Omnipress Introduces New No-Cost Print Service

Right now, it’s probably more difficult than ever to plan a conference. Just as we were all feeling relatively confident about a slow but steady return to in-person events, the Delta variant began to surge, causing us to re-think our plans yet again—including how we use print services to provide conference 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 program materials. With EasyPrint, meeting planners can still provide a physical program or proceedings book to the attendees 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 attendees with a link to our storefront where they order materials directly from us.
  3. You provide Omnipress with a print-ready file of your program materials.
  4. Omnipress will print, pack, and ship items to attendees 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 is going to look like. Add to that the fact that our customers are having to make significant adjustments to their 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 attendees who are print fanatics. They love to have that tactile piece. For them, it increases the value of the event.”

In addition to increasing value for both in-person and virtual attendees, 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

After spending the past year and a half attending virtual versions of our favorite conferences, we’ve come to terms with a very important dichotomy around events:

While in-person events offer important personal connections that are nearly impossible to replicate in a virtual environment, the virtual event format 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 solution—not just for the now, but as a more permanent event strategy.

Hybrid Event: Two words, multiple definitions

At its core, a hybrid event is simply one where session content is being delivered to both an in-person audience and an audience who consumes the content online. Exactly how this is done can vary greatly, from a very simple format to one that is extremely complex. This means there is no one, universal definition of what “going hybrid” means.

Some organizations view the hybrid event model as one where both virtual and in-person attendees share the same live conference experience. The conference itself is held in a centralized location, with both on-site and remote participants joining sessions simultaneously.

While this does provide your virtual attendees access to the complete event experience (or, as much as practically possible), it’s also the most complex and potentially most expensive way to conduct a hybrid event.

Typically, these events require a high production value and additional resources—from an event emcee to dedicated virtual participant facilitators—to really make them work well. These events may also include special programming just for virtual attendees to compensate for on-site activities they can’t easily join, like networking breaks and 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.

While it definitely paid off for them, not every organization can afford to go to these extremes for their annual conference.

The idea of live now, virtual later is gaining traction

Meeting planners recognize the benefits of offering both an on-site and virtual conference experience but acknowledge they may not have the time, resources, or budget to achieve this more conventionally. In a recent article, MPI—an association for event industry professionals—calls this practice of producing content for two audiences simultaneously “expensive and sometimes impractical.”

Instead, MPI recommends a “live now, virtual later” approach, where the on-site sessions are recorded and made available to a virtual audience after the event.

While this is a more practical approach, it still requires a high-caliber A/V setup to ensure both the speaker and their presentation slides, video, etc., are all captured appropriately and that the sound is sufficient. It may also require some post-production work to make it easier for the virtual audience to follow along with the content.

Hybrid-Lite: A hybrid event approach that is smaller in scale, but delivers big benefits

“Hybrid-Lite” events provide a way to deliver an exceptional on-site experience while at the same time opening up your conference content to a wider audience after the fact, in a way that is practical and affordable. We’re calling it “hybrid-lite.”

Instead of trying to record an on-site conference session as it’s happening, have your selected speakers pre-record their presentation before the conference, and post those videos to a virtual event platform for on-demand viewing by your remote attendees. Your speakers can use their recording tool of choice. Or, to make it even easier, you can 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. You don’t need to worry about the expense and logistics of on-site A/V to capture sound and video for a presentation that is being delivered in front of a live audience.
  2. You need fewer resources, as the virtual audience will be engaging with the session content on their own time (which also helps if you’re working with a global audience in multiple time zones).
  3. It can be easier for virtual attendees to view conference sessions in an on-demand format. At an in-person conference, we are physically removed from most day-to-day distractions, and we are less accessible to clients and co-workers. As a virtual attendee, it’s much harder to create that separation, and we often end up missing sessions or portions of sessions when they are delivered live. Plus, it removes any potential bandwidth issues that may occur while live streaming content for an entire day.
  4. You can still incorporate special content and engagement opportunities for your virtual participants that increase the value of the event, such as a series of scheduled online discussion groups around a specific conference topic or presentation. Think of it as a virtual book group.
  5. You end up increasing the value of the conference for your on-site attendees as well. Most of us can’t physically attend all the sessions we’re interested in on-site. By having an on-demand version of each session that is more robust than simply posting the presenter’s PowerPoint presentation, your in-person attendees actually get more conference for their money.
  6. This on-demand offering of event content can serve as a way to start building a year-over-year library of event content that becomes a valuable member resource.
  7. 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, you’ll want to be sure to gather their preferences and set expectations early on. As part of the submission process be sure to ask whether they’re willing to present in-person, virtually, or both. Also, make sure they know upfront that if selected they’ll be asked to also record and submit their presentation ahead of the conference, with a clear deadline.
  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, as should any distribution terms. For instance, can the recording be made available only to attendees, or will you be allowed to sell access to a wider audience? As such, understand that you may not be able to record every session, like a noteworthy keynote speaker. This can work to your benefit, as a high-profile speaker that is only accessible to in-person attendees may help boost on-site attendance.
  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? Having this structure mapped out ahead of time will make it easier to source and set up your virtual event platform as the content hub, while ensuring the appropriate access controls are in place.

