I am guilty of creating an opinion about a company or event based on the quality of their website. Are you? My initial reaction and experience on the home page of a website could make or break whether I choose to hire a company, work with a supplier, or register for an event. This is similar to when you meet someone for the first time. First impressions matter.

Your website is the public face of your event and it should reflect what you hope to deliver as the on-site experience. What do you look for when you get to a website? What are the things that frustrate you as you search for information? Consider these questions and work towards improving your website’s visitor experience.

For most events, you have a small window of time, a few months to a year, to make an impact online.

Here are six ways you can improve your event website:

1. The content on each page should be relevant, to the point and easy to read. Use sub-pages to reduce clutter. If you try to cram too much into one page, you will likely confuse visitors and make them click away instead of exploring your site. Make use of bullet points, short paragraphs, large or bold characters, and sub-headings. Put the emphasis on the most important details: When is it? Where is it? Why would I want to attend? How can I register? Keep in mind that, on average, users will only read 20% of the content on a website (http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-little-do-users-read/).

2. Your website should look alive. If you have the time/staff to integrate social media onto your event website, do it! Use blog posts and Twitter/Facebook updates to keep the page fresh and current. I recommend making use of testimonials to improve the content on your event website. 70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends, but only 10% trust advertising, according to a report from Forrester Research (http://mashable.com/2013/03/21/70-percent-brand-recommendations-friends/). Make it a habit to collect testimonials from your delegates after each event.

3. Go mobile. Odds are that your potential delegates are checking your website or opening your promotional emails on their smartphones as they are walking to a meeting, sitting on the bus or having lunch. People are glued to their devices. Once they get to your website, the information needs to be just as clear as it would be on a computer screen. The less finger-pinching and scrolling required – the better.

4. Your contact information has to be visible on each page. Nothing frustrates me more than having to click through a few pages before I can find an email address. If someone requires assistance or has questions and they can’t speak to someone, they could change their mind about attending.

5. Make it easy to register. Your main goal is to get people to attend your event, so you need to make the registration process as simple as possible. Registration should be the main call to action on your website. Visitors will also appreciate it if you provide clear and complete registration costs on your website, without having to log in.

6. Quality content! Your website should provide information that will encourage visitors to register and attend your event, but it should also be useful as a reference and information guide for those who have already decided to attend. Once they’ve registered, they will want to know where they should book accommodation, what they can do in the conference city and more. Update your site regularly to inform your registered delegates of new events, new speakers, new exhibitors, etc. Offer event information when it is most relevant and remove content that has outlived its usefulness.

Promotion through your website shouldn’t end as soon as the conference begins. Keep updating it with information during and after the conference. Not only will this help drive traffic to your site during the event, it will also be a good tool to show anyone who hasn’t registered what they can expect at this conference. Maybe they will attend next year if they get a glimpse of what they missed out on this year.

Experiences start with a first impression, and if people don’t have an easy, enjoyable experience on your website, they may make a negative judgement on what your event has to offer.