename, rather than calling it “paypal_constants.php,” I also make it less likely that an attacker will find it in the first place.

If you do have FTP access to your site, one thing you may want to do for extra security is move the file to a location outside of web root. For example, instead of storing it in /home/rsvpmaker/public-html/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/stringofjibberish.php I might put it above the public-html directory in /home/rsvpmaker/.

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Timed Display of Content: the rsvpmaker_timed Shortcode

Part of the point of using a calendar plugin on your blog is to have content displayed for upcoming events, but not past ones, or at least give the upcoming events people can sign up for or attend greater emphasis and display them in chronological order (rather than the reverse chronological order of a blog listing).

I always think it looks stupid for a website to be promoting an event that is already past. Computers can tell time, and we should let them do so on our behalf rather than waiting for the webmaster to get around to removing the outdated content.

Events aren’t the only example of time-sensitive content, however. We may have limited time offers or other content that has a start date, an end date, or both. WordPress lets you schedule posts to go live at a given time in the future, but what if you want to embed a bit of limited time content on your home page or somewhere else on your site?

That’s the purpose of the rsvpmaker_timed shortcode, which can be wrapped around any bit of content in a page or a post that should only be displayed after a given time, until a given time, or between a start time and an end time. For those not familiar, a shortcode is a code you enter into the WordPress editor that achieves a special effect. Here is an example:

rsvpmaker_timed coding wrapped around a paragraph for conditional display.

rsvpmaker_timed coding wrapped around a paragraph for conditional display.

This shows the shortcode open and close tags wrapped around a paragraph, but it could just as easily be a longer block of content including images or video.

The shortcode attributes are start, end, too_early, and too_late. Put a plain language date like ‘January 1, 2016 7 pm’ in the start and/or end fields, or use a database style date like ‘2016-01-20 19:00′ and RSVPMaker will test the current time against those rules.

If a visitor is coming too the site too early or too late, according to those rules, the shortcode will return either an empty string or the contents of the too_early / too_late parameters, if set. Otherwise, the content will be returned as it normally would be.

Note that if a time is not specified, in addition to the date, the time is considered to be “00:00:00″ — first thing in the very early morning of that date. So if what you really want is to specify a cutoff at midnight, you should either put in ’11:59 pm’ or ’23:59:59′ as the end time. Alternatively, if you want content to stop being shown after January 29 is over, you could set end=”January 30, 2016”

In the context of my recent projects using Google Hangouts on Air as a webinar platform, one of the ways I am using this is to put a promotion on a website home page until the event occurs. I can provide another block of content to be displayed after the event, directing people to the replay.

Support for this shortcode was added in release 3.6.2.

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New Calendar Editor, RSVP Form Generator

RSVPMaker now includes visual editors that simplify the setup of a calendar listing and the RSVP form for individual events. This should make a lot of RSVPMaker setup easier for people who don’t like to mess with code. Frankly, it’s also easier for me because I kept forgetting some of the shortcode options.

When editing any page or post, you should see a new calendar button has appeared in the WordPress visual editor.

calendar-button

Clicking that button will give you a popup editor for setting the parameters for an events listing, including whether the calendar should be displayed at the top of the listing.

Popup Calendar editor

Popup Calendar editor

Most site owners will tweak one or two of these fields and leave the rest at their default values. However, it is possible to create a listing targeted to a specific post type (just the events tagged as webinars, for example).

One other special case is inserting a single post. For example, you create a blog post advertising an upcoming event and want to embed the related RSVPMaker post inside that blog post, so people can click on RSVP Now and be taken straight to the signup form. In that case, you would toggle off the display of the calendar and select that one event from “Target One Post” (not to self: change the label to “Target One Event”).

When you insert the event, it’s now displayed as a placeholder image (switch the editor from Visual to Text mode if you want to see the underlying shortcode coding). You can double-click on the placeholder image to open up the editor and make changes.

