Now Available: The 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report

 

We are excited to share the 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report!

For the fourth year in a row, Omnipress has tracked the evolution of conference content and the role it plays at an association’s annual event. This year’s Conference Industry Report indicates that while educational content remains a significant source of value that associations provide, association professionals are facing new challenges as they strive to meet attendees’ changing expectations.

To understand how associations are currently using their conference content, we conducted an online survey of 143 association professionals, many of whom are directly responsible for conference planning.

Download the report to learn:

  • How are associations using content to engage members and increase conference attendance?
  • How are associations deciding which formats to offer at their events?
  • Which types of content are associations currently providing at their conference?
  • Are there common challenges that all associations face delivering their conference content?

Takeaway #1: The annual conference remains a central part of the association’s member growth strategy.

With most associations reporting flat membership growth in 2017, the ability to engage and retain existing members is critical. The annual conference provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate the association’s value, and increasing attendance continues to be the number one priority for associations.

Respondents provided some specific areas of focus to increase attendance at their 2018 events:

  • Encourage peer to peer engagement
  • Increase conference quality
  • Update technologies to increase engagement
  • Create more networking opportunities

The opportunity for member engagement extends beyond attending the conference. Associations can provide options for members to participate in other meaningful ways by including an open call for their event. Soliciting presentations from within the association allows the organization to recognize the contributions that members are making in their industry and advance their careers.

Read the full report to learn how other associations use content to engage attendees before, during and after their events.

Are You Wasting Your Most Valuable Resource?

 

Associations Are Sitting On a Goldmine

Unlike most for-profit organizations, associations are in the business of content. You source it for your conferences. You develop it for your educational programs. And you produce it for your publications. You have no shortage of knowledge and ideas to share. But what many don’t have is a well-defined sharing program, both internally and externally, which prevents associations from using that content to its full potential.

Overcoming Internal Obstacles

Before you can leverage your content, you first have to know what’s available to you. Due to the siloed nature of many associations, simply having visibility across departments can be difficult. So here are a few ideas to break down those barriers:

  • Form an internal content team consisting of representatives from each department. Meet quarterly to discuss and share what’s new, what’s in development, and which topics are seeing the greatest success.
  • As part of this discussion, be sure to include insights on industry and member challenges, common questions your industry is asking and new learning opportunities.
  • Together, identify opportunities to re-package and reuse existing content, as well as to cross-promote programs (e.g., promote an instructor-led course at the annual conference).
  • As part of this process, you may assign someone to look through your archive of past materials for items that remain relevant. These materials can be “dusted off” for future use.
  • Define a workflow plan. Create a central repository for all final content that can be accessed across the organization, which can be as simple as a shared file folder.

 

Developing a Disciplined Content Marketing Process

With so many other “mission critical” tasks on the to-do list, finding time to consistently execute a content marketing strategy can feel daunting. However, you can reduce the amount of time you spend on a daily, weekly and monthly basis by developing a simple structure to help facilitate the process:

  • Create an editorial calendar that outlines monthly themes and weekly topics. You can then map these topics to the content and assets you already have in your library.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. Take your existing content and find ways to re-package it, more than once. For instance, take a popular session presentation from your annual conference and turn it into a blog post or infographic. Interview the speaker. Or better yet, ask them to write a follow-up piece. They’ll appreciate the added exposure, and you’ll have one less task to complete.
  • This goes without saying, but be sure the content you are marketing is housed online in a way that is user-friendly to view and navigate. If possible, you also want to give members the option to browse other, related content as well. The deeper they can engage, the more engaged they become.

 

Getting started with content marketing can be tough. You will have to plan to invest more time than you probably feel like you have to get everything up and running. But once you do, you will find you have created a powerful engine to increase awareness, attendance and engagement, which will absolutely pay off for your conference and your association.

Conference Content Marketing: Part 2 – 3 Ways to Stand Out From the Crowd by Using Images

 

Part 1 of the Conference Content Marketing Series explained how your existing conference content provides a head start when it comes to promoting your event online. Using actual event content gives potential attendees a glimpse of the kind of material at your conference. This allows attendees the opportunity to see for themselves why yours is a “can’t miss” event.

The rest of this series will focus on actionable steps you can take to turn your existing content into a marketing asset–one that will increase the awareness of your event.

Speaking with Images

The web is becoming an increasingly visual medium. Adding visual elements to your posts is one of the most effective ways you can increase the impact of your messaging. In fact, adding images to your posts will raise engagement 650% over posting with just text alone.

Here are three conference-specific scenarios where visuals would be an effective way to promote your event. For each scenario, there is an example of an online tool that is well suited for creating attention-grabbing artwork with minimal effort.

Scenario #1 – Promote a session by a prominent speaker

The speakers at your conference are a major factor in drawing in attendees each year. So it should be no surprise that speakers make for effective marketing pieces.

