If you use the events template feature of RSVPMaker to create multiple events including the same boilerplate details that repeat every time, now you can also create automated reminder messages for each of those events more easily.
When you create a series of events based on a template, each event gets a copy of the basic content (where and when you meet, who to contact with questions) and most of the associated metadata (like whether RSVPs are being collected, whether there is a fee, what event type the post is associated with). However, the reminder message setup isn’t duplicated by default — and you might not necessarily want the reminder message to be the same each time. Just like you do not want to automatically overwrite the content of posts that might have been updated independently of the template.
On the other hand, you may want the reminder message to be the same (or basically the same) most of the time. Improving how this is handled is one of those features I needed for my own purposes. Since I run an Online Toastmasters club (Online Presenters) that meets every week, and every one of those meetings needs an automated reminder message to the people who signed up to attend as a guest. The reminder includes details like the online meeting link and basic instructions for how to sign in. Adding those reminders one meeting at a time was a drag.
Now, when you update a reminder message for any event associated with a template, you will see an option to apply that update to all the other events associated with that template. This is similar to the process for updating events based on a template, where you can click “Check all” but still make exceptions for special events that require a slightly different message.
Note that the subject line includes a series of date formatting codes, which default to the same ones used in your site’s “long date” format from the RSVPMaker settings page. You may want to tweak it, for example if you do not think it’s necessary for the year to be displayed.
The result looks like this
For basics on how the reminders function works, see this post.
RSVPMaker users have periodically requested that I add a standard way of recording event locations. If you were organizing a series of events at a specific location, you could create an event template, but RSVPMaker didn’t have a way of managing locations independently of events. Now it does.
One reason I hesitated was I didn’t want to provide a template that would lock you into a specific presentation, without taking into account individual preferences for which mapping service to use or how events should be presented to your audience.
My solution is to provide a default format but let you edit it however you want, using the WordPress editor. Details like whether you want the location to appear at the top of the post, the bottom of the post, or in the middle are left up to you. I’m shooting for a little more consistency, but no foolish consistencies.
Click the Location button in the event editor, and you will get a form that lets you add a new location. Give it a name and put in the address details. You can manually add a map link or let the software generate a Google Maps link (be sure to test it afterward to make sure it guides people to the right address).
When you click Add, the formatted address will be inserted into your event post. It will also be saved as a special kind of RSVPMaker post. The next time you want to add that address, you will be able to pick it from the dropdown list and click Choose.
You can change or enhance the content of one of these saved locations using the WordPress editor. For example, you might want to add a location photo to point out a hard-to-find entrance.
Locations are listed under RSVP Events when you have it set to Show All (rather than sorted to show only future events). The Edit button shown in the dialog above will also guide you to the correct post.
Here’s an example of retrieving that sample location to add it to an event post.
If you want to provide any special styling for the display of locations, there are several class tags you can take advantage of:
<span class="rsvplocation"><span class="locname">The Pride Center at Equality Park</span>
<span class="locaddress">2040 N. Dixie Highway</span>
<span class="citystatezip"><span class="loccity">Wilton Manors</span>, <span class="state">FL</span> <span class="postal">33305</span> <a class="map" href="https://www.google.com/maps/search/?api=1&query=2040%20N.%20Dixie%20Highway%20Wilton%20Manors%2C%20FL%2033305" target="_blank" rel="noopener">(Map)</a></span></span>
Here’s an example of a little CSS I experimented with using the WordPress Customizer tool
Outdated websites are the worst. Particularly when it’s obvious. When you view the home page and it’s advertising an “upcoming” event that happened a week or a month ago. Or urging you to take advantage of a limited time offer for which the deadline is already past.
Is that really the worst thing a website could be? Nah, I suppose it could be ugly or disorganized or unprofessional in a lot of different ways. But it’s one of the things I see regularly on websites that are otherwise very polished. The big event, or the date of the big promotion, has come and gone, but no one has gone back to refresh the website. If it goes on for a few days, it’s forgivable: we all have lots of other things to do. Pretty quickly, though, it starts to look like a sign of neglect.
Here’s the thing: computers can tell time. Content management systems can be configured to let outdated content expire or fade into the background. Just by using a blog and posting to it regularly, you can display your latest content more prominently than older content. For people to be able to find your original announcement of an event in the blog archives isn’t a bad thing, as long as there is more recent content (photos of happy people in the event recap) piled on top.
RSVPMaker event listings address this in a different way, allowing you to display a calendar of events in order of event dates as opposed to in order of posting date (blog style). Site visitors can navigate back through the calendar to find old event posts, but the upcoming stuff is always displayed more prominently.