Over the past year, 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 a Conference Call for Papers That Is Flexible During Uncertain Times

Earlier this year, meeting planners indicated they were cautiously optimistic for the return to in-person events—either fully in-person or as part of a hybrid solution— by this fall. In fact, this Q2 survey of event planners by EventMB shows that at the time, 70% were planning an in-person event with over half of those events occurring before the end of this year.

But the newest data and health recommendations are causing some to re-think their event plans.

Facing increased uncertainty once again, meeting professionals may be forced to adjust their conference format and program not just because of potential local restrictions or changing attendee preferences but also based on the willingness and ability of speakers to travel to an in-person event.

If you’re using an abstract management system to conduct your call for papers, posters, or speakers, there are several steps you should take during your initial call 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, and/or whether the content being delivered works best for an in-person or virtual audience. 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 submission 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 current pandemic, it appears, will continue to affect conferences longer than many of us anticipated. Just a few months ago, a return to in-person events in the fall and winter, even in a modified format, felt like a relatively safe bet. But may meeting planners have started to take pause and reassess the best way to proceed without knowing whether and how health and safety guidelines will continue to change.

Given this uncertainty, 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

Many conference organizers have historically relied on third-party tools such as an abstract management system to collect, review, select, and schedule papers and presentations for an in-person event. What’s not as widely known is this same software can also be used in non-traditional ways to better support your virtual or hybrid event.

If your abstract management system features a built-in video recording and submission tool, like our CATALYST abstract management software does, you can easily collect pre-recorded session videos to be included in your event schedule. What’s more, these same video capture capabilities can be leveraged in other ways to enhance the event experience for your speakers, attendees, and sponsors.

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 abstract management tool to record and provide a short audition video as part of your initial submission process, and include them in your review criteria. You can even provide the ability for your reviewers to leave feedback for submitters so they can make improvements before the final presentation.

2. Perform a presentation test-run before the event

Ask your selected speakers to create a test recording of a short portion of their presentation in your abstract management system 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. Pre-recorded videos are great to feature on your virtual event platform and to promote premier sponsors and exhibitors on your website and social media channels. But not all sponsors and exhibitors will have a pre-produced video. If this is the case, a company representative can easily use your abstract management system’s built-in 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.

Virtual Event Platform Comparison: A Needs Assessment

While the calendar shows that 2020 is behind us, uncertainty surrounding the timing of in-person events is not. The common belief is that in-person conferences could return at some point during the second half of the year. But exactly when, and at what capacity, is still unknown.

As meeting professionals plan for either a full or partial virtual event in 2021, they are faced with the daunting task of assessing and selecting a virtual event platform in a marketplace that has expanded tenfold since the pandemic began less than a year ago.

Got Demo Fatigue From Virtual Event Platform Comparison?

According to one association-based meetings manager, “I’m completely overwhelmed by the options, and honestly, the demos start to blur together.”

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Demo fatigue is real, especially when you’re trying to select a platform that fits within your budget, is manageable for your team, and meets the needs of a diverse set of attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors.

Identify Your Organization’s Platform Needs With This Worksheet

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

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

  1. Completing it ahead of the demo not only gives you a more finely tuned checklist of requirements to evaluate but also ensures the rest of your planning team is aligned early in the process.
  2. It’s easy to be “wowed” by features that are fun and interesting but provide minimal added value to your event. Our worksheet will help you separate and prioritize must-have vs. nice-to-have features.
  3. Providing this information to your potential vendor partners helps them deliver a more personalized and relevant product demo so you can spend your limited time on features and functionality that actually matter to you.

Download the worksheet

Whether you’re thinking about featuring a simple agenda with a few session links on our own website or are looking for an end-to-end, immersive virtual experience, using our worksheet to organize and prioritize your needs and requirements will make it easier to navigate your options.

Now Open: Annual Conference Industry Survey

It’s time for the annual State of the Conference Industry Survey, and we need your input!

This is the seventh year we are conducting this survey of meeting planners and association professionals, with results being published in our State of the Conference Industry Report in early 2021.

