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.

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.

Abstract Management Pros Share Tips on Managing a Call For Papers

Running a call for papers is one of the most time and resource-intensive tasks. But it doesn’t have to be.

Conference attendees love good food, great networking opportunities, and an inspiring atmosphere. But what they really value are insightful educational sessions. Which makes the task of sourcing high-quality content extremely important.

How to manage a call for abstracts is a process that’s often passed down from one program committee to the next. Steps are followed because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” But there might be a better way.

We consulted with four of our resident abstract management experts, Erin, John, Dave, and Paul, to develop the Abstract Management Tip Sheet. Using their experience working with hundreds of conferences each year, they offer 12 things meeting planners can do to simplify the abstract submission and review process.

As a follow-up, we sat down with these experts to dive further.

Q&A With Four Resident Abstract Management Experts

Q: One of the tips featured is to “Reverse-engineer your submission forms.” What does this mean, and why is it so important?

Erin: People spend a lot of time hasing down data from submitters at the eleventh hour. 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 Abstract Management Tip Sheet.

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

Mobile event apps have become an important, and often expected part of the conference experience. When paired with online conference materials, you provide the perfect combination of usability and accessibility for your event content.

One question we get from customers is whether it’s necessary to offer both a mobile app and web-based access to the event schedule and session content. The answer depends upon your attendees, their preferences, and how they use technology. But it’s also important to understand that a mobile event app doesn’t replace online conference materials. It complements them.

Here are five reasons to keep your online conference materials

1. Web and mobile content serve different purposes

When attendees view your event schedule and session content online before the conference begins, they are usually starting to plan their event experience—including making the decision whether to attend. After they conference, they will usually hop online again to revisit favorite papers and presentations.

Conference apps, meanwhile, help drive the on-site event experience. Attendees use them to navigate the event schedule and logistics, and connect with other attendees. Event organizers use them to provide timely updates to attendees, increase engagement, and promote sponsors.

2. Online conference materials have a longer shelf life

Some attendees may start using an event app during the days before a conference begins to scope out other attendees and make appointments. But the majority of an app’s usage happens during the event. And most attendees don’t return to the app after returning home.

Online materials are viewed days, weeks, and even months after the conference wraps up. Attendees will revisit learning concepts from sessions they attended, and use it as an opportunity to seek out content from sessions they weren’t able to attend.

3. The online platform provides increased exposure for event sponsors

One of the benefits of having both a mobile app and online conference materials is you have an additional place to promote event sponsors and exhibitors. Within your online proceedings website or platform, include your sponsors’ banner ads, videos, company descriptions, logos, and other promotional materials.  And because everything is online, you can easily track and measure engagement for each sponsor.

4. Online content can be discovered by search engines

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? When you put your event content online, you increase the opportunity for it to be picked up by search engines and served to prospective new attendees who are interested in these same topics (as long as the content has been search-engine optimized, of course!).  You can still restrict access to content, like full technical papers, so that only registered attendees can view them. Just make sure your conference and session descriptions are on pages that can be crawled by search engines.

5. Online conference materials can become a source of non-dues revenue

Think beyond this year’s event. Start building a multi-year library of online conference proceedings and charge members or non-members for access.  You can select who gets to see what content from recent or past events and start building a new source of non-dues revenue for your organization.

Mobile app vs. online conference materials shouldn’t be an either/or scenario. They both serve very different purposes. Together, they can increase the value of your event for attendees and beyond.

How to Select a Mobile Event App For Your Conference

Mobile event apps have become a key part of the event experience for attendees. They deliver important real-time information, help to increase engagement, and facilitate connections with exhibitors, sponsors, and fellow attendees. With hundreds of mobile event apps to choose from today, finding the best one for your conference can be overwhelming. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve put together an overview of the different types of apps available, common features, and considerations.

Determine What Type of Mobile Event App You Need

The first aspect of a mobile event app to consider is what type you’ll need. Mobile event apps come in three basic forms: native, web, and hybrid.

Native Apps

Native apps are built for a specific platform or operating system, such as iOS or Android, and are self-contained. Once you install it, the app lives on your mobile device, stores relevant data on your phone, and can access features of your device, such as the camera or GPS as part of its functionality.  Most features operate with or without an internet connection. An internet connection will be required, however, to update content once a user has downloaded the app.

Examples of native apps include:

  • WhatsApp
  • Spotify
  • Mobile banking apps
  • Pokemon Go

Web Apps

Web apps are accessed through the mobile device’s web browser, not installed on the device like a native app.  It can launch on any device, including a desktop computer, mobile phone, or tablet. This means they require an internet connection to access the content, and will function according to the device you are using. They also can’t access native device features such as your camera or GPS.  On some devices, users can create an app-like experience by adding a bookmark to their home screen that, when clicked, will take them directly to the website.

