Using the Invitation Function of ConfTool Pro

Invitations at a Glance
ConfTool supports two kinds of invitations: personal and anonymous.

a) Personal invitations: Use personal invitations to ask already known people to become a program committee member (PC member), a reviewer, an author or a participant. You can import these persons from a list in CSV file format into the ConfTool database or create invitations manually to be able to send the invitees a personalized bulk e-mail with a personal invitation link or code. The recipients can accept the invitation by selecting the link and complete the pre-filled user registration form or refuse it by selecting the rejection link.

b) Anonymous invitations: These can be used to allow a group of participants to register with a special participant status (which can include a discount) using a unique registration code. Create invitation codes for anonymous invitations for instance for organizations who will distribute them among their members or clients.

The Benefits of Using Invitations
The invitation function of ConfTool Pro allows you to keep track of who accepted or refused an invitation. You can use invitations to send customized e-mails to certain groups of invitees. Every invitation lets you define which user role the invitee is supposed to get after completing his/her registration. The registration form is pre-filled with the personal data from the invitation database. Last but not least you can also define a special participant group for participant registration to which the invitee will get access. This feature is useful if you want to offer discounts to certain participant groups.

Introduction

The chairs of conferences often have to invite people to act as reviewers or members of the program committee (PC members) for their event. Likewise, organizers might already have a list of authors who they would like to ask to submit a contribution or persons who they want to invite to register for participation as delegates.

This instruction will explain how to use the invitation function of ConfTool Pro to invite a group of persons to become an author, reviewer, PC member or a participant. ConfTool Pro offers two distinct ways to invite a group of users:

A) If you have a list of known persons with unique e-mail addresses, please read the instructions for personal invitations.

B) If you want to invite a number of people to become participants without knowing their names or individual e-mail addresses and to create unique invitation codes with special discounts for particular groups, please consider the instructions for anonymous invitations.

A) Personal Invitations

For personal invitations, the organizers already hold personal details about the persons to be invited, for instance their e-mail, name and title. This information can be used to pre-fill the corresponding fields of user registration and to define a certain user status like "reviewer" or "PC member".

A personalized bulk e-mail, which can include unique links allowing to reject or accept the invitation, can be sent from ConfTool Pro to these persons. Upon accepting the invitation, the invitee completes the pre-filled user registration form and takes the next steps for his/her specific user role, e.g., to submit a contribution, to select the expert topics as reviewer, or to register for participation.

Invitations are useful if you already have a list of persons, e.g., in a spreadsheet format and if these persons still have to decide if they want to accept the invitation. If you have already concluded your planning regarding a certain user group and the members of this group have confirmed their willingness to take part in the conference (for instance as reviewers), it is advisable to import them directly as users by using the "import user" function as described here: How to Import Users.

You can of course also create personal invitations manually by using the following function:
Overview => User and Participant Management => Create an Invitation

First Step: Import Invitations

First, please make sure that your import data has the required format. For the import of invitations you will need a file in CSV format (Comma Separated Values). You will find example files below and on the page about user import. To create a CSV file, you can use (almost) any spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc. Usually, you find the function to save the spreadsheet data in CSV format using the menu "File" => "Save As..." and in the file selector box select "Text CSV" (or similar) as file type.

To import the persons into ConfTool Pro, please go to:
Overview => Data Import and Export => Import Data

  1. Select the file to import, the character encoding, and other details regarding your CSV file. If you don't know these details, open the file with a text editor (e.g., Notepad++) to ascertain these parameters, or just try different options and check the preview. Choose the option "Import invitations" and NOT "Import users" (see image 1). In expert mode you can also decide if you want the existing data in your database to be updated ("Check for existing entries by e-mail, update these entries only") or amended ("Import all rows, do not check for duplicated entries by e-mail"). The "Update" mode is advisable in most cases to avoid duplicated entries.
  2. Now you can preview the import and assign the columns of the import file to the according fields of the ConfTool Pro database. The three fields "Name", "First name" and "E-mail" are mandatory. We recommend importing the country, address, zip code and city, too, so people do not have to enter those data manually. Every invitee can of course update or correct his/her data during registration.
  3. Check the import and select the persons (rows) to be imported. You can now also select the status of the invitee, e.g., if the person is invited to submit a paper, become a reviewer or PC member or if you like him to attend at your event as a participant. For the invitations for participation you can furthermore create a "reason for invitation". This reason can be used to distinguish invitees from different groups or organizations, e.g., Sponsor A and Sponsor B. The "reason for invitation" can later be used to create separate bulk e-mails for different groups or to filter the registered participants (see image 2).
    The option "Authorized participant status" is used to link the invitation to a specified participant status / group which is useful if you want to give these people a discount. Before using this option, you will have to create a separate participant status / group:
    Overview => Settings => Manage Participant Groups
    For this participant group you have to set the option "Unique code?" to "Yes, a unique code from the list of invitations is required" (see image 3).
  4. Now start the import. During this operation, the system will create unique invitation codes which are used to identify the invitees. You will get an overview of the import results.

