We have a website for a conference. As part of the process of the conference, we invite people to submit sessions, but only for a limited period of time. We want to alert visitors to the site that this period is now open, and prompt them to submit a session. We were thinking of something along the lines of "breaking news" on news sites.
Currently, we have a banner that appears as part of body of the main site (see here for the real site), but it is a bit ugly. There has also been some criticism of it as being too "in-your-face". We have tried something more toned down, but it doesn't really stand out enough from the rest of the elements on the page.
How can we add something to the site that draws a visitor's attention, without it being too overbearing? Is there an approach that is commonly used that would be more suitable for this kind of thing (e.g. a growl/toast/popup of some sort)?