Examples of web apps include:

  • Google Docs
  • Netflix
  • Microsoft Office

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps use a native app “shell” that is built for each operating system and downloaded to the device, but pull content from the cloud. These apps can offer partial functionality while offline, but require an internet connection for the app to fully function.

Examples of hybrid apps include:

  • Gmail
  • Facebook
  • Uber

Table: Side-by-side comparison of mobile event app types

DescriptionAdvantagesDisadvantages
Native AppsBuilt specifically for each operating system (Apple’s iOS or Android) and installed directly on the mobile device.
  • Speed, performance and user interface are optimized
  • Works without Internet connection
  • Must build a specific app for each operating system
  • Takes more time to develop and deploy
  • Higher development costs

Web-Based Apps

Websites built using HTML that are designed specifically for smaller screens
  • No need to distribute using app stores
  • Works on any device with a browser, but experience varies
  • Lower deployment costs
  • Slower performance
  • Internet connection is required
  • Not as secure

Hybrid Apps

Native app shell that is platform-specific and installed on the mobile device, but with content being fed from the web
  • Caches content, so it works offline to a degree
  • Downloadable from app stores
  • Easier to deploy cross-platform than native apps
  • Lower cost than native apps
  • Doesn’t run as smoothly as native apps
  • Offline performance can be inconsistent
  • Built to specific operating system

When choosing the type of mobile app that is best for your event, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:

  • What type of WiFi access will you have?
  • What content are you featuring in your app?
  • How will attendees interact with the app?

Does your conference location offer free and reliable WiFi? If not, a web-based or hybrid app may not be the best choice.  A native app with preloaded content is probably a better fit in this scenario.

How do you want attendees to engage with the app during the event? Is it meant to be a tool to check session schedules and room assignments? Or are you hoping they’ll connect and share experiences on social media? If the latter, a hybrid app may be the best option. Access to content can largely be done on offline native apps, but interactivity and live information feeds will require internet access and will be better suited for a hybrid app.

One Important Note: Some mobile event app providers also offer a companion desktop platform that has most of the same look, feel, and functionality as the mobile app. This allows attendees to more readily access the content before and during the event on the device of their choice. It also delivers a consistent experience if you’re holding an event with both in-person and virtual participants.

Understand Which Features are Most Important to Your Attendees

Nearly all mobile event apps on the market contain the same base features because they tend to be the most important for nearly any event type:

  1. Event agenda with session description and details, often with the ability to select sessions and build a personalized itinerary
  2. Event map showing the layout of the venue
  3. Speaker information
  4. Attendee profiles
  5. Exhibitor and sponsor listings

Beyond this, it’s important to know which features your attendees want and will actually use. 

If you’ve used a mobile event app in the past, look at your app data to see which features were accessed by the most people, and how often they were used. If this is the first time you’re offering a mobile app, send a brief survey to past attendees asking them how likely and frequently they are to use certain features such as:

  • Social networking & social feeds
  • Direct messaging
  • AI matchmaking
  • Gamification
  • Polls and surveys
  • Digital exhibitor booths
  • Notetaking

One important note: If you’re going to offer features like gamification, social engagement, and networking, make sure to allocate time and resources to promote and facilitate these activities. There will be a fraction of your attendees that go all-in on participation without any assistance. But most of your attendees will need ongoing prompting and encouragement.

Know Which Features are Important to Your Organization

In addition to meeting your attendees’ needs, what do you need from your mobile event app?

Are you looking for more revenue generation opportunities? Your chosen mobile app should offer multiple opportunities for sponsor and exhibitor exposure such as banner ads, sponsored posts, and lead retrieval.

Do you need an easier way to track and manage CE credits? Look for an app where attendees “check-in” to the sessions they attend.

Do you want to streamline processes and the exchange of data? Select an app that can integrate with other systems, such as your abstract management software, association management system, or registration system.

Do you want to be able to schedule and send push notifications? Your chosen app should not only have this functionality, but its back-end interface needs to be easy for you and your team to navigate and use.

What type of data and analytics will you need, and to whom? Your internal organization may be most interested in the ROI of the app, which means you’ll need metrics on app adoption and usage. Your sponsors and exhibitors may need data that illustrates the ROI of your event, including clicks to banner ads, sponsor profiles, and video views.

Recognize What Level of Support Will You Need

Many mobile app providers only provide the technology, and all setup is done by you and your team. This includes populating all event, session, and speaker data. This tends to be a less expensive option, but that also means all the upfront work is falling on you. On the other hand, some mobile app vendors also provide full app setup. This does often add to the app cost, but it allows you and your team to focus on other crucial tasks.

After the initial setup is complete, what type of ongoing support is important to you? Do you prefer to have one, dedicated point of contact for questions and technical issues? Or are you okay with submitting requests to a general support team?

