Omnipress Introduces New No-Cost Print Service

Right now, it’s probably more difficult than ever to plan a conference or instructor-led course. Just as we were all feeling relatively confident about a slow but steady return to in-person educational events, new variants caused us to re-think our plans yet again—including how we use print services to provide educational materials to attendees.

According to the latest survey results featured in PCMA’s COVID-19 Recovery Dashboard, meeting planners are once again shifting back to virtual or trying a hybrid format for the first time. Meanwhile, the planning window continues to get smaller while the outcomes (attendance, sponsor commitment, etc.) remain difficult to predict.

In response to all this uncertainty, Omnipress has launched a new print service option—EasyPrint™—that removes both the risk and burden of printing event and course materials. With EasyPrint, you can still provide a physical program book or training manual to the participants who really want it, at no cost whatsoever to the organization.

Here’s how EasyPrint works:

  1. Omnipress creates, hosts, and manages an online storefront to merchandise your printed materials available for purchase.
  2. You provide participants with a link to our storefront where they order materials directly from us.
  3. You provide Omnipress with a print-ready file of your materials.
  4. Omnipress will print, pack, and ship items to participants at no cost to you.

Jonny Popp, General Manager of Omnipress explains why EasyPrint was developed. “We understand that it’s become challenging to estimate print quantities with any confidence right now, without knowing what attendance or demand is going to look like. Add to that the fact that our customers are having to make significant adjustments to their educational events with less planning time. The last thing they need is one more task.”

Adds Popp, “At the same time, our customers tell us they have participants who are print fanatics. They love to have that tactile piece. For them, it increases the value of the event or course.”

In addition to increasing value for both in-person and virtual participants, EasyPrint also allows organizations to retain an important piece of their sponsor recognition package while removing the out-of-pocket costs.

Hybrid-Lite: A More Practical Hybrid Event Option to Consider

If you are deciding whether deliver your next conference as an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event, there is another option to consider: hybrid-lite.

The benefit of hybrid conferences

Over the past several years, we’ve learned that in-person conferences offer important personal connections that are nearly impossible to replicate in a virtual environment. At the same time, virtual events allowed many organizations to reach a wider audience of attendees than ever.

To harness the best of both worlds, some organizations are looking to hybrid events as a more permanent event strategy.

Hybrid Event: Two words, multiple definitions

At its core, a hybrid event delivers content to both an in-person and online audience. Exactly how this is done varies from a very simple format to one that is extremely complex.

Synchronous live conference

A synchronous live conference is one where livestreaming brings both in-person and virtual attendees together as once audience.

Pros: Virtual attendees have access to a more complete event experience (or, as much as practially possible).

Cons: It’s perhaps the most complex and potentially most expensive way to conduct a hybrid event.

Typically, these events require more extensive A/V and other resources–like dedicated facilitators for virtual attendees–to really make them work well. These events may also include additional programming just for virtual attendees to compensate for those on-site activities they can’t easily join, like social events.

One of the sessions at this year’s ASAE Annual Meeting profiled an organization that created a very successful global hybrid event that followed this shared-experience model. And while the details of the event are truly amazing, the session presenters even admitted that to get it done, it was an all-hands-on-deck scenario for all association staff, with other strategic priorities being put on temporary hold.

Asynchronous conference

Also known as “live now, virtual later,” in-person sessions are recorded and made available to a virtual audience after the event.

Pros: Potentially more practical and cost-efficient to execute than a synchronous event.

Cons: It still requires significant A/V resources to appropriately capture live sessions.

MPI—an association for event industry professionals—recommends using this “live now, virtual later” approach, as a more practical alternative to a synchronous in-person/virtual conference. But it may not be a suitable option for all organizations. It’s important to have a proper A/V setup to ensure that both the speaker and their presentation (slides, videos, etc.) are all recorded together, and that the sound is sufficient.

Your recorded content may also require some post-production work to make it easier for the virtual audience to follow along.

And depending upon the size of the event program, organizations may need to limit which sessions are made available to a virtual audience simply because it’s cost-prohibitive to do so for every breakout room available.

Hybrid-Lite Event: smaller in scale, but delivering big benefits

“Hybrid-Lite” events are a more practical and affordable way to deliver an exceptional on-site experience while opening up your conference content to a wider audience.

Instead of recording an on-site conference session as it’s happening, speakers pre-record their presentations before the conference.  They can use their recording tool of choice. Or, to make it even easier, use an abstract management system with a built-in video capture and recording tool, like CATALYST, to give your speakers a centralized place to both record and submit their video presentations.

Some of the benefits of this hybrid-light conference format include:

  1. Reduces the expense and logistics of on-site A/V
  2. Reduces the need for additional on-site resources to help moderate and facilitate the virtual audience
  3. It’s easier on the virtual attendees because they can view sessions at their convenience, when there are fewer distractions
  4. It increases the value of the conference for your on-site attendees by providing access to sessions they couldn’t attend but wanted to
  5. It allows you to start building a year-over-year library of event content that becomes a valuable member resource
  6. It increases value for your sponsors, who gain exposure in the virtual event platform with a wider audience, and for a longer period of time.