RSVPMaker placeholder

RSVPMaker placeholder

Customizing the RSVP Form

Up until now, altering the RSVP Form has required working with a mix of HTML and shortcodes, which are documented here. I’ve added a popup code generators that addresses a bunch of common tweaks you might want to make, like deciding whether or not to ask for a phone number, adding an additional text field or two, and deciding whether or not to include the “guest” fields.

rsvp-form-generator

You can use the form generator and still tweak the HTML or add additional fields as necessary. This is a simple form generator and does not cover all the shortcodes for adding things like radio buttons.

If you use this in combination with my Chimpblast plugin for MailChimp, and include the “Add me to your email list” checkbox on your form, the software will attempt to subscribe the event attendee to the default mailing list you have specified in Chimpblast. (Okay, almost nobody other than me uses Chimpblast, but this was a handy feature for me to add and one someone else might find useful).

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Improved Confirmation and Reminder Messages for RSVPMaker

This month’s updates to RSVPMaker have substantially improved its system of confirmation and reminder email messages. These changes come in part to support my approach to organizing Hangouts on Air online events.

An RSVPMaker reminder message in GMail.

An RSVPMaker reminder message in GMail.

For example, here is the series of confirmation and reminder messages I prepared for a January 27 webinar. The confirmation message goes out immediately when someone registers, and the reminders are set for 24 hours and 2 hours before the start of the event. A follow-up message with a link to the replay then goes out the following morning to everyone who registered (whether or not they actually attended).

The messages are shown as you would see them on the administrator’s dashboard (edit and delete links have been disabled).

Confirmation Message: Low-Budget/No Budget Webinars with Google Hangouts on Air Wednesday January 27th 7:00 PM EST

Thank you for registering!

This event will be conducted using Google’s Hangouts On Air free video broadcast service. Some features such as the interactive Q&A require a Google+ account. The web address for the live event is:

Hangout: https://plus.google.com/events/curufn84bj465orhu44vah5it68

If you use GMail or other Google services that require a password, you may already have a Google+ account or be able to create one with a couple of clicks. If possible, try to visit the link above prior to showtime so you will know you’re ready. I will start the video feed about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the event, and you will be able to start to enter questions using the Hangouts Q&A app.

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

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDbFz2RIf4

Edit

Previously Set Reminders

Set for 2 hours before the start of the event

Subject: TONIGHT: Low-Budget/No Budget Webinars with Google Hangouts on Air – 7:00 PM EST

I look forward to welcoming you to tonight’s webinar.

This event will be conducted using Google’s Hangouts On Air free video broadcast service. Some features such as the interactive Q&A require a Google+ account. The web address for the live event is:

Hangout: https://plus.google.com/events/curufn84bj465orhu44vah5it68

If you use GMail or other Google services that require a password, you may already have a Google+ account or be able to create one with a couple of clicks. If possible, try to visit the link above prior to showtime so you will know you’re ready. I will start the video feed about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the event, and you will be able to start to enter questions using the Hangouts Q&A app.

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

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDbFz2RIf4

Edit | Delete

Previously Set Reminders

Set for 24 hours before the start of the event

Subject: REMINDER: Low-Budget/No Budget Webinars with Google Hangouts on Air Wednesday January 27th 7:00 PM EST

I am looking forward to welcoming you to Wednesday night’s hangout.

This event will be conducted using Google’s Hangouts On Air free video broadcast service. Some features such as the interactive Q&A require a Google+ account. The web address for the live event is:

Hangout: https://plus.google.com/events/curufn84bj465orhu44vah5it68

If you use GMail or other Google services that require a password, you may already have a Google+ account or be able to create one with a couple of clicks. If possible, try to visit the link above prior to showtime so you will know you’re ready. I will start the video feed about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled start of the event, and you will be able to start to enter questions using the Hangouts Q&A app.

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

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDbFz2RIf4

Edit | Delete

Previously Set Reminders

Set for 16 hours after the start of the event

Subject: Webinar Replay: Low-Budget/No Budget Webinars with Google Hangouts on Air

Thanks for your interest in this RSVPMaker webinar.

