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.

Meeting Planners: Weigh in on the Future of Conference Content

Our annual State of the Conference Industry Survey is now open, and we need your input!

2020 will mark the sixth year that we will be publishing our State of the Conference Industry Report, based on data we collect from association conference and meeting professionals like yourself.

Our goal with this report is to provide peer-to-peer benchmarking, identify trends and generate ideas you can use in your planning sessions around the educational content provided at the annual conference, including:

  • The role content plays before, during, and after the conference
  • The importance of this educational content to an association’s strategic goals
  • How changes in attendee and member demographics are affecting the delivery and use of this content
  • The current and potential impact on associations

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

We look forward to your feedback this October and November. The survey deadline is November 30, 2019.

Please take a moment to complete the survey and pass it along to your colleagues. We will share the results with you in early 2020 in our annual State of the Conference Industry Report.

If you haven’t yet seen it already, please download the 2019 Report.

Pre-Conference Reading List: Articles to Prep for ASAE Annual

 

For most people, summer means warm days, sunshine, beach time, fireflies and lemonade. For us, it means it’s time to get ready for our favorite event of the year—the ASAE Annual Meeting!

We’ve already started browsing through the conference schedule to plan which sessions we’re going to attend. There are a few that caught our attention because they’re covering topics that we’ve had our eye on this year as well, including:

  • A Method to the Madness: How to Strategically Use and Reuse Your Content
  • The Annual Conference as a Year Long Engagement Tool
  • Don’t Just Learn It, Do It! Developing Microlessons for Practice & Application
  • Reimagining an Innovative and Collaborative Conference
  • Four Steps for Growing, Engaging and Retaining Your Membership

In fact, we’ve written blog articles that address some of these same themes.  So, we went back and re-visited these articles to get the “thinking gears” moving in preparation for the conference. And then it occurred to us—maybe others will find these articles helpful as well.

We’ve prepared a list of suggested reading to kick-start your thought process and help prepare you for an engaging discussion at ASAE Annual.

Six Articles That Will Help Get You Ready for ASAE Annual

 

Are You Wasting Your Most Valuable Resource?

Associations are sitting on a goldmine. Unlike most for-profit organizations, associations are in the business of content. You source it for your conferences. You develop it for your educational programs. And you produce it for your publications. You have no shortage of knowledge and ideas to share. But what many don’t have is a well-defined sharing program, both internally and externally, which prevents associations from using that content to its full potential. Here are some ideas on how to overcome internal obstacles and develop a sustainable content marketing process. READ MORE

Association Growth: Conference and Membership Teams Must Collaborate Better

The 2019 State of the Conference Industry Report results demonstrate that conference attendance trends and membership growth trends are closely linked, making it essential that conference and membership teams work together to leverage this relationship, providing increased member benefit and attracting new audiences. Here are four ideas to achieve association growth. READ MORE

The Future of Continuing Education Can be Found in K-12 Classrooms

The way in which we need to deliver education is fundamentally changing because our understanding of how people learn best is changing. The origins of this shift can be traced all the way back to the K-12 classroom.  The school-aged learners of today will soon be the adult learners of tomorrow, and their current classroom experiences are going to affect professional development programs in the future. This article explores five fundamental shifts in classroom learning and the potential impact on continuing education professionals. READ MORE

Five Ways to Continue the Learning After Your Conference

The learning we experience at conferences does not have to end when the conference does. And that wonderful content that you spent months collecting and vetting doesn’t have to fade into oblivion. You can use it to keep the ideas flowing, keep your attendees energized and, better yet, increase the ROI of your conference for months, if not years, after the fact. Here are five ideas to leverage content after an event. READ MORE

Apply Micro-Learning Concepts to Your Printed Course Materials

The discussion of mico-learning is typically centered around online and mobile-based training programs. Recently, however, some organizations have started looking at ways to redesign existing print content to implement and test micro-learning without the need for additional resources. Here are some ideas to consider for your micro-learning programs. READ MORE

Get Your Training Courses Ready for Generation Z

Today, many associations are thinking about how to remain relevant at a time when access to free knowledge is just a click away. But there’s good news: Gen Z will find tremendous value in the opportunities that associations provide…if you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms. Here are some things to consider in your next conference strategy session. READ MORE

We’re very interested to gain additional industry perspectives and learn more about where these themes are headed in the coming year.  And, we look forward to joining our association friends and industry partners for several days of great insights and even better conversations.