Hints: You can always edit single invitations if you go to the list of invitations:
Overview => User and Participant Management => List of Invitations
or add personal invitations using the function:
Overview => User and Participant Management => Create an Invitation

Image 1: Use the mode "Import Invitations" - click to enlarge
Image 2: Import data for invitations - click to enlarge
Image 3: Set unique codes for status groups - click to enlarge
Second Step: Write and Send the Invitation Bulk E-Mail

For an introduction on how to send bulk e-mails via ConfTool, please take a look at these instructions here: 
Sending Bulk E-Mails with ConfTool

You can access the bulk e-mail functions for invitees on the following page:
Overview => Bulk E-mails => Send E-mails to a Group of People in the "List of Invitations"

The section "Selection of Recipients" allows you to choose from several options to identify the group of recipients of the e-mail. The option "Reason / Group" only applies to persons to be invited to register for participation.

For the "Message Body" choose the wording of your choice and include the codes in curly brackets. To get instant feedback on whether invitees accept the invitation or not, we recommend including the codes below whenever possible:
{registration_accept_link} = Inserts a link to the registration page for participants to accept the invitation.
{registration_reject_link} = Inserts a link for participants to refuse the invitation.
{reviewer_accept_link} = Inserts a link to the registration page for reviewers and PC members to accept the invitation.
{reviewer_reject_link} = Inserts a link for reviewers and PC members to refuse the invitation.

It is advisable to write separate e-mails for invitations to the reviewers / PC members and to the participants, as their response (accept / reject) is recorded separately for each of these invitations. Please see the two examples below for sample bulk e-mails including codes.

On the following page, you can check the selected recipients and preview the text that will be sent to them by e-mail. Please click on the preview icon in the right-hand column to see how the e-mail will approximately appear in the recipients' e-mail program. It's recommended to do some spot tests to verify if the applied codes are replaced as required.

If you are certain everything is alright, please click on ''Send e-mails now" to start the process of sending the e-mails. You will be informed on the outcome of the process on the following page. Please do not interrupt this operation.

Sample E-Mail Invitation to Participants                             Sample E-Mail Invitation to Reviewers/PC Members

{dear_fullname},

Thank you for your participation in last year’s
15th ConfTool Conference
It made the event a great success.

This year, we would like to welcome you again at the 15th ConfTool Conference,
which will be held from Day 1 – Day 2 Month Year in Sampleville, Example Country.
You'll find more information on our website at www.conftool.net.

You can easily accept our invitation and start the process to register for participation
by clicking on the link below:

{registration_accept_link}

In case you do not want to participate and do not want to receive any further reminders,
please click on the reject link:

{registration_reject_link}

We look forward to seeing you at the 15th ConfTool Conference!

Sincerely,

Your 15th ConfTool Conference
Organizing Committee

{dear_fullname},

We invite you to become a member of the program
committee / reviewer of this year's 
15th ConfTool Conference
We would highly appreciate your support!

To accept our invitation and create a user account as reviewer, please click the link below:

{reviewer_accept_link}

If you cannot support our conference and do not want to receive any further reminders,
please reject our invitation by clicking on the following link:

{reviewer_reject_link}

For more information on the review process, please visit our
15th ConfTool Conference website: www.conftool.net.

We look forward to welcoming you as a member of the program committee / reviewer!

Sincerely,

 Your 15th ConfTool Conference
 Organizing Committee

B) Anonymous Invitations

Anonymous invitations are used when organizers require a bunch of registration codes to be distributed to certain organizations or companies. When used for invitations for participation (which is the main purpose of this feature), they allow to select a special participant group that permits, e.g., to register at a discounted price or even for free.