Things to consider with a hybrid-lite format:

  1. Make sure your speakers are on board with the concept. As you’re sourcing your speakers, gather their preferences and set expectations early on. As part of the submission process ask whether they’re willing to present in-person, virtually, or both. Make sure they know they’ll need to provide a recording if selected, with a clear due date.
  2. Make sure your selected speakers can provide a recording. This additional step of pre-recording their presentation should be accounted for in your speaker agreement, along with any distribution terms. For instance, will their recording be available only to attendees, or can you sell access to a wider audience? And for how long? You may not be able to record your high-profile keynote speakers, but this can work to your benefit to provide extra value to in-person attendees.
  3. Think about to whom you want to grant access to the on-demand content, and how. Will all attendees (virtual and in-person) have access to all content? Will some sessions be viewable for virtual attendees only? Do you want to open an additional level of paid access to organization members or the general public?

We’ve learned how important it is to include virtual access to nearly everything—from simple team meetings to global conferences—if we want to increase participation. Gathering in-person isn’t possible or practical for everyone at all times, so providing flexibility to join at their convenience is going to become a standard practice moving forward. For the annual conference, this means allowing both virtual and in-person attendees the same opportunity to learn. But it doesn’t have to mean delivering the same event experience to both audiences. It can be just as beneficial and valuable to craft a simpler and more achievable version of the hybrid event.

How to Build Contingency Planning Into Your Call for Papers

Last-minute changes to your conference program are bound to happen. Incorporate these four steps in your next call for papers or speakers to be more prepared for the inevitable.

Contingency planning is more necessary than ever

Meeting planners have always been contingency planning pros. And the risk of a speaker having to cancel at the last minute has always existed. But over the past several years, that risk has increased exponentially.  There are more factors present that could prevent a planned speaker from being able to travel.

Plan for the inevitable during your call for papers

If you’re using an abstract management system to conduct your call for papers, posters, or speakers, there are several steps you should take that will make it easier to make future adjustments to your program schedule and session content if necessary.

  1. Proactively manage your speaker preferences

    As part of your submission form, be sure to ask potential speakers whether they are willing to deliver their session content in-person or virtually. That way, if things need to change, you already have reportable data on which speakers you can ultimately select based on the final conference format, rather than going back and collecting this information after the fact.

  2. Collect all speaker assets early, and in multiple formats

    As part of your initial call, include a place for session presenters to supply everything you will need for your final event materials, including headshots, bios, and other supplementary materials. Ask for these files to be provided in formats that will work well across print, online, and mobile. That way, regardless of how attendees access the conference schedule and session information, you’re already covered.

  3. Consider video as part of the initial call for papers process

    Abstracts and presentation proposals are used to judge the quality and relevance of the suggested topic. But it’s also important to know whether the speaker can present the information in a compelling and engaging way. It’s also never a bad idea to use video to “audition” your speakers—even for an in-person event. However, this audition process becomes even more important in a virtual setting where it can be harder to hold the audience’s attention.  Have your speakers submit a short (1-2 minute) video of themselves delivering a portion of the presentation during your initial call for presentations. Some abstract management platforms even feature a built-in video recording tool to make the process easier.  And later, if you do need to offer pre-recorded, on-demand session content as part of your virtual or hybrid event, speakers can use this same tool to record and submit their final presentations.

  4. Leverage the built-in scheduling tool

    Many meeting planners use a series of spreadsheets to build their conference schedule which makes changes to speakers or sessions extremely time-consuming. If your abstract management software includes a built-in electronic scheduling tool, now is the time to take advantage of it! Using this tool, you can easily pull in accepted papers, posters, and presentations, drag-and-drop them into the schedule, and see flagged conflicts at a glance. Not only does this make it significantly easier to build an initial schedule, but it also saves a lot of time and potential errors if you need to manage last-minute changes.

The only think certain is uncertainty. In the world of meetings and events, there will always be a disrupter to throw our perfectly-laid plans awry. It’s even more important to take steps early on in the conference planning process—including during your initial call for presentations—that provide greater flexibility down the road.

4 Ways to Use Video to Enhance Your Virtual Event

As in-person events return in full-force, many organizations will continue to offer virtual access to session content. There are several ways to do this, including asking your speakers to pre-record a version of their in-person presentations for on-demand viewing.  If you’re using a video capture tool (as a standalone tool or as part of your abstract management software) to record and collect videos from your speakers, this same tool can be used in other ways to enhance your virtual event.

Here are four ways meeting planners are using video that go beyond just capturing session content:

1. Audition your virtual speakers

Giving a presentation to a virtual audience requires a very special skill set. Understanding how to present the material in a way that is engaging without being able to use movement can be challenging. Some presenters really rely on audience feedback—eye contact, smiles, laughs, nods—to maintain their energy level and enthusiasm.

To ensure that your speakers are not only presenting relevant, high-quality content, but that they can carry a 30-to-60-minute virtual presentation, consider having them use your video capture and submission tool to provide a short audition video as part of your initial submission process, and include them in your review criteria. You can even allow reviewers to leave feedback on the video before the final presentation.