Imagine you’ve just finished your speaker selection process and are ready to announce the keynote speaker. You could certainly type out a post online listing their name and the topic they will be discussing (Borrrrrr-ingggg!). A much more engaging approach is to present the same information with a visual design to it.

The Tool #1 – Pikiz

Pikiz is an image creator that is perfect for creating simple images that include text. Upload your own background image or choose from the images they have available. Then, double-click on the text box to add a customized message. Another great feature is that each social network has its own preset. This makes it super simple to post great-looking images to your favorite site.

Scenario #2 – Present research findings as an infographic

A presentation from last year’s conference coincides with some hot new research that is making the rounds. You know this is a great opportunity to join the conversation and promote your event. Since the presentation is available on your digital publishing platform, it’s ready for people to see. But how do you make sure your post stands out from the crowd of others? Use the findings from the presentation and display it as an infographic!

The Tool #2 – Infogr.am

Creating an infographic is a simple three-step process with infogr.am. Choose a design template, enter your data into their spreadsheet viewer and click share. That’s it! The program will create a shareable link to the social media site of your choice. You can also upload your own images or choose different fonts if you want a more customized design.

Scenario #3 – Call for award nominations using your own branded graphic

Part of your annual pre-event strategy is to ask for award nominations. You could do what you’ve always done: copy and paste the same text on the same social media networks and get the same results. Or, you can take it to the next level by creating a completely custom design (no designer needed)!

Tool #3 – Canva

Canva is like working with a design pro that has dozens of designs ready for you to choose from (but doesn’t charge by the hour). Once you log in to Canva, you’ll see dozens of customizable templates sorted by format. Whether you are looking to create an image for social media, your blog or a poster, Canva has a file ready for you to start designing with. It’s also flexible enough to work with your existing elements. Just add your association logo, a picture of the award and your text asking for nominations. You then have the option to share online or download.

Catch Their Eye

A well-designed image is critical in catching the attention of busy professionals, so having a visual presence online these days is essential. Presenting your existing content visually is a great way to keep your event in front of the attendees you want to attract.

Thankfully, the web is full of fast and intuitive ways to create custom graphics. With little effort, you can create designs that convey your message in an interesting and engaging way, and most importantly, in a way your audience enjoys seeing.

What are some other ways that you have re-purposed your existing conference content to create visual elements? Have you seen an increase in engagement as you moved away from text-only posts? If you have any examples of conference social media graphics you’ve created, post them below. We’d love to see them!

 

Interested in learning more about promoting an event with your existing conference materials?

Check out the other entries in our Conference Content Marketing series for more ideas:

Part 1: The Event Planner’s Advantage

Part 3: How to Learn From Your Own Content [Infographic]

Part 4: Promoting Your Conference with Twitter

Marketing with Conference Content: Part 1 – The Event Planner’s Advantage

 

When it comes to planning a conference, how often are you asked to do more with less? More food and beverage options, but for less money. More speakers, but in less rental space. More information, but in less time. (OK, I get the hint! I’ll get to the point…)

Marketing for your conference is no different. The web creates many opportunities to promote your event, but creating new marketing materials can be a time-consuming task.

As an event planner, you have a secret weapon.

You are sitting on a gold mine of information that can cut through the clutter, allowing you to:

  • Connect with professionals looking for industry-specific information
  • Remind members of the value your association provides year-round
  • Build awareness of your conference and other events
  • Extend the life of the materials you worked hard to collect

These shiny knowledge-nuggets aren’t something you have to go mining for; they are already at your fingertips.

Repurpose your conference content

You know that the secret to attracting people to your conference is having the educational content they want. Let this valuable information take on a second life! There is no reason it should sit dormant for 51 weeks each year. You worked hard to collect this material, it’s time to put it to work promoting your conference.

Existing conference content is effective as a promotional tool. Images of last year’s event can only go so far in conveying the value your conference provides. Using actual event content gives potential attendees a glimpse of the kind of material at your conference. This allows attendees the opportunity to see for themselves why yours is a “can’t miss” event.

Recent shifts in the perception of advertising also make a strong case for content marketing. Think about how you respond to the advertisements you see online. When was the last time that “celebrity secret” actually turned out to be “shocking”? The result of this quick-click obsession is a skeptical consumer. Your content inspires confidence by providing a tangible example of what your conference has to offer.

The event planner advantage

Content marketing has become one of the most popular ways for corporations to promote themselves online. In fact, according to a 2016 Content Marketing Institute survey, 88% of businesses use content marketing. You may even have given it a shot yourself, and for good reason! Association conference planners have some unique advantages when it comes to content marketing:

  • You have existing material: The biggest barrier to content marketing is creating new material. Your existing library of content gives you a head start.
  • Your review process provides authority: You can be confident that your peer-reviewed materials are insightful. This can be especially handy if you are not a subject matter expert.
  • You have access to the latest thinking: Your conference is an industry leader in providing timely, relevant information. Continue your role as a thought leader throughout the year.
  • You get feedback from the industry: Your conference feedback can provide insight into which topics are most in demand. Think of this as “focus group” input on the material in your collection.

