2018 has officially arrived, which means it’s time to launch our 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report.
For the fourth year in a row, we have tracked and reported on the role that content plays at an annual conference. Through an online survey of 143 association professionals, this report outlines the challenges associated with managing, distributing and leveraging that content.
For the first three years of the report, we typically observed minimal changes in data from year to year, as you might expect. This year, however, we are actually noticing some significant shifts and new trends in the conference industry. Here are a few points we found particularly interesting:
The Introduction of “Omnipresent” Content
Determining how to provide content at the conference has always been a challenge for meeting planners who are continually balancing the diverse needs and preferences of a multi-generational audience with a generally flat conference budget. Based on this year’s survey results, however, the issue isn’t as much about appeasing the majority based on your attendance profile. Thanks to technologies such as on-demand streaming services, attendees are starting to think of content as being “device-agnostic”, accessing it anywhere, anytime, and in whichever format is most convenient and relevant for them at that moment, while also enhancing the learning process, of course. This is creating some new challenges for meeting planners, as well as some tough decisions.
Content is (finally) extending beyond the conference
For quite some time, it has been widely recognized that an organization’s educational content is its greatest asset, and the annual conference is one of the greatest sources of new, fresh content. Despite this, only about half of respondents indicated that they re-use their conference content for any purpose…until now. This year marks the first time we’ve seen a notable increase not just in whether they use it, but how. Associations have finally figured out how to break down internal silos and are investing in resources and processes to make this possible. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
- Membership growth rates continue to be flat, but the expectation to increase conference attendance still looms large.
- Conferences and associations aren’t seeing a large uptick in younger members and attendees, despite the fact that they are becoming the largest segment of the population.
- FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a tremendous motivator for younger attendees, who are already “content gluttons.”
This year’s findings have already sparked quite a bit of conversation around here. I encourage you to download the report and share it with your colleagues. We’ve even provided some thought starters to help jump-start the discussion in your own organization.