2. Perform a presentation test-run before the event

Ask your selected speakers to provide a short, sample recording of their presentation to confirm their A/V setup is sufficient. Items to check include quality and sharpness of their camera, whether the audio works and is loud enough, lighting, and background. That way, they can address any potential issues well ahead of the event.

3. Gather videos for event marketing

At some point between when your speakers are selected and when you prepare content for your virtual event platform, you’ll need to collect additional information from your speakers such as headshots and bios. This is also a perfect opportunity to have your speakers and session leaders use your abstract management software to record and submit short intro videos that can be used on your website and social media channels to promote the event.

4. Gather videos from sponsors and exhibitors

Your sponsors and exhibitors want as much opportunity as possible to get their message in front of attendees. Instead of the traditional banner ad, logo placement, or text listing, give them the option of video.  Even if they don’t already have a pre-produced video to share, they can easily use your video recording and submission tool to record a short message that is personalized to your attendees. It’s an easy, low-cost solution that provides increased exposure and value.

While the format of events has changed, the need to source high-quality content hasn’t. But in a virtual setting, that definition of “quality” extends beyond the subject matter. The presentation style of the speaker and the technical quality matter too. Pre-recorded videos can help you minimize issues for your virtual attendees before the event begins. They can also provide opportunities to create a better experience for your speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors.

[GUIDE]: Which Virtual Event Platform is Right For You?

While the pandemic is (mostly) behind us, the rise in virtual event content is not.  Many organizations recognize the benefit of expanding conference access to a virtual audience.  But their requirements for a virtual event platform may not be the same as they were during the height of the pandemic.

Assess Your Virtual Event Platform Needs With This Worksheet

To make it easier to narrow in on the best solution for your event moving forward, we’ve created this handy Virtual Event Platform Needs Assessment Worksheet.

Before you schedule any product demos, document your answers to the six questions outlined in this worksheet. Taking this time will accomplish several key things:

  1. It results in a finely-tuned checklist of requirements to evaluate and ensures your planning team is on the same page
  2. It helps you separate and prioritize must-have vs. nice-to-have features
  3. Providing this information to vendors allows them to spend time on features and functionality that actually matter to you

Download the worksheet

Whether you’re hosting a live, multi-day virtual event or you just want to provide on-demand access to recorded session videos, using this worksheet to organize and prioritize your needs and requirements ahead of time will make it easier to navigate your options.

Virtual Events: Practical Advice from an Attendee

Providing virtual access to event content continues to be an important strategy even as in-person conferences resume. It increases the value of your event for attendees, and broadens access to those who may not have attended in-person.

If you are planning to include virtual content as part of your next event, it’s important to remember the lessons we all learned about the strengths and limitations of virtual events over the past few years.

The following post was originally written in mid-2020. And while the kids are back at school and I’m spending part of my week in the office, many of these observations still apply.

Remembering the past: what we learned in 2020

To have a successful virtual conference, you need to truly understand what the life of a virtual participant looks like right now so you know what you can—and can’t—expect of them.

Normally, we don’t make our blog posts quite so personal. But this time, I’m going to get a little personal and share the first-hand wisdom I’ve gathered over the past week while my husband attended a three-day, all-day virtual event. Spoiler alert: while he absolutely loved the content and discussions with his peers, some of the logistics were both painful and funny (after the fact, of course).

A personal account of a virtual event experience

Typically at a conference, we’re more focused on the professional backgrounds of our attendees. But with so much of the population working from home, we must take into consideration their personal lives as well. Here’s what happened in my situation.

Both my husband and I work full time and have both been working from home since mid-March. We’re fortunate to have the tools and tech that allow us to work effectively: multiple monitors, great bandwidth, dedicated working spaces. Our two teenagers don’t always recognize the work/home divide. We also have two large dogs who are continually confused by why we are all home and not paying more attention to them.

So what did attending a 3-day live event look like in our household?

First, technology was not kind to us

Do you have any idea what having one person participate in a live video event all day does to the bandwidth in the house? The effects were immediate and dramatic. I had to take my Microsoft Teams meetings from the app on my phone, not my computer, with the wi-fi turned off. The kids were booted out of their online schoolwork and from their Facetime sessions with friends. Admittedly, much cursing occurred.

My husband, who was both an attendee and a speaker at this event, was in the middle of his presentation when one of the primary internet service providers in our area had two routers fail. He wasn’t prepped for any backup plan ahead of time, so he was scrambling to get the live streaming app downloaded to his phone. 30 minutes later he was back online, with just enough time to give an abrupt wrap-up. Things happen. They really do. To prove this point further, this is the same week that, back at the Omnipress offices where only a small staff remains on-site, a squirrel took out the power and internet for several hours. No joke. And while this had no effect on my husband, it only illustrates that technology will fail at some point, for someone. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

Tuning in (and tuning out) from a busy household

When you attend an in-person conference you’re away from the office, away from home, and away from the usual daily distractions, minus an urgent email here and there. With a virtual event, however, there is no mental or physical separation from work and home. You can’t delegate your spouse to deal with a vomiting dog, a kiddo who is frustrated with their math exercise, an impromptu 8th-grade graduation parade through the neighborhood (horns blazing, of course), or the UPS driver making his third delivery to your house that day, because she’s also on an important call!