Our goal with this annual report is to provide peer benchmarking, note upcoming trends, and identify future opportunities for not just the conference in general, but the educational content delivered at the event.

Needless to say, 2020 forced us all to change course quickly. Will this change the future trajectory of meetings and events? Take the survey and help us all find out!

The survey takes just 5-10 minutes to complete, and all responses remain confidential. As a thank you for your time, at the end of the survey you can choose to be entered into a drawing to receive a $100 Visa Gift Card. The drawing will take place in January after the survey closes.

We look forward to sharing the results with you in March 2021!

If you haven’t seen it already, please download the 2020 conference industry report.

Why Virtual Attendees Need Conference Welcome Kits More Than Ever

Several surveys indicate that most conference attendees still prefer in-person events and look forward to the day they can safely resume. However, a recent report released by PCMA tells us that virtual events—in one form or another—are here to stay for the foreseeable future. As we become more accustomed to doing nearly everything virtually, we’re going to expect more from virtual conferences. It won’t be enough to deliver great content through easily accessible technology. We also need to think about how we deliver a more human event experience in this now-virtual world.

Virtual Event Welcome Kits & Swag Bags

Cue the conference welcome packet. Or welcome kit. Or swag bag. Whichever you prefer. We once felt they were an important part of an in-person conference—important enough to spend the wee hours of the morning stuffing tote bags! Why? They set the tone of the meeting, made our attendees feel important, created sponsorship opportunities, and provided key information for navigating the event.

A welcome kit mailed to virtual attendees ahead of the event provides some much-needed return to normalcy.

Common Challenges for Virtual Attendees

It’s possible your attendees are not going to experience the same level of excitement and anticipation leading up to your virtual event as they do for the in-person version simply because there is less to get excited about. No new city to explore. Fewer opportunities to meet and truly connect with old friends and new acquaintances. Fewer of those “surprise and delight” moments that make the meeting fun and memorable.

More attendees run the risk of feeling anonymous and less important at a virtual event—both to the organizers and to other attendees, especially if they are newer to the organization. The perception can be that it’s easier to become lost in a sea of Zoom faces or duck out of a session without anyone really noticing.

Virtual conferences can also be more difficult to navigate. For example, if you have a logistical question or don’t know where the next session is at an in-person conference you simply ask someone—event staff, volunteers, or fellow attendees. But for a virtual conference, you need to understand the schedule, technology requirements, login URLs and credentials, how to use the platform, and any important details and expectations, like how to connect with the speaker. Or, what do I need to know for Happy Hour Trivia again? In the days leading up to and during the conference, it can be too easy for important instructions and information to get lost in the abyss of email.

Welcome Kits Create Anticipation, Build Connections, and Provide Information

A welcome kit can be used to capture the spirit of your event, help facilitate attendee connections, create sponsorship opportunities, and provide important information. It also makes your attendees feel appreciated and part of something important before the first session even begins.

Here are some ideas of what to include in your welcome kit:

  • Branded promotional items that align with your event’s theme
  • Items that make it easier to participate from home, such as snacks, water, coffee, earbuds, a mi-fi, fidget toy, and even a themed “Do Not Disturb” sign to hang on their home office door
  • Items that help create conversation and bring attendees together during a fun social or network event, such as t-shirts, silly sunglasses, an item for a virtual scavenger hunt, etc.
  • Helpful, informative materials such as happy hour drink recipe cards, tips for looking your best on webcam, etc.
  • Sponsor and exhibitor materials that help attendees connect with the products and solutions they need.

Include a Printed Program Book in Virtual Event Welcome Kits

Believe it or not, the printed program book still plays an important role in the virtual event. It serves as a guide to navigating the schedule and provides a centralized place for all participation instructions. It can also be used as a handy place to take notes, which can be harder to do on a computer or other device during a virtual meeting, especially if your attendees don’t have the benefit of multiple monitors. And, of course, it provides an opportunity to showcase your sponsors and exhibitors. Pair the printed book with a digital conference flipbook to give sponsors even more exposure such as embedded videos, virtual callouts, and web links.

When our conferences shifted from in-person to online, we lost the tactile component of the meeting, which is proving to be an important part of a virtual event. Meeting planners should consider a physical mailing to attendees that contain promotional items and printed materials to bridge the gap between the in-person and the virtual event experience.

Need help printing, stuffing, and mailing your attendee welcome packets, swag bags, or other pre-event materials?

Contact us to receive a quote!

Virtual Events: Practical Advice from an Attendee

Over the past few weeks, the conversation among meeting planners has shifted from whether to go virtual to how to go virtual with their conference.

  • How do you schedule your event?
  • How do you deliver the content?
  • How do you connect attendees?

