Importing Data into The Conference Plugin

In order to get data into The Conference Plugin (and by extension, The Conference App), you basically need everything in two Excel spreadsheets.

The first spreadsheet is for the people – speakers, performers, panelists, exhibitors, delegates – anyone you want to appear in the app.  Within that one, we’re looking for first name, last name, website, twitter (if known), bio (line breaks are fine) and images.  The images come in the form of URLs – so a URL to the image somewhere online.  Please note, the image URL must NOT contain any spaces.  So, if your image name has spaces in it, please remove them before uploading them to a server.  Also, try to limit the size of the image that you’re using.  Unless you need to retain ultra-high resolution versions of the image, we suggest keeping images under about 800×800 pixels.

The second spreadsheet is the schedule – sessions, workshops, shows, showcases, panels and anything else you want to add to the schedule (i.e. exhibit hall, registration, etc).  For simplicities sake, let’s call all of these things “Sessions”.  For each session, we want the session title, location, schedule name (i.e. Conference Schedule, Showcase Schedule, Workshop Schedule, start time (in 2400 time – for anything starting or ending past midnight, just keep counting from 2400.  i.e. 2500 to 2700 is like 1am to 3am), end time (same format), day (Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday), and people (a comma separated list).  You can also add a sponsor column into there.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • The people’s names need to be exactly the same in the first spreadsheet as the second.  Any discrepancies will look like different people.
  • When adding people’s names in the Sessions spreadsheet, it’ll take an educated guess at the first and last name.  The app sorts by last name.  You can force what’s the first and last name by putting a | symbol in there.  This is useful for band names – for example “The|Grassy Mountain Boys” would then get sorted under the G’s, as opposed to the B’s.
  • Also in the session spreadsheet, if an artist has a comma in their name, replace it with __c__ (two underscores + c + two underscores).  Since the list is comma separated, this special token is necessary to make sure the importer doesn’t think “Sharon, Lois & Bram” are two artists named “Sharon” and “Lois & Bram”.

Here are some sample spreadsheets to get you started: Speakers & Sessions.  This information is taken from the 2011 Toronto WordCamp, at which Top Quark was a presenter and sponsor.

When starting from scratch, use these blank spreadsheets – Speakers & Sessions.

About Importing

When you’ve got your spreadsheets ready in Excel, you’ll need to save them as Comma Separated Values.  If you have any special characters like accents or Microsoft quotes, you’ll need to understand a little bit about character encoding.  The basic rule of thumb is that if you’re on a PC, saving from Excel, you’re saving the document in UTF-8 encoding.  If you’re on a Mac, then you’re saving in MacRoman encoding.  This is important for the import process.

Before doing the import, make sure you’ve defined a conference with the same “year” as the year you’ve entered in your spreadsheet.  That way the importer knows where to put the data.

When you’re ready to import, you’ll click “Import/Export” under the Top Quark menu at the left of your Dashboard.  First do the Speakers.  Browse for and upload the file that you’ve created and set the character encoding to either UTF-8 or macroman, depending on what you’re working on (see previous paragraph).  After you upload the file, you’ll be shown a preview screen.  Make sure all of the columns are assigned properly and then click continue.  On the next screen, click Start and watch as the records get imported.  If you already have speakers in your database, you may be prompted for duplicates to “Ignore, Update, or Synchronize”.  Both Update and Synchronize update the database record.  The bonus of Synchronize is that it will update the lineup of your conference to exactly match what’s in the spreadsheet.

Now you’re ready to do the sessions.  Again, go to “Import/Export” under the Top Quark menu, and choose “Conference – Sessions” (or whatever vocabulary your installation is using).  Again, choose the proper character encoding and again make sure all of the columns get properly assigned.

After you’ve imported, you’ll want to check the schedules and the lineup to make sure things worked okay.  Very likely you’ll find some spelling errors (i.e. a person is spelled a couple of different ways throughout the spreadsheets).  Though you can fix these online directly, you’ll most likely want to fix these in your spreadsheets so that you can keep them as the master record of your event.  Find and fix the errors.  When you’re ready to import again, we recommend that you “Reset” the conference so that you’re starting from a clean slate.  Go to the Conference page under Top Quark and find the “reset” link for your conference (at the right, next to delete).  You’re given three options (1) reset the lineup, (2) reset the schedules and (3) check the database for orphaned people (people not assigned to any conference.  At the very least you should reset the schedule.  Then go back to the beginning and re-import your data.

The final step to getting your data out to the front end is to “Publish” the lineup and the schedule.  There are links for both of these on the main conference page.

Good luck, and drop a line if you have any questions.



About the Author

Top Quark is Trevor Mills is Top Quark. He is they as you are me and we are all together. He holds an Engineering degree, specializing in high energy physics, he plays bass in the Juno award winning band Digging Roots and he lovely loves his family. Top Quark’s suite of WordPress plugins are just what you’re looking for.

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