When you want to embed a featured event on the home page, you can set that up using the rsvpmaker_one shortcode and specify that it should expire after the date is past. I also provide an rsvpmaker_timed shortcode that you can wrap around any block of content with start and/or end times specified for when it should be displayed. (Both are not new but have been improved in recent releases).
The rsvpmaker_one shortcode
The rsvpmaker_one shortcode is particularly intended as a way of displaying an event on the home page or a landing page. Use it to display a specific event, or the next scheduled event, or the next event in a specific category (like the next webinar). You can display the full event, with either the RSVP Now! button or the registration form included, or a show compact version. You can also extract elements like the date, the button, or the form to be used in a custom layout. In the context of this post, the important thing is that it can be set to expire (disappear off the page) when the event date is past.
There is a button on the button bar (the clock icon) to help you get the parameters right.
Examples of the shortcode:
Retrieve a specific event by ID and display it along with the registration form. Expire it 6 hours after the start time of the event.
Show the next event in the webinar category (if none is scheduled, don’t show anything). Instead of displaying the whole form, show the RSVP Now! button.
You can also add a style attribute where you specify CSS for a div to be wrapped around the featured event. Example: style=”border: thin dotted #222; padding: 10px;” for a dotted border.
The rsvpmaker_timed shortcode
The rsvpmaker_timed shortcode is a quick-and-dirty way of specifying a start and/or end date for displaying a chunk of content. I’m sure there are other plugins or themes that provide something like this as a feature, but consider this a little something extra you get “for free” with RSVPMaker.
Here’s an example of how you would set it up:
The basic usage is like this:
Alternatively, you can do this:
The output is similar to what you would get from the example shown above (the one with the closing [/rsvpmaker_timed] tag), except that we’re pulling the content from another post. The style attribute is also available with this one, if you would like to apply a border or background color to the featured chunk of content.
If you don’t specify time of day, midnight is assumed (a December 26 end time means the post will stop displaying 1 second after midnight that morning). To make the start and end times unambiguous, you may want to put them in SQL format.
I currently don’t provide an editor button for finding the post or page ID, but you can grab it easily enough from the address bar in the WordPress editor.
I would typically suggest creating this chunk of content as a blog post. If you don’t want to make it public in the regular navigation flow of the site, you can save it as a draft and still use the WordPress editing tools to format and update that chunk of content independent of the page you are embedding it in.
If you want to use a page or any other post type, you need to add a post_type attribute.
Note that if you use a caching plugin, content may not disappear immediately after the end time you specified but only when the cache is purged or refreshed.
Those are my latest entries in the war against outdated web content.
Added by popular request: a new way of modifying the notification and confirmation messages RSVPMaker sends when someone submits the form for an event.
The default is still that a notification goes to the event organizer (or whatever email address or addresses you supplied) saying something like “RSVP YES for The Big Event on May 1” and the attendee gets a version that says “Confirming RSVP YES for The Big Event on May 1.” By default, the confirmation message also includes a button people can click to update their RSVP.
Now, if you want to use “Registration” rather than RSVP in the subject line, or you want to leave off the “Update RSVP” button (some people have told me they don’t want to make it too easy for people to back out), you can make those changes. (See also: How to Change the RSVP Now! Button.)
The notifications editor opens up possibilities for adding personality to these transactional messages. It also simplifies the process of localization, since “RSVP” is not universally understood across languages and cultures.
The information you record here should be generic enough to apply to all your events. You still get the option to add a per-event confirmation message, which will be included as long as your template includes the [rsvpmessage] placeholder (one of several documented on the page for the template editor). By default, the confirmation message is just “Thank you!” but I’ve also used RSVPMaker to register people for webinars where that message includes detailed instructions for accessing the online event. For a terrestrial event, it might be driving directions.
The Notification Templates screen is distinct from the Email Template screen, which you use to define one or more templates for the layout of your HTML email, for example to specify a background color. Notification messages use the default template defined on that screen.
While RSVPMaker is intended to be useful out of the box, I continue to look for ways to let you make it your own.
P.S. for Developers
If you create extensions to RSVPMaker, there are filters and actions you can tap to extend this feature as well.
The default array of variables used for these templates is defined like this:
$template_forms['notification'] = array('subject' => 'RSVP [rsvpyesno] for [rsvptitle] on [rsvpdate]','body' => "Just signed up:\n\n[rsvpdetails]");
$template_forms['confirmation'] = array('subject' => 'Confirming RSVP [rsvpyesno] for [rsvptitle] on [rsvpdate]','body' => "[rsvpmessage]\n\n[rsvpdetails]\n\nIf you wish to change your registration, you can do so using the button below. [rsvpupdate]");
YouTube Live allows anyone to play TV talk show host or broadcast live marketing, tutorial, or entertainment content to the world. I use it to share information about RSVPMaker and related software and to conduct interview programs.