It goes without saying that any mobile event app needs to be intuitive and easy to use—for you and your attendees. And, the price needs to fit within your event budget. Beyond that, it’s important to understand not only which features are important, but why. This will help you prioritize feature sets and narrow down the prospective list of mobile event apps to evaluate for your next conference.

4 More Ways To Use An Abstract Management System (Besides Collecting Abstracts)

If you run a large call for papers, an abstract management system is must-have event tech. This software centralizes the collection and review of submissions, automates tasks like outbound communication, and provides critical event data.  But you’re not limited to just collecting abstracts.

You can extend the value of your abstract management software by using it to collect other member or partner-sourced data.

Here are five more things you can manage through your abstract management system

Sponsor information

Of course you can use your abstract management system to collect assets from your conference sponsors and exhibitors. But it’s also a great tool to help you manage assets for your annual or organization sponsors too.

Scholarship, grant and award applications

If your association presents scholarships or grants, consider using your system to collect those applications. You can follow a process that is similar to abstract management, inviting the selection committee into the software to review submissions, communicate with applicants, and determine your award recipients.

Competitions

If you run any other type of competition that requires organizing and reviewing multiple submissions, your abstract management system can collect all of the documents and files you need to judge each submission choose finalists and select a winner.

Member directory

If you publish a printed or digital member directory, use your same system to collect up-to-date member information and profile photos through a simple form.

Board nominations

When electing new members to your association’s board, getting countless nominations can be cumbersome to manage on paper or in an email. Use your abstract management system to collect and review board nominations each year.

Abstract management software is an important piece of event technology if you manage a call for abstracts, papers, or presentations. But it’s value can also extend into other areas of your organization, using the same features to simplify and streamline other collected data.

Book Binding 101 for Educational Materials

When printing educational materials like a conference program book or training manual, it’s important to choose the right type of book binding. Not only does the binding literally hold the book together, it affects its quality, usability, Selecting the best one starts with knowing your options.

We’ve put together this brief overview of each binding type.

Four Common Types of Book Binding

1. Plastic Coil Bindingplasticoil-binding

How it looks:

Remember the silver coil notebooks we bought as kids at the beginning of each school year? That’s plastic coil binding. The only difference is instead of the metal coil, the coils are now plastic.

Why we love it:

It lays flat and allows the user to flip the book in half for easy note taking. They also ship well as the plastic coil is more forgiving than the metal coil. It comes in over 40 colors so you can easily match or compliment your branding. Even better, our black plastic coil is 80% post-consumer waste!

When to use it:

For workbooks, training manuals, and conference program books where users will be taking notes within the piece. Also, if your room configuration does not have tables, or has theater-style seats with the pull-up half desks, users can easily fold the book in half.

Works best with:

Books up to 750 pages (375 sheets) of 60# offset stock or 1,000 pages (500 sheets) of 50# offset stock.

Can also accommodate books with tabs and dividers.

2. Perfect Bindingperfect-bound-binding

How it looks:

Perfect bound books are the soft-cover books from our college days, or the ones we find at our favorite bookstore.

Why we love it:

They have a professional look for an affordable price. A perfect bound cover provides a space for text on the spine, turning your book into a shelf-worthy piece.

When to use it:

Best for reference pieces with a longer shelf life such as proceedings, manuals, and educational publications.

Works best with:

Books between 32 and 1,420 pages.

Can also accommodate books with tabs and dividers.

3. Saddle Stitchsaddle-stitch-binding

How it looks:

Saddle stitch resembles a magazine with two center staples on the spine.

Why we love it:

It’s a budget-friendly option with a faster production time.

When to use it:

Conference programs, journals, conference marketing brochures, or other booklets that have a smaller page count.

Works best with:

Books up to 64 pages (32 sheets) of 60# offset stock or 88 pages (44 sheets) of 50# offset stock.

4. Case Bindingcase-binding

How it looks:

A case bound book looks like a hardcover textbook.

Why we love it:

It’s extremely durable and creates a high-value appearance.

When to use it:

Best for text books, standards, and other high-value books with a longer shelf life.

Works best with:

Books between 48 pages (24 sheets) and 1,600 pages (800 sheets).

Other Book Binding Types Available (But We Don’t Recommend)

Tape Binding:

It’s a lower quality version of perfect binding with a high risk for pages falling out.

Plastic Comb Binding:

This is the budget version of plastic coil spiral binding. It doesn’t allow the pages to flip all the way around and lay back-to-back. It can be perfectly suitable It for college papers, printed PowerPoint slide decks, or other free or lower-value materials. But for educational books with high-value content, a plastic comb binding will cheapen its look, feel, and durability.

You’ll find more information on binding, tabs, and other finishing options for your print materials on our website.

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