Clever Carly: Watch Your Language

Using clear wording during the registration process will help make your event a success before it even starts

Top of the morning (or afternoon, depending!) to you, my most faithful meeting planners! It’s Clever Carly—you remember me, right?—here to guide you.

Notice anything a little off about that greeting? Wasn’t it a long, complex way of saying something as simple as “hello”? That’s what we’re here to review today: clear communication. 

While we meeting professionals tend to have a gift for communicating, it can be easy to make mistakes in our writing––especially in drafting registration materials. Today we’ll learn to make that content as clear as it can be. The principles we’ll cover apply to all communication, of course—but as the entry point of your event, registration materials in particular need clarity.

#1: Keep It Simple, Silly

Yes, the phrase is usually “keep it simple, stupid,” but overwrought language often comes from a desire to give potential attendees all the information they could possibly need––not from stupidity. There are other ways to share supplementary information, such as post-registration follow-ups and the event website’s FAQ section. Overwhelming registrants up front can be confusing and contribute to information overload, which, as outlined in this Bloomberg interview with the CEO of Slack, is the last thing accomplished professionals like your guests need.

One example: A Celebrate event for an organization’s third anniversary. The invitation’s header read, “9 Things You Need to Know About the [Organization Name]’s Party” and detailed things like “#4: Wear comfortable shoes, since it’s on the third floor of a walk-up building” and “#5: You’ll get to meet the benefactors who made this all possible.” On the registry website, invitees had to wade through verbiage like “YES! I want to play pinball and billiards, meet the brains behind [organization] and eat delicious food provided by [vendor].” 

It’s great to entice attendees with details, but guests in this example had to wade through TMI to get the information they needed. Respect people’s time by considering what information is “need to know” versus “nice to have” and shifting the latter to a supplementary outlet such as an FAQ page. Also consider what information should be conveyed with words as opposed to images and visual tone. If you can make your invitation snappy, go for it, but relying on words to supply all your whimsy can bog down your message. One trick: Read your registration materials out loud. Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that the brain processes written and spoken language differently. Using the “verbal” part of your brain can alert you to when you’re getting a little too literary to help your cause.

#2: Keep It Short

Once you’ve decided what’s essential, make sure that what’s left is succinct. In trying to seem polite or warm, we sometimes use more words than are necessary. But wasting your guests’ time with excess words is impolite, isn’t it? After you draft your registration materials, challenge yourself by slashing the word count by 25 percent. 

For example, an Educate meeting might require registrants to check off their professional designations. Consider the question: “Which industrial accreditations or designations, if any, have you gathered throughout your professional career?” Trimming it to something like “Which accreditations or designations do you have?” does the job just as well (and saves readers from wondering whether their “professional career” is any different from their amateur one). Depending on the legal requirements of the group you’re planning for, you might not even need to say both “accreditations” and “designations.”

#3: Keep It Active

No need to dust off your middle school grammar textbook to understand the importance of active verbs. In essence, emphasize what you want your attendees to do. Think of it as a call to action: Where registry materials are meant to point readers to transportation options, verbiage should be action-oriented, such as “Click here to book your flight.” This principle is particularly helpful when dealing with logistics, as that can be stressful for many attendees.