Using RSVPMaker and your WordPress-powered website, you can use YouTube Live as a free webinar platform, registering attendees and directing them to a landing page on your website. After the event, you can gain further mileage out of the event by making a replay available on that same page (YouTube will automatically archive your event for replay).
YouTube Live is the latest version of what used to be called Google Hangouts on Air, now divorced from the Google+ social network. That change made some of the older tutorial content I’d published obsolete, and this is an update.
Click New Live Event and fill out the form. It should look something like this:
You will also create a corresponding RSVPMaker event for the same date and time. Because you may get attendees from other timezones, I recommend you tweak your RSVPMaker date/time display settings to specify that timezones should be displayed on your website.
Creating the Landing Page
Even before you create the RSVPMaker event, you may want to create the landing page for your site, so the RSVP confirmation can include directions on how to tune in at showtime. Some marketers may prefer to use some specific landing page software, but for my purposes this is a regular WordPress page not included on any menu but not managed with any fancy security either. Rather than making it a top secret, I am encouraging people to register for the sake of getting a calendar invite, plus an email reminder on the day of the event.
Here is what the setup for my event landing page looks like in the WordPress editor:
I’m showing this in Text mode, so you can see the code, whereas the visual editor would include a representation of the YouTube player. For the player, I need only include a YouTube URL on a blank line, and WordPress handles the video player setup automatically.
Right below that, you will see an iframe code. That is what allows the YouTube comments feature associated with the video to be displayed on my website. Viewers could also interact with the YouTube Live broadcast on youtube.com, but all things being equal I would rather keep them on my own branded website.
Update: you can skim lightly over this next section for background and pick up where I explain the new shortcode for adding the comments field.
See the YouTube documentation for a complete explanation, but the short version is that I need to capture the ID for the video and plug it into this iframe format. Here is where you will find the ID, in either the long or short versions of a YouTube url:
The other piece of information I need is the domain (including www or other subdomain) where the landing page will be hosted. If my ID was IDHERE and my domain was demo.example.com, then the URL for my iframe would be:
Here is what it looks like on the website before the show has begun. If you click Play on a YouTube Live video before showtime, what’s displayed is a countdown clock showing the time until the show is scheduled to begin.
Shortcode for YouTube Live Chat
A new shortcode, [ylchat] simplifies the process of adding the YouTube Live comment stream. The shortcode function extracts the video ID from the YouTube link included in the page, detects the server domain, and constructs the iframe for the chat window, according to Google’s specifications.
You can add attributes for width and height to override the default values (100% wide x 200 pixels tall). To make the comments box stop displaying after the end time for the webinar, use the attribute until, as in: [ylchat until=”January 30, 2017 8 pm”]
or [ylchat until=”2017-01-30 20:00:00″]
The issue is this particular chat stream is only active during the live event, and an error will be displayed in this spot if someone views the page after the event is over. When you set the until attribute, the shortcode function effectively deactivates itself after the time you specify is past.
Confirmation Message and Reminders
Now when you create your RSVPMaker event, you can incorporate a link to the landing page as part of the confirmation displayed on screen and sent to the attendee via email …
Confirmation Message: Live Video Chat: RSVPMaker for WordPress Demo/Q&A Wednesday December 7th 7:00 PM EST
You will be able to post questions during the event using your Google account, or you can tweet them to @davidfcarr before or during the event.
Conducting Your Event
At showtime, you will then launch your YouTube Live program from the Live Events page on youtube.com. You can invite in guests to join you in the live program and screenshare to demo software or show slides. It’s a good idea to get everything organized, including getting your guests signed in, at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the live program.
To make it easier to keep track of questions coming in on the YouTube comment feed, I recommend opening a popup window version of that feed, which you can do from either the public page for the event or the YouTube Live “video control room.”
When you start the live broadcast you can then switch to that chat window periodically to check for questions coming in.
I also recommend you get familiar with using the YouTube video editor to trim away extraneous content. For example, I often broadcast a “we will get started in just a few minutes” greeting before the program actually starts, but I don’t want that to be something people see when they watch the replay. See Adding, Then Editing Out, a Hangouts on Air Pre-Show Greeting.
The separation from Google+ is mostly positive, BTW, since trying to convince people to get an account on that service in order to participate was a losing proposition. However, it meant some features went away such as the Q&A app that was linked to Google+. I found the popup chat window worked just as well for my purposes. I’ve also experimented with embedding the YouTube Live player on a page with Facebook comments enabled, where I thought my audience was more Facebook friendly.
If you come up with other approaches, please share your ideas.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
This combination has served me well, and I hope you can also put it to good use.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.