Be sure to stop by and visit us at Booth #1423. See you soon!

Big Ideas for Training, Continuing Education Pros from ATD Conference

 

“Every human is looking for the exact same thing—to live out the truest expression of themselves as a human being.” – Oprah Winfrey, ATD 2019, Keynote Address

In her opening keynote speech at the Association for Talent Development’s annual conference and expo, ATD 2019, in Washington D.C., Oprah Winfrey spoke to a packed house of training and continuing education professionals about the idea of living out the truest expression of ourselves, applying it to the crowd of thousands of training and development professionals seated before her. She explained that by applying our talents toward the greater good, a paradigm switch from the conventional business mindset, we can achieve even more benefits from our own talents—an idea that resonated with the education professionals in the audience.

As training professionals and association leaders, you are responsible for fostering the advancement of your industry through education. In essence, you are helping others develop and apply their talents toward the greater good.

As organizations that set the standards for an industry, associations are also catalysts of change. It’s your role to both lead change based on new industry developments and respond to it, as societal norms and expectations change.  Seth Godin, best-selling author, entrepreneur, teacher and ATD 2019 keynote speaker put it eloquently (and bluntly) when he stated at the top of his address, “The essence of your work is that you make change happen – or why bother.”

Adapting Technology for Educational Programming in a Changing World

We know what we do and why, but how do we stay at the top of our game and keep up with the ever-changing needs of learners who are now accustomed to remote work settings, the gig economy, and of course, technological advances in their field? Walking the floors of ATD it was apparent how fast-changing and competitive the education technology landscape really is. So, all we need is new learning technology and all our nuanced challenges as trainers and educators will get better, right? “Crapola!” pronounced an energetic Elliott Masie, education technology expert credited with coining the term “e-learning” and ATD 2019 speaker.

In his speech, Masie focused on first discovering how learners are changing and then deciding how and what technology to apply in order to make their experiences better.

So, how are learners changing? Thanks to the advent of the internet and mobile technology, learners can now search for answers by themselves, without a formal manual or instructor. They are engaging in self-directed, curiosity-based knowledge consumption. And what they find must be highly relevant, bite-sized content for microlearning—education industry jargon Masie sardonically called “learning words”. He suggests that we not pigeonhole ourselves into industry terminology, but rather focus on providing value to learners and their changing needs with the technology we choose to implement or create.

Other adult learners may want to gain the knowledge they need on the job, at the exact time they need it—just-in-time learning. In other words, people don’t want to memorize information and wait a long time before they can actually use it. Masie suggests there is “too much training at the wrong time.” And he’s not just talking about this in reference to millennials, which is often the microcosm for discussion among training pros on such topics.

“I’m not a fan of the millennial conversation. I don’t believe millennials are different. Anyone living in 2019 is different.”

Education professionals have historically relied on developing learning programs and strategies based on demographics. But this isn’t a relevant way to think about education anymore. We have all become equally reliant upon technology and tend to use it fairly similarly. Instead, think about how to use technology more thoughtfully to support the learner experience at any age.

Do Better, Not More

As training professionals walking the floors at an international conference and expo like ATD, it’s easy to not only be inspired by the advances in education tech, but it’s also quite easy to be intimidated—especially for association leaders who many times feel they are already behind the ball of their corporate counterparts. Stay calm, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed or to feel that you or your organization could be doing better when it comes to implementing technology into your programming. Instead, focus on doing better at meeting the needs of your learners with thoughtful curriculum. Start incorporating technology by breaking up and reorganizing your existing training content into bite-sized chunks that your learners can access easily on their mobile phones. Test and experiment with content delivery methods for effectiveness first before jumping into a costly overhaul of your education technology.