Putting a plan in place

The first step in launching a content marketing campaign is assessing your existing materials. Determine what kind of content you have available and decide where it will be located. Your association’s website may seem like a good idea at first, but as time goes on, content can get lost or buried as the site gets updated. It’s best to create a standalone site that will contain all of your current and past event content. This will give visitors an idea of the broad range of information they can rely on your conference for.

A dedicated digital publishing platform is a well-suited home for storing your existing conference content. In addition to housing all your current and past content, it provides a flexible viewing experience for any kind of content. Its easy navigation, search capabilities and modern design will reinforce the positive impression attendees have about your conference.

It’s also important to determine a schedule that you will be able to follow. Be realistic. Will you be able to consistently post two pieces of content each week? Or is one piece of content every two weeks more likely? The rate that you choose is less important than your ability to stay on schedule. Readers stay engaged with a blog or social media profile that is updated on a regular basis.

A look ahead

So now that you’ve identified the most relevant material on your online content and thought long and hard about how much time you can devote to posting content online, now what? What are the best ways to get this great material in front of people?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at some tools and tips to make your content contagiously-clickable by those on your social networks. We’ll explore creative ways to use your existing conference content before–and after– the event. Stay tuned for tricks that will help generate interest in your event and attract new members.

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss any valuable tips!

Interested in learning more about promoting an event with your existing conference materials?

Check out the other entries in our Marketing with Conference Content series for more ideas:

Part 2: 3 Ways to Stand Out From the Crowd by Using Images

Part 3: How to Learn From Your Own Content [Infographic]

Part 4: Promoting Your Conference with Twitter

3 Requirements for Delivering Quality Association Content to Members

It is the end of 2012, and just as every year, there are thousands of “Top 10” posts: “Top 10 Trends of 2012,” “Top 10 Events of 2012,” “Top 10 Top 10 Lists;” it’s exhausting. I call them “Top 10” posts, but as we all know, they range from a list of five to sometimes hundreds (who would ever spend that much time going through a list that big is beyond me) of usually meaningless bits of information.

However, this year I came across a Top 10 list that really got me thinking. It was titled “Top 10 Nonprofit Tech 2.0 Posts of 2012,” and it highlighted a list of the website’s most viewed posts of the year. What was brought to my attention is something I try to tell our employees and clients as much as possible; if you want to write content that gets a lot of views, you must do three things (Yes, I’m sorry, another list.)

3 Ways to Increase Association Content Views

  1. Be Concise. There is in fact a reason why writers, bloggers and blabbers use lists so often. It’s because they are concise and get to the point. People are interested in their chosen topic, and they want the information in a tidy, little package. Do the same for your members and attendees; wrap that present of information up nice and neat for them. Some call this spoon feeding them information, but no matter what you call it, just make it easy to take in.
  2. Be Interesting. When you are writing a story, a lesson, even a tidbit of cool information, the thing that gets it noticed the most is making it interesting. Be unique, and write about a topic no one has heard before, or maybe choose an old topic and take a different approach than the norm.
  3. Be Relevant. As unique and interesting as you can be, the topic and information still has to be relevant to your members and attendees. Writing about the “Top 10 Things Your Dog Did in 2012” may be interesting to some, but it isn’t relevant to your organization’s goals or to what members or attendees would like to learn.

What else do you do to make sure you are delivering quality association content to your members?

How to Deliver Association Content Elements

One of my favorite things about content marketing is it has absolutely nothing to do with Chemistry.

At least that’s what I thought until I read Andy Crestodina’s article entitled, “Content Chemistry: The Periodic Table of Content.”

Apparently, content and chemistry have a lot more in common than I thought.

The Periodic Table of Content

Andy Crestodina tells us, “Content is made up of pieces. And pieces can be broken down into smaller pieces or combined into larger pieces, just like the elements on the Periodic Table.”

As an association, you naturally have many of these content elements such as Pp (Presentations), Pdf (PDFs), Bk (Books) and maybe even Eb (eBooks).

But your valuable association content doesn’t belong in a metaphoric Periodic Table. So where do you store all of the elements that make up your association?

Delivering Your Association’s Content Elements

Digital publishing platforms house all your association’s content elements, and it gives your members ONE place to find everything they’re looking for.

What does an online library look like?

Check out the Transportation Research Board’s Knowledge Center. It has everything from indexed content, to advanced search. The very best part is every page is search engine optimized, making the association find-able and discoverable on the web.

online publishing platform