The bottom line: it’s unrealistic to think that your attendees can dedicate significant amounts of focused, uninterrupted time to your event. As hard as they may try, life gets in the way.

A virtual group conversation is harder to navigate

Networking can sometimes be awkward, at best. Recently I’ve done several virtual happy hours with close friends and I find those to be more difficult and challenging than meeting up in person. Screens freeze up intermittently or people accidentally talk over each other which affects how naturally the conversation flows. But we manage because we know each other so well.

Now try doing the same thing with a group of strangers, especially if you’re more of an introvert, like my husband. Oh, he can fake his way through “forced” social events with the best of them, but he certainly doesn’t prefer it.

His event had several different networking opportunities built into the agenda. Some were unstructured happy hours and some were scheduled in-between sessions (ouch!). Others consisted of smaller collaboration groups, which he felt were the most beneficial and effective to establish a genuine connection with a group of people who rallied around a common set of challenges. It also helped when the virtual networking events were scheduled earlier in the day when his brain was fresh and he could absorb more of the educational content.

What did we take away from this experience?

I’ve lived in the association event space for more than a decade, so when I heard my husband was going to be participating in a three-day virtual event, I watched more closely than most spouses probably would. Putting on both my event planner and attendee hat, here’s the most important thing I learned:

An event that combines both live and pre-recorded content provides the best attendee experienceand the most room to get creative!

1. Making your content available on-demand is crucial

Give your attendees a way to access session content anytime. This not only helps to reinforce learning, but it also serves as a safety net if technology fails or life happens. Make sure all your presentations—even the live ones—are recorded and available in a way that is easy to search for and navigate, along with all related session materials. This also takes some of the pressure off your speakers and their tech.

If you have the resources, consider breaking up a single session video into multiple, shorter videos. Your on-demand viewers will find it easier to consume the content in smaller segments.

2. If you’re going to livestream, be selective

While presenting sessions live creates a sense of excitement and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), it doesn’t work for all attendees, especially those in different time zones. And it’s definitely difficult to manage as an all-day event. Save the live streaming for the most popular portions of your conference, such as a keynote session.

3. There are many effective ways to craft a successful live/recorded blended event

As one example, you can “fake” a live experience by releasing pre-recorded content on a timed basis and hyping up the countdown on your event marketing channels. Follow this release with live, small-group discussion sessions around that content to create a sense of urgency for participants to view the content.

This also helps to create those more structured and deliberate networking conversations among attendees that tend to be more meaningful. This blended approach also makes it easier to program natural breaks in the agenda for your attendees to address everything else that’s currently happening in the background of their lives.

4. Create opportunities for participants to connect outside of the event

Even if your event content is only available on-demand, you can facilitate meaningful conversations among participants. Use your existing online communities. Pose a question of the day related to the content, and let attendees weigh-in. Or host a moderated online discussion around a specific topic at a scheduled time. All of these options bring virtual attendees together around a shared interest, and allow them to learn from each other.

How will you incorporate virtual content into your next event?

Whether you are offering events that are fully virtual, or providing on-demand access to virtual attendees, the same rules still apply even today. Attention spans are shorter, distractions are greater, and online networking is more difficult in a virtual setting. Virtual attendees will get more value from your conference if the content is designed specifically with these limitations in mind.

Event Technology Software Integration: Is It Really Needed?

 

Over the past several years we have seen a significant increase in the number of customers that ask us about integrating CATALYST® Abstract Management System by Omnipress with their Association Management System (AMS). This probably comes as no surprise, as event technology integration is a hot topic in the meetings industry right now. Meeting planners are looking for ways to simplify processes for both attendees and staff while gathering smarter insights about their event. At Omnipress, we’ve developed CATALYST to integrate with many third-party technologies, including your AMS, and are continually working to increase our software integration footprint. We want to be sure that integration is an option for our customers when necessary. But integration–not just with an abstract management system, but with nearly any type of cross-platform connection–often requires more time and resources than meeting planners are prepared for. Before embarking down the integration path, it’s extremely important to have a clear understanding of your objectives and desired outcomes, to evaluate whether or not integration is truly necessary.

Integrating Your Event Technology Planning Tools

The event technology landscape is overwhelmingly diverse. Corbin Ball, a noted event technology expert, states that he currently tracks, “nearly 1,500 event tech products in 60 categories” on his website, ranging from comprehensive all-in-one platforms to smaller, more specialized tools. The benefit of an all-in-one platform is that, in theory, all products within the platform seamlessly integrate with each other. But many organizations find that not all tech products available within a single platform meet their specialized needs uniformly. As a result, they opt to build a “tech stack” of separate, best-in-breed products that can (hopefully) connect data from one system to the other seamlessly.  Recognizing this need, more and more technology providers are building cooperative relationships to ensure their products “play well” together.

The case for integration makes perfect sense. As a meeting planner, why wouldn’t you want to have the option to choose tools that work best for your specific organizational needs, and the convenience of a streamlined way to capture, track and manage data between them?

