WordPress is an open-source platform that provides a solid framework for many types of websites. However, it offers little in the way of niche-specific features. If you’re looking to create something other than a simple blog or business site, you may need access to more functionality.
This holds true if you’re looking to promote events through your website. You’ll need to be able to list the events, provide a way for people to purchase tickets, and so on. Implementing these features from scratch is time-consuming – but the right plugin can make it happen in no time.
In this post, we’ll talk about what features you’ll need for your events website, and how to choose the right open-source event management plugin. Let’s get started!
Why You May Need an Event Management Plugin
Your website can be an excellent way to get the word out about upcoming events of all types. This will enable you to host all the necessary information in one place and attract new potential attendees through search engine traffic.
Hosting events is also a very scalable application for your site. You can merely list one or two events, or create an entire website based around promoting and managing concerts, meet-ups, conferences, games, or some combination thereof.
However, in either scenario, you’ll need more functionality than WordPress can provide on its own. Don’t get us wrong – WordPress makes an excellent foundation for your events website. It’s easy to use, flexible, and secure. Still, you’ll want a few additional features, such as:
- A way to display and organize your events
- A calendar where you can show off all upcoming events in one place
- Functionality for letting visitors purchase tickets
- The ability to manage attendee information and registrations
None of these are easy with a default WordPress installation, but all can be surprisingly simple with the right plugin.
What to Look for in an Events Plugin
First and foremost, it’s smart to look for an open-source event management solution. WordPress itself is open-source, which means its source code can be modified in any way you like. The same holds true for most WordPress plugins.
This is important because it means you’ll have total freedom over how your events website works. Even if you want to keep things simple right now, down the road you’ll have the option to modify features and functionality to suit your exact needs.
It isn’t hard to find event management plugins – there are plenty of free options in the WordPress Plugin Directory (just search for “event”), as well as premium offerings from various developers. The trick lies in choosing the best one for your site.
An event registration plugin for WordPress can offer a wide range of functionality. Let’s quickly look at the most important features your chosen solution will need to have, so you know what to focus on:
- A custom post type for events. Much like how an e-commerce plugin such as WooCommerce will add a new products option to your site, an events plugin should provide you with a way to create events post types. This will enable you to keep your events separate from your site’s other content (such as posts and pages). Plus, this makes it easier to add supplementary information to each event, including prices and locations.
- An events calendar. It’s also useful to have a calendar that displays all your events in one place. This makes it easier for visitors to see everything available, without having to search through many different pages. If they see an event on the calendar that piques their interest, they should be able to click through to learn more about it.
- Ticketing and registration functionality. Unless all of your events are free, it makes sense to enable online purchases. People will be more likely to sign up if they can complete the entire registration process on your site. This functionality should also be flexible – enabling you to set prices, offer different levels of tickets, and so on.
Of course, there are other features that can come in handy. For example, some plugins may provide the functionality to help you manage events as well. This could include a way to see and manage all attendees for an event, and scan tickets. However, the above three features can be considered must-haves if you’re looking to promote events through your site.
Choose the Right Event Management Solution for You
Once you know what you’re looking for, picking out an open-source event registration solution isn’t too difficult. In the following three steps, we’ll walk you through the process.
Step 1: Make a List of Your Desired Features
This first step requires understanding exactly what you want to do through your site. This means answering questions such as:
- What types of events will you promote?
- Do you only need to list a few events or many of them?
- Are most of your events free, or do they come with a price?
- What kind of information do you need to provide for potential attendees?
- How large will your events be, and how much help will you need managing them?
These answers will provide clues to the kinds of features you’ll need. For example, if you’re planning to list regular large events, you’re going to need a robust calendar and lots of management features. On the other hand, if you’re promoting a few small events here and there, your needs will be simpler.
At this point, you can go ahead and make a wish-list of features you want from your events management solution. In most cases, this should include the big three we discussed earlier (an events post type, a calendar, and ticketing functionality). However, you’ll also want to include any features unique to your specific site and needs.
Step 2: Decide Whether You Want a Free or Premium Solution
If you’re at all familiar with WordPress, you likely know that plugins come in a few standard varieties. Some are free, while others have a price attached. Many are also freemium in nature, meaning they have both a free and a premium version.
What type of plugin you opt for will depend largely on two factors:
- Your budget. If you have little to no funds to work with, a free plugin may be the safer bet. On the other hand, if your budget allows, a premium plugin can be a worthwhile investment if you plan to make money through your events. Depending on the plugin and tier you choose, this may cost you anywhere between $50 and a few hundred dollars.
- Your needs. As a general rule, premium plugins offer more advanced features than the free alternatives. So the best choice will depend partly on how much functionality you need, and whether you’re looking to keep your events site simple or include complex features.
In many cases, a freemium plugin is by far your best bet. This is because you can start out on the free tier, without risking a thing. You can learn how the plugin works, and decide whether or not its core functionality will meet your requirements. Then, you can upgrade if and when you decide you need access to a larger set of features.
As an example, let’s look at the Event Espresso plugin.
This event management solution has a lite version, Event Espresso Decaf, which is listed in the WordPress Plugin Directory. It includes ticketing and registration functionality, automated confirmation emails, and even apps that can help you scan tickets and track attendance during events.
Then there’s the premium version, which is also an open-source option:
This includes additional features, such as a robust events calendar and the ability to create multiple pricing and ticket options. Some of these features can also be purchased as standalone add-ons, which is another road you can take. With the right combination of a free plugin and a few add-ons, you can often get everything you need at a pretty low start-up cost.
Step 3: Evaluate Your Plugin Shortlist
Once you know what you’re looking for, all that’s left is to start exploring the market. You can check out the WordPress Plugin Directory, premium marketplaces such as CodeCanyon, and independent developer sites (just do your research to be sure your getting your plugin from a reputable source).
As you create a shortlist of event calendar plugins you like, you’ll want to evaluate each one carefully. To do so, you’ll need to consider:
- Feature set: Does the plugin provide all the essential features from your list?
- Pricing: Will the plugin fit into your budget (including premium tiers and add-ons if relevant)?
- Ratings and reviews: What do other users have to say about the plugin?
- Compatibility: Is the plugin kept up to date, and is it compatible with your version of WordPress (and your event WordPress theme or other plugins)?
- Support: Does the developer provide support for the plugin, ideally through multiple channels?
Finally, if at all possible, you’ll want to test-drive an event management plugin before committing to it. If there’s no demo available, grab the free version and set it up on a test website. Sometimes, getting hands-on with a plugin is the best way to determine if you’ll enjoy using it over the long term.
If you want to encourage high attendance rates at your events, you’ll need the right set of tools. A flexible, open-source solution will enable you to pick and choose what features you need. This can easily be achieved by building your site with WordPress and augmenting it via the right plugin.
What’s your favorite event management tool? Tell us about it in the comments section below!