A replay is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hDbFz2RIf4

I encourage you to forward this email to a friend, or share the video on social media. If you have questions I didn’t answer during the event, please follow up with me.

Edit | Delete

A Note on More Reliable Scheduling and Message Delivery

For this to work properly, make sure to set the correct timezone on the Settings -> General screen in WordPress. I also recommend creating an email account to be used for notifications and registering it in the SMTP mail section of Settings -> RSVPMaker. This is to ensure accurate timing and reliable delivery of these messages.

RSVPMaker takes advantage of WP Cron, a standard WordPress scheduling mechanism. Because it only checks for scheduled tasks to be run when someone vistis your website, WP Cron can be imprecise — which could be a problem if you want to make sure a reminder will go out an hour before your event, if that happens to be a low traffic site. Caching plugins can also get in the way of regular WP Cron execution. Consider following these directions to make sure your server checks for scheduled tasks to run on a more regular schedule, like once every 5 or 15 minutes.

Using Unix cron, the command you would set to execute would be:

wget https://yoursiteURLhere.com/wp-cron.php?doing_wp_cron=1 > /dev/null 2>&1

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Adding, Then Editing Out, a Hangouts on Air Pre-Show Greeting

A good webinar ought to feature a warm welcome for the audience, including early people who arrive early. However, that material may not be appropriate to include in the replay people see later — you want them to be able to get right into the content of your broadcast.

Trimming a section from a YouTube video, such as a Hangouts replay.

Trimming a section from a YouTube video, such as a Hangouts replay.

I’m learning a few things as the result of a current series of webinars about RSVPMaker’s support for Google Hangouts on Air, as well as my WordPress for Toastmasters project. One of the virtues of the Hangouts on Air platform is it automatically captures everything you broadcast to YouTube, which is a great way of building your library of YouTube content and reaching many more people than were able to tune in live.

Fortunately, YouTube also provides a way for you to edit out anything you do not want included in the replay.

For a session where Q&A will be encouraged, I am finding that it makes sense to open up the live session a few minutes early and display some information about how to use the Hangouts Q&A app. One possibility would be to show a PowerPoint slide. However, to keep things simple in a context where I’ll be giving a web app demo, I cooked up something where I can show a web page with a countdown timer and some imagery.

I toggle full screen viewing of that countdown/welcome page in a separate browser window. When starting my broadcast, I screen share that specific browser window.

Here is an example of what that looks like for an event starting at 7 pm EST (opens in a new browser tab).

I created a utility, which you can access at rsvpmaker.com/countdown, that lets you specify the star time and the welcome image you want to use. Or download the source code, in case you’d like to tweak it. While showing this, I keep my microphone muted so people don’t hear me shuffling papers or whatever.

You could just as easily use this time to make small talk with the early arrivals. In any case, at the appointed time, you should switch from preliminaries to the live show starting. One tip is to allow a moment of silence before you start speaking to make it easier to edit out everything prior to that first spoken word that signals the start of the show.

Trimming the YouTube Replay

Here is how you can clean up the recording after the show. The example I show is trimming off the beginning of the video, but it’s also possible to cut out a section in the middle. That’s the great thing about video: you can edit out your mistakes.

Note that your edits do not appear instantly. The delay appears to be proportional to the length of the entire video.

If you really want people to see the cleaned up version of the replay, you may want to avoid sending out emails and social media messages driving people to the replay until you can confirm that YouTube is done processing your changes.

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Replay of Jan. 8 Webinar: Budget Webinars with Hangouts on Air and WordPress

The tutorial I recommend on how to run your own Hangouts Q&A session is here:

http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/how-to-run-a-qa-session-using-google-hangouts-on-air/

Thanks to Jim and Chris Guld of Geeks on Tour for joining me at the end of the show. Look up their next event or watch one of the replays here:

http://geeksontour.com/weeklyshow/

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