CATALYST® Abstract Management Software AMS Integration Instances

Below are the most common AMS integration use cases we see customers taking advantage of with CATALYST:

Single sign-on

If a member already has login credentials to access their account details or resources based on their member profile and status, those same credentials can be used to log in to CATALYST. This makes the process of submitting abstracts more convenient and simpler for users.

Access and content control

With AMS integration, organizations can use data such as member level, member status or payment transactions to control access to online educational materials. Additionally, meeting planners and program managers can control whether a member has permission to submit an abstract, or even which questions they see on the submission form.

Data consistency

Pull member data from your AMS into CATALYST and simplify the submission process for an author, preventing them from having to re-type data that already exists in the system. With AMS integration there’s also less room for human data entry error, increasing data cleanliness and accuracy.

Co-author data entry

Many abstracts or papers are submitted by one author, on behalf of a team of co-authors who are also members of the organization. Data integration can allow that author to easily look up co-author information from the AMS and have it auto-populate into the abstract submission form, increasing convenience and data integrity.

While it’s clear to see the inherent benefits of integration, many associations don’t always realize is the ongoing investment of time, budget and resources that will be required for optimal integration—particularly if your requirements are fairly complex and custom. Sean Lawler, Product Development Manager at Omnipress, points out, “If we have already integrated with a particular AMS or other database provider before, it does simplify the process, as we are already familiar with their back-end environment.” But, he cautions, “The real wild card is that almost every client has their AMS configured differently, so every integration is somewhat unique and adjustments have to be made.”

Organizations also need to think beyond just the initial build. “It’s not a ‘one-and-done’ situation,” says Lawler. “The integration often needs to be maintained as you make changes to your database.”

Is Event Technology Software Integration Important to Your Organization? 

Unfortunately, there is no “simple button” to push to make integration happen, no matter how technologically advanced the product is, nor how experienced the provider. Given the resources required, the real question for meeting planners is whether the ROI truly makes sense.  To help in your evaluation, here are just a sampling of the questions Sean and his team explore with customers before settling on integration options.

1. What current challenges or pain points are you trying to solve, and why?

In some cases, we’ve found that data integration was not the core of the issue. Instead, we worked with customers to address and improve aspects of their submission and review process, which helped to reduce and streamline the work involved.

2. By solving these challenges, what is the estimated net gain to your organization—time, labor, financial, etc.?

It’s important to understand the true impact of integration to help calculate the short and long-term ROI for the organization.

3. How often, or how real-time do you need to access the data?

If there truly is a need to see data on an ongoing basis or in real-time, then integration probably is your best option. Sometimes, customers indicate they only need data at the very end of the project. In these cases, we can often provide the data they need, at no additional cost to them.

4. Where are you in the current lifecycle of your AMS? Are you planning on making a switch in the next 1-2 years or making a major change or upgrade within your existing system?

If you foresee any major changes on the horizon, then we recommend delaying the integration conversation until that time if possible, because the work that is done the first time will likely have to be done all over again once the changes are implemented.

There’s no doubt that increased visibility, streamlined processes and consistent data provide significant benefits to meeting planners. Integration of your organization’s event technology is one way to achieve this. But depending upon your true needs and goals, it may be possible to implement more practical processes that achieve the same results, without the necessary timeline and investment of integration. It’s important to ensure all stakeholders are aligned on objectives and outcomes and come to the table with an open mind. There is no doubt that integration will continue to play a large role in the future of event technology, including CATALYST Abstract Management System, but it may or may not be the best option for your organization today.

Tips for Designing an Inspiring Conference Program Book

The conference program book is more than an information piece for conference attendees. It provides the first impression of your event. Here are some tips to design a book that inspires and energizes your attendees before the first session starts.

The Role of the Conference Program Book

The most common purpose of the program book is to provide important event information for attendees, including the schedule, speakers, sponsors, floorplan, and may even include presentation abstracts or papers.

It also sets the tone for your meeting and the expectations for your attendees.  Do you want them to actively participate in sessions and interact with the content and each other? Will this conference challenge them or pull them outside their comfort zone?

The design of your program book can help promote and facilitate these objectives

What Inspired Program Book Design Looks Like: An Example from ASAE

asae xdp program book 360 live media
Photo credit: 360 Live Media, www.360livemedia.com

We’d like to give a shout-out to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and their Xperience Design Project.

This event for meeting planners provided new and innovative ways to deliver conferences.

The branding and promotion of the event certainly communicated this objective. But as an attendee, I didn’t fully understand it until I started paging through the program book. I could tell immediately this was meant to be a fun, energizing meeting.

This extraordinary conference booklet included design elements such as non-linear text, bold typography, graphic cues, and on-page interactive elements. Together, they made it clear I was expected to actively participate in my own learning.

I was excited to be there even before the first speaker took the podium.

The takeaway: All program books provide basically the same information. Challenge yourself to think about how you can present key event information in a way that makes a lasting impact on attendees.

 

Five Design Pro Tips for Your Conference Program 

First and foremost, your program book needs to be easy for any attendee to navigate. Think of it as user experience (UX) for printed materials. Beyond that, here are six aspects of your booklet design to consider.

1. Choose fonts and typography that match the personality of your event.

There is a documented psychology behind font choices and how they trigger ideas and emotions.

Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, convey a feeling of class and heritage, making them appear formal.

Sans serif fonts, like Arial and Helvetica, convey a straight-forward, simple and no-nonsense attitude.

Modern fonts, like Futura, convey feelings of intelligence and chic style.

If your event were a person, how would you describe them? Are they trendy and chic? Funky and unconventional? Formal and traditional? The font choice you make throughout your program book should support the overall “vibe” of your meeting.

Don’t be afraid to go big and bold with font size in unexpected places. This is a great way to provide an assertion of key ideas and themes.

And it’s okay to mashup 2-3 fonts or typeface styles. It helps to make your book feel more dynamic and less monotonous. Just make sure that how you use these fonts has a purpose and is consistent throughout the book.

2. Use color and graphics in unexpected ways

Most organizations have an established brand identity that includes a primary color palette. Too often, this primary color palette dominates the program book design. The problem with this approach is that for the reader, the content tends to blend together.

Instead, use your primary color palette simply as a base. Incorporate splashers of contracting colors throughout your program book to highlight important content, make a bold statement, or break up large blocks of content.

To choose appropriate colors, the rule of thumb is to use a color wheel, selecting colors that sit directly opposite from each other.

Graphics such as images, vector art, or iconography can be used several ways, including:

  • To make a bold point
  • To help guide and direct the reader
  • To add texture and dimension to your book design

3. Leave space for interactive content 

One of the top trends in meeting design for the past several years has been providing a more interactive and collaborative approach to the learning process. Conferences are no longer a place for attendees to simply consume learning; they are active participants.

Your conference booklet can help facilitate and promote this approach as well. Sure, providing dedicated pages to take notes is always handy, but can you take it a step further?

  • Provide thought-provoking questions and space to answer them.
  • Include short workbook-like activities in your program book.
  • Give attendees space to draw and doodle as they work through new ideas.
  • Include QR codes that link to other resources like a short video

4. Maximize Branding Opportunities Wherever You Can

cesse conference program bookletOne of our own fan-favorite program books features a simple, but impactful change from the previous year.

The Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE) incorporated tabs in their program book to make it easy for users to navigate.

Taking it a step further, they used what is often blank space to extend their event branding. The flood of bold color and graphics on what is traditionally a blank page helped to reinforce the perception that this is a high-quality, professional conference.

5. Find Inspiration Outside of Your Industry

Some of the most cutting-edge event designs come from cutting-edge conferences, such as Adobe’s 99U and the Facebook Developer Conference. Take a look at how they are presenting program information and then see how you might be able to scale the execution to fit your audience.

Your conference program book can—and should—do more than simply provide logistical information. By incorporating a more inspirational design you can help shape the attendee experience well before the opening session begins.

Use SEO to Increase the ROI of Your Online Conference Materials

 

Perhaps the most valuable asset an association provides to its members is the educational content shared at a conference. In an effort to make that content more accessible, many organizations post their conference materials online. However, often times the content posted is limited to conference attendees who are looking for papers, presentations and handouts from sessions they already attended. While your current conference attendees certainly appreciate this, this limited approach does little to reach new audiences. By incorporating some simple SEO (search engine optimization) tips into your online conference content strategy, associations can drastically increase the role, value and ROI of your conference.

Why SEO for Online Conference Materials Matters

As associations look to increase their relevancy in a world that is changing faster than ever, many are thinking about how to attract and engage younger members. Capitalizing on the younger generation’s tendency to turn to search engines for answers to their most common questions is one logical place to start.

In 2012, the Pew Research Center conducted an online survey of middle and high school teachers to understand which tools were most often used for research projects. 94% of respondents indicated that their students were very likely to use Google as their primary source of research.  Today, these students are the very same Millennials and Gen Z-ers your organization is looking to attract. They are conditioned to turn to search engines like Google for the information and knowledge your association already provides. Learning how to optimize your online conference content so it shows up at the top of search results will help increase your content’s reach and influence, and ultimately your association’s thought leadership and industry influence.

How to Optimize Your Conference Materials for Search: 3 Simple Steps

SEO can often be a daunting task for associations who already have limited internal resources. After all, some large companies dedicate entire teams to the discipline. But, according to Casey Emanuel, Search Optimization Manager at Rocket Clicks, a specialized SEO agency and Premier Google Partner based in Milwaukee, WI, most associations would benefit drastically from adding just a few, simple tasks to their annual conference to-do list.

1. Add Metadata to Your PDFs

Most conference materials—from speaker presentations to handouts—are posted online as PDFs. Emanuel points out that, “just like web pages, you can, and should, optimize PDFs for searchability.” If done correctly, Google will crawl your PDFs for content, and can even display them as organic search results. These steps should only take a few minutes per PDF. To avoid doing all the work yourself, make it a required part of your final submission process.

  • Save the PDF to your website with a descriptive, SEO-friendly filename
  • In Acrobat Reader, go to File > Document Properties and fill in the Title and Subject fields with descriptive text and keywords
  • Optimize the file size by compressing any large images, if necessary

2. Build Quality Backlinks to Your Conference Materials

Backlinks, or references from third-party websites to your own, can serve as a signal of quality and authority to Google. However, Emanuel is quick to point out that, “These links need to be real and authentic, otherwise you could actually be penalized by search engines.”