These questions have meeting planners considering whether to design their virtual conference as a live (livestream) event, or to provide attendees with on-demand access to content. Or, a little of both.

Ultimately, we’re all trying to figure out how to replicate the best parts of an in-person event within a virtual environment. Hint: you can’t replicate it, but you can reinvent it.

Reinventing your in-person conference as a virtual event

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 are lucky that we have the tools and tech that allow us to work effectively: multiple monitors, great bandwidth, dedicated working spaces. We also have two tween/teen children who, although self-sufficient, are starting to become emotionally spent from the new limitations that have been placed on their lives. We also have two large dogs who are continually confused by why we are all home and why we are not paying more attention to them.

So what did attending a 3-day live virtual 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.

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.

How Should You Serve-Up Your On-Demand Event Content?

Join us for a live, 30-minute webinar on Thursday, May 28th, where we’ll take a tour of the Omnipress Virtual Conference & Event Platform. It’s a simple and cost-effective way to serve-up on-demand content for your conference. And yes, it will be recorded and available on-demand in case you can’t join us!

Turn Virtual Events into a Year-Round Learning and Engagement Strategy

With the cancellation of spring conferences and the fate of summer and fall events still up in the air, we’re tasked with figuring out how to turn in-person conferences into successful virtual events—whether that means live-streaming sessions, providing on-demand access to pre-recorded sessions, or a mix of both.

Whatever strategy you choose, we believe there is a broader consideration to make: how can you use this new opportunity to utilize the virtual event content you and your speakers create to turn your online conference in a year-round learning and engagement opportunity?

Event Content Must Serve a Higher Purpose For Attendees and the Organization

Our 2020 State of the Conference Industry Report, which was developed and released before COVID-19 became a major disruptor, indicates that to achieve growth and success in 2020 and beyond, the content sourced and shared at a conference will need to serve a purpose beyond simply marketing next year’s event.

There is a significant opportunity to re-purpose and re-package this content not just to reach new audiences, but to reinforce key learning concepts, facilitate ongoing peer connections, and provide more value to members.

At the time that respondents were surveyed in late 2019, more meeting planners indicated they were starting to re-use conference session content to promote learning retention. But they also stated this was one of their top challenges because many did not have the tools, platforms, or processes in place to fully support this strategy.

Reworking Your Conference Strategy for Virtual Events

While the sudden need to go virtual with conferences has created substantial challenges, it has also opened the door to new opportunities. A virtual conference may not carry the same perceived value to attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors. And practically speaking, it doesn’t work well being delivered in the same timeframe of the in-person event.

In order to retain registration fees and sponsor dollars, you already need to rethink how the conference is delivered. Why limit your timeframe to just a few days or a few weeks? Why not use this as a chance to create a must-see event throughout the year.

Here are a few ideas to help get the wheels spinning:

If your event is going fully virtual:

  • Use the initial timeframe of the in-person conference to feature live (virtual) sessions from keynote speakers and plenary sessions
  • Have your session speakers and paper or poster presenters pre-record their sessions, which you can then release on a timed basis over the course of several weeks
  • Create a series of both live (virtual) and on-demand follow-up sessions that attendees pre-register and potentially pay for. These sessions could allow them to dive deeper into a sub-topic, participate in a discussion group with the presenter, or even allow them to share challenges and on-the-job “a-ha” moments with each other as they attempt to put these learnings into practice
  • These sessions can be hosted by an exhibitor or sponsor; or, you can work with your sponsors to develop additional live and on-demand educational content

If your conference is a blended event (both live and virtual options):

  • Much of the same ideas still apply! Use your virtual platforms to deliver follow-up content and provide additional learning, networking, and sharing opportunities throughout the year

We hope this current pandemic will soon be a distant memory. But even when that happens, there is a good chance that the format of conferences will be forever changed, with more organizations creating a virtual component to a live event.

Don’t limit yourself just to the conference itself. Use this as a springboard to deliver year-round learning and peer connections, while creating potential new streams of non-dues revenue.

COVID-19 Coronavirus and Conferences: Cancellations Don’t Mean Learning Has to End

It didn’t take long for coronavirus (COVID-19) to become a major disruptor to the meetings and events industry. While travel restrictions have forced some conferences to cancel, fears and uncertainty threaten the performance of others, regardless of their location.

This has caused most meeting planners to either create or start putting into motion their plan B in an effort to retain at least some of the value of their event while making accommodations for speakers or registrants who will no longer be able to attend in person.

Moving to a virtual conference is one option that many have been considering. But based on your timeline and resources, this may not be a viable option for your upcoming conference. Large, virtual meetings can be complex to execute—especially in a pinch—if you want to provide a similar experience to your in-person event.