In contrast to the personal invitations, organizers do not have to pre-define any of the fields for the user accounts of the persons to be invited. They can pick a total number of invitations and create several invitation codes in one go. All the anonymous invitation codes can be sent to the main contact of the organization using the bulk e-mail function (e.g., to be forwarded later) or as an Excel file using the data export (recommended) of ConfTool Pro. This main contact will then further distribute the invitations within his or her organization or to affiliated organizations.

Include the invitation code and a special link in the invitation e-mail so that invitees can either reject or accept the invitation. In the latter case, the invitees complete the user registration form and take the next steps to register for participation.

First Step: Create Several (Anonymous) Invitations

Please go to the page:

Overview => User and Participant Management => Create Several Invitations

Pick the number of invitations you would like to create, fill in all fields that are common for all registrations in the section "Personal Information" (e.g., country and organization of the recipients). You may also enter the e-mail address of the contact who will further distribute the invitations within the organization to the invitees. If you have no such contact e-mail address, enter your own conference contact e-mail address or a dummy address please.

In the section "Type of Invitation", subsection "Invitation to Act as Reviewer or Program Committee Member or to Submit a Contribution", you can tick the corresponding checkboxes to create several anonymous invitations for PC members or reviewers. However, sending invitations to these user groups with anonymous codes or links is rather uncommon.

In the subsection "Invitation to Participate at the Event" you can select if you want the invitee to be a participant at your event. The "Pattern for code generation" allows you to define how the invitation codes will look like. You can either leave the field empty and ConfTool will automatically generate a random code of letters and numbers (see image 4) or you can enter a string to create a code corresponding to a specific pattern (for instance to easily distinguish different categories of codes): Letters and numbers will be used in the generated code as entered in the pattern string, each question mark (?) will be replaced by one random alphanumeric character, each hash symbol (#) will be replaced by the digits of a consecutive number (use one hash marks for each digit of this number). Please do not use special characters, as these might cause problems or misunderstandings. Random digits will be added to the code if a given code already exists in the list of invitations (see image 5).

Examples:

Pattern     Generated Codes      
       conf-???-####        conf-DFS-0001
          conf-K8x-0002          
conf-p3x-0003
etc.
S###XS001X
S002X
S003X
S004X
etc. 

Once a code has been used, the invitation will be marked as accepted and the code cannot be used again.

The option "Reason / Group" only applies to invitees to be invited to register for participation. This can be useful later for sending the bulk e-mails to different target groups or to filter the list of participants by invitation group.

The option "* Authorized participant status" is used to connect the invitation to a specified participant status / group which is useful if you want to give a discount to sponsors etc. Before using this option, you will have to create a separate participant status / group:
Overview => Settings => Manage Participant Groups

For this participant group you have to set the option "Unique code?" to "Yes, a unique code from the list of invitations is required".

Image 4: Create Anonymous Invitations (Click to Enlarge)
Image 5: Anonymous Invitations with Code Patterns (Click to Enlarge)
Image 6: List of Invitations (Click to Enlarge)
Second Step: Distributing the Invitation Codes

Now, the generated codes or invitation links have to be transmitted to the organizations or persons who subsequently distribute them to their partners or members.

You can use the bulk e-mail function to send this organization a number of e-mails with individual invitation links and codes (this option is only advisable for a small number of invitations). These e-mails can then be forwarded to the final recipients. For more information on how to use the bulk e-mail function for invitations, please see the section above: "Second Step: Write and Send the Invitation Bulk E-Mail".

However, we usually recommend exporting anonymous invitation codes to an Excel or CSV file to send them in one go to the organization or person in charge for further distribution.

Please go to:
Overview => Data Import and Export => Export Data
and select "Export Invitations" to generate the list of invitation codes. 

General Remarks

For organizers using the Track-Chair-Module: Invitations to become a reviewer or PC member for a certain track only are supported. However, track chairs do not have access to the invitation functions, which are currently restricted to conference chairs and admins. As an alternative, the user import can be used to give track chairs additional options to select reviewers for their tracks.

If invited as author, the invitee can follow the invitation link and use the pre-filled registration form to create a new user account. However, he/she will not get the status “author” until a paper has been submitted by this user.

You can edit, delete and copy invitations on this page:
Overview => User and Participant Management => List of Invitations

You can always create single invitations by choosing the option
Overview => User and Participant Management => Create an Invitation

In addition to that, you can also delete several invitations (e.g. your test entries) in one go when you select
Overview => User and Participant Management => Delete Several Invitations