One fairly easy way to build backlinks to your conference content is to encourage your speakers to reference and link to the material within their own online properties. Not only does this boost SEO for your organization, it also helps the speaker increase their own authority and visibility.

3. Build Internal Links to Your Conference Materials

Oftentimes, the only place you’ll find reference to online conference materials is within the Agenda or Schedule page of the conference website. Emanuel recommends creating follow-up articles or blog posts on popular session topics and incorporating links to the conference materials as part of the article. “These internal links work to build link authority just like backlinks do, helping your PDF files appear in search results for relevant keywords.” To help mitigate additional work, ask your speakers and session leaders to craft the article. They will love the additional exposure, and you’ll have one less post-conference task to complete.

Posting your conference materials online does more than just provide increased choice and accessibility for current attendees. If these materials are search engine optimized, they can deliver valuable answers to new audiences, increasing both the reach and ROI of your conference.

Abstract Management Pros Share Tips on Managing a Call For Papers

While conference attendees love good food, great networking opportunities, and creative activities, what they really value most about your event are the insightful, inspiring, and educational session presentations. Which makes the task of sourcing high-quality content extremely important. For many event planners, running a call for abstracts, papers, posters, and presentations is one of the most time and resource-intensive tasks. But it doesn’t have to be.

Best Practices Guide for Sourcing High-Quality Content

We consulted with four of our resident abstract management experts, Erin, John, Dave, and Paul, to develop the Best Practices Guide for High-Quality Content. Using their experience working with hundreds of conferences each year, they provide ten simple changes meeting planners can make to simplify the abstract submission and review process.

As a follow-up to this guide, we sat down with these experts to dive further into the advice provided within the guide.

Q&A With Four Abstract Management Experts

Q: One of the tips featured in the guide is to “prepare your forms to collect all necessary data.” What does this mean, and why is it so important?

Erin: People spend a lot of time unnecessarily chasing down data from submitters at the eleventh hour because either they didn’t think to collect it, or they didn’t think they would need it. It’s really important to first understand where all of the collected data is ultimately going to live and how it’s going to be used, so we can help our customers get exactly what they need.

John: If the planner has a sample of what their final conferences materials will be, possibly from a previous conference, we try and get that early on in the abstract management process. The customer doesn’t think of the data the same way we do, and they shouldn’t have to. That’s our job. We look at the final conference materials and make the connection between what’s actually being published versus what’s being included on the collection form.  

Paul: Here’s a real customer example of why collecting all necessary data on your form is so important. I noticed that one customer published the city, state, and country for each of their authors, but they weren’t asking us to collect it on the form. We had time to change that before the call for papers opened, which ultimately saved them a lot of time!

Dave: Best practice tip: If you know you’re going to need specific information, make it required in the first round of your call for papers, so you’re asking people to come into the abstract management system as infrequently as possible – they’ll really appreciate it!

Erin: At the same time, we do want to be mindful of how much people are asked to provide early on. We push our customers to really think about whether they really need some information, and if they are really going to use it. It’s a fine balance that we help customers maintain.

Q: Are there other ways that author or submitter data is sometimes used that customers don’t always think of?

Dave: Reports! Sometimes a customer will need to have certain data sets for internal reporting purposes, but they may not have collected it because they weren’t thinking of reports at the time. But the reality is, even though the conference site is still being built and they won’t need to access reports for several months, providing all data sets upfront helps streamline the process.

Q: What about data quality? How can we ensure an author or speaker provides a complete submission?

John: It’s all about the fields you use on your submission form. You have to break up data into smaller pieces. Otherwise five people will fill out the same field five different ways.

Erin: This is a huge culprit! For instance, don’t just include a “Name” field. Break out “First Name” and “Last Name” into two separate fields.

Paul: And, think of everything your authors are going to want to provide, like credentials and designations. If you don’t have a specific space for it, they’ll find a place to put it anyway, and that causes a lot of unnecessary data cleanup on the back end.

Dave: Co-authors can be tricky too. If the submitter is the only person that has access to that submission, they’re going to have a hard time completing it if they don’t know all of their co-authors’ information. So, on your instructions, tell your authors to gather all of their co-author information ahead of time, and it will be a much easier process for them.

Q: Speaking of instructions, how do they factor into the submission and review process?

Dave: Instructions are incredibly important! Having clearly-written instructions that are easily accessible at the right points during the submission and review process will increase compliance and quality substantially.

John: Keep your instructions very simple, and break them out into smaller, more digestible pieces. Some customers have a tendency to try and over-explain, and this actually causes more confusion and misinterpretation.

Erin: Be sure to have a brief overview of basic qualifiers on your conference website, where the call for papers is being advertised. This allows authors to determine whether their topic is a good fit before they get into the system and start a submission.

Paul: And don’t forget about your  reviewers. Be sure you write instructions for them as well.

Q: If you could share just one piece of abstract management wisdom with all meeting planners, what would it be?

Erin:  Finalize the big decisions about how you want the process to go at the very beginning, so you don’t find yourself having to change anything while you’re already in the middle of collection. I’ve seen this happen with some large committees, and the customer then had to go back and ask hundreds of authors to come back into the system and update information.