After speaking with attendees at ATD, we know that technology updates are top of mind. And according to our annual training trends report, they have been for quite some time.  Across industries, whether association or corporate, be assured that not everyone is there yet. Not everyone needs to be there yet. Be thoughtful in your approach to how you implement technology and your courses and your learners will be better off for it.

CATALYST® Abstract Management Software Updates and Exciting New Features

 

In 2016 Omnipress launched CATALYST® abstract and speaker management software, an extremely flexible, highly configurable and user-friendly event content collection tool.  Designed to remove the most common challenges and frustrations of managing a call for papers, CATALYST 1.0 combined customer input with decades of our own experiences and observations working with associations and meeting planners.  Since its initial launch, we have maintained an aggressive investment in product development to ensure that CATALYST continues to exceed the expectations of today’s conference planner.  We are excited to announce some of our latest enhancements.

CATALYST is now three event tools in one: Abstract Management, Project Management and Content Management

Simplify your workload. CATALYST offers meeting planners more than abstract management—it helps you manage all conference content—from your initial call for submissions to your final, attendee-facing materials. Newest software updates include:

  • A built-in content management system to serve as the central hub for all final digital and print conference materials. Your accepted digital content and event schedule can be directly published to your website, to offline digital materials such as a downloadable file or USB, or to your Attendify® mobile event app. Make real-time updates on-site if your schedule changes
  • Improvements to the scheduling tool, with an improved interface and enhanced conflict detection parameters
  • Payment collection, to generate additional revenue and ensure you’re receiving only the highest-quality submissions

Event Schedule Software

More software integrations and partnerships connect CATALYST to the growing event tech world

Each year we continue to build an ever-expanding network of cross-platform integrations and industry partnerships designed to enhance the value you get from CATALYST.  We now integrate with many of the major association management systems, as well as other third-party tools such as Authorize.net, Bluepay and iThenticate plagiarism detection software.

We have also formed partnerships with several industry-leading event tech companies to make CATALYST more accessible to organizations, including:

  • Community Brands: Tech Partner
  • ACGI/Association Anywhere: Gold Partner
  • Fuzion: Network Member
  • Conference Direct: Preferred Supplier

Continuous improvement is our standard

In addition to these enhancements, we are continually making improvements and updates to CATALYST based on customer input and new technology developments. Our investment in ongoing development supports our commitment to ensuring that CATALYST continues to provide an easy experience for submitters and reviewers, while simplifying your workload.

Interested in seeing what’s new? Schedule a personalized tour of CATALYST.

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.

Download Our 2019 Conference Industry Report

 

We are excited to announce that our 2019 State of the Conference Industry Report: Delivering Educational Content has just been released! A new year is here and with it comes new challenges and opportunities for association and conference professionals.

For the fifth year in a row, Omnipress has tracked the evolution of conference content and the role it plays at an association’s annual event. While educational content continues to provide a significant amount of member value, this year’s report highlights some changes on the horizon: emerging themes, new challenges and increased opportunities for organizations.

Delivering Educational Content: Current Challenges and Future Opportunities

For instance, this year’s report indicates that meeting planners they are being asked to deliver conference content in more formats than ever before. On average, associations are providing content in 2.6 formats—up from 2.4 in 2018, and 2.1 in 2017. The most noted increase was in the number of respondents who are providing three and even four different content delivery methods for a single conference. The reason? Attendees have indicated this is what they want.

Conference demographics are more diverse than ever, with four generations now living concurrently in the workplace. Additionally, there are ways than ever for people to consume content, which is creating a diverse set of preferences that don’t always follow generational stereotypes.

While associations look for ways to provide device-agnostic content, budget does come into play—particularly with other internal stakeholders. Few meeting planners have the luxury—nor the bandwidth—to do it all, leading to some tough decisions.

Other conference industry trends from our 2019 report:

  • Association membership trends mirror conference attendance trends, which means membership and conference teams need to work together more closely to achieve organizational goals
  • While organizations are offering more content formats at the conference, there is still uncertainty on what the content mix will look like in the future
  • Emerging learning trends are starting to have an