Omnipress has a solution that allows you to deliver your valuable educational content to all attendees and is extremely quick and simple to execute.

  1. Work with your speakers to turn their session or poster presentations into pre-recorded videos.
  2. Have them upload these videos, and any accompanying final session materials, to CATALYST®
  3. Publish these materials to our On-Demand Video Session Content Platform, which allows registrants to easily search and access this content by topic, track, author/speaker or keyword

Watch this video to learn more.

By providing an enhanced, recorded version of the sessions to attendees along with all other session content, you can make sure the learning continues in this time of extreme uncertainty, while potentially retaining at least a portion of your registration fees. It also gives you an opportunity to reach those that may be hesitant to register at all this year by charging a smaller fee to access the content.

Now Available: 2020 Conference Industry Report

Our 2020 State of the Conference Industry Report is now available!

2020 marks the start of a new era, which, according to this year’s report, will bring new challenges and opportunities for meeting professionals.

For the past six years, Omnipress has conducted an online survey of over 100 association professionals and meeting planners to track the evolution of educational content and the changing role it plays at the annual conference and beyond.  The results have been compiled, analyzed, and published in our 2020 State of the Conference Industry Report.

Is Major Change on the Horizon for Meeting Professionals?

When looking at the data year over year, we typically see a slow and steady progression of change as associations begin to carefully implement and test the strategies that have been points of industry discussion for several years. And while this year is no different, we are seeing indications that we could be on the brink of a major shift in the role of the conference, and of conference content, that could fundamentally shape the future of meetings.

Here is a sampling of current and emerging trends to watch in the coming year, as discussed in the report:

  • Even tighter integration between peer connections and learning as part of the conference format
  • Increased emphasis on attracting new audiences from outside the core member base
  • Increased recognition of the conference as more than just a one-time-per-year event
  • Organizations allocating more time and resources towards re-using existing educational content for more than event marketing
  • More urgency around the need to not only attract young professionals, but to engage them as part of the content creation process

How does your organization compare to your peers? Are you experiencing the same challenges or thinking about the same opportunities? We encourage you to use this report—and the questions posed—as a discussion guide to help you leverage your greatest asset—educational content—to advance your mission.

Download the report to read the full results. And please share it with your colleagues!

Omnipress 2020: Continuous Tech Improvement for Meeting Planners

2019 was both an exciting and challenging year for both meeting professionals and Omnipress. Overall, the meetings industry saw steady growth, with many organizations reporting at least modest increases in attendance. Meeting planners continued to experiment with the event format to offer more collaborative and personalized learning for attendees. They also continued to embrace event technology to streamline operations, gather better data, and elevate the attendee experience.

While the growth of new event technology options provides tremendous opportunities for association conferences, it also presents some challenges—namely, how to select the best tech from the ever-growing list of options. Not to mention getting their tech stack to work together seamlessly,  making the most of a busy schedule with limited time.

Omnipress Expanded Event Technology Offerings in 2019

In 2019, Omnipress continued to invest heavily in product development to provide event technology tools that integrate seamlessly, while providing an exceptional experience for meeting planners and end-users. Some highlights from the year include:

    • Launched a new role-based user dashboard for our CATALYST® Abstract Management Software that provides more useful at-a-glance information for submitters, reviewers, and event administrators
    • Increased the functionality of the conference scheduling tool within CATALYST to make it even easier for meeting planners to create a complete conference agenda that manages speakers, sessions, and schedule conflicts
    • Expanded our external integrations for CATALYST, including YourMembership® and Abila® association management systems, Attendify® mobile event app, iThenticate® plagiarism detection software, and the IEEE Xplore Digital Library®
    • Enhanced the integration within our own tech stack so meeting planners can easily publish their conference schedule right from CATALYST to an online event schedule and the mobile event app.

Take a 30-minute tour new product features

Sign up for our Omnipress January 2020 Product Update Webinar

In 2020, the momentum will continue with even more product updates to help meeting planners access and leverage meaningful data to make even better decisions, streamline operations, and enhance learning before, during, and after the conference.

We will also maintain the ongoing investment in our people and processes so Omnipress can continue to provide unrivaled one-on-one guidance and support from experts who have worked on thousands of conferences.

Omnipress has always been more than just an event tech company and print provider. We’ve been working alongside associations for more than forty years. We understand the important role education plays in fulfilling your mission. This is why our mission has always been to make it easier for you to deliver educational materials to your members, attendees, and learners—regardless of the tools being used. In 2020, we will continue our commitment to providing products and services that meet the evolving needs of association professionals.

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