John: I’m going to add to that and say that it’s also important to determine early on who will be the designated point of contact for everything, and funnel all communication and decisions through this person. It simplifies the process tremendously, and you won’t have multiple committee members inadvertently providing conflicting information.

Paul: Provide a designated contact to field questions from submitters—particularly new submitters. Some customers don’t think they want to do this for a variety of reasons. Not having this available and accessible creates frustration for a potentially high-quality speaker.

Dave: Consider reducing the number of reviewers you recruit. I’ve had customers that wanted to assign a single reviewer to a single submission. With fewer reviewers, you actually get better data because they are seeing a bigger pool of submissions and have more context on quality.

John: I think the biggest thing for meeting planners or program chairs to know is they don’t have to be tied to legacy processes just because that’s the way it’s always been done. There may be an easier way to achieve the same outcome, so let us help you explore that option. That’s what we’re here for.

For more tips on how to design a call for papers process that is easier to manage and results in higher-quality submissions, download the Best Practices Guide for High-Quality Content.

3 Ways to Protect the Quality of Your Abstract Submissions

The #1 reason attendees choose a conference–whether in-person or virtual–is for the educational sessions.  Which is why it’s so important to select and schedule sessions that align not only with attendees’ interests, but also with your organization’s quality standards.

Many organizations use an open or invited call for abstracts, papers, and presentations to source this content, relying on an extensive peer or staff review process to identify and select the highest-quality papers and presentations, and help weed out those that aren’t.

You can help your reviewers with this task by putting a few simple steps in place at the front-end of your submission process, to help deter incomplete or lower-quality submissions from even making it through the submission process.

 

1. Charge a submission fee

While submission fees can help generate some added revenue for the conference, the primary purpose is  to discourage submissions from those who are simply “phishing” for any available opportunity.  You can set the fee at a modest level–just enough to discourage less-than-serious submissions, but not so high that it becomes a barrier to your authors or presenters.  Some find that even a modest fee encourages more thoughtful, thorough, and complete submissions from even the most legitimate authors.

2. Limit per-author submissions

Some meeting planners institute a limit on the total number of abstracts one author can submit, ensuring they present only their best work for consideration. Others set limits within their abstract management system that prevents a speaker from starting a new submission until their previous submission is complete.

3. Use plagiarism detection tools

The internet has made it easier to access, and in some cases “borrow” previously published work. As a result, more organizations are turning to plagiarism detection tools such as iThenticate as part of their scholarly paper review process. Some abstract management systems (such as CATALYST) can integrate directly with iThenticate, using essentially a one-click process to upload abstracts and papers to their database from within the submission form. Results are returned to the conference planner within minutes.

Top-notch event content is one the most important elements your conference can provide. Making some simple changes to your author and speaker submission process can help ensure you receive the high-quality materials that reflect your organization’s reputation. Not only will great content help generate interest in your next event, but over the long term, it will continue to reinforce your position as the go-to resource for your industry.

5 Reasons to Offer Online Conference Materials (Even If You Already Have an App)

 

Your attendees are living in a mobile world, with nearly 80% of all Americans owning a smartphone. Of course, it would make sense for your conference to be mobile as well. Increasingly, attendees are becoming conditioned to using an app to access content and information while on-site. But does an app alone provide the greatest value? Not always.

Conference apps bring many benefits to the table, including a personal itinerary for the annual meeting and tools for engagement, but an app might fall short when meeting all the digital needs of your attendees. In addition to a conference app, consider hosting your conference materials on a dedicated website that can be accessed by smartphones, laptops and other devices.

Here are five reasons to pair your mobile app with online conference materials for your event.

1. Superior Search

Online conference materials let your attendees utilize advanced search tools superior to those available on a mobile app. Having options like full-text and faceted search makes a big difference when attendees must search through numerous technical papers and presentations.

2. Marketing and Promotion

To access content in the app, an attendee has to already be registered for the conference. But what about those that haven’t registered yet? Providing access to search engine-accessible online conference materials ahead of the meeting allows prospective attendees to gain a better understanding of the value of the event, ultimately driving registration for those who may still be “on the fence.”

3. Post-Meeting Access

Mobile apps provide the most value during the conference. Many attendees won’t use it at all after they plane home, although the content is still relevant and worth a second look. Having the ability to revisit materials on a computer when back in the office is often easier and preferred, and helps increase retention of the material.

4. Better Reading Experience

Close reading and deep comprehension are challenging when using a small screen. This is why many attendees choose to pore over new research on a full screen, rather than using an app, and where online conference materials have an advantage.

5. Non-Dues Revenue

As you build your association’s online conference content archive, you can plan to charge access for past years, generating non-dues revenue for your organization. This option is made even easier with the ability to restrict access to some or all of your online content. You can select who gets to see what content from recent or past events.

Even if you have a mobile app, supplement it through online conference materials. Having more avenues to deliver quality conference content to your attendees is far better than having too few. Each content format provides its own unique set of benefits to both attendees and your association, so it’s worth investing additional time and effort to select the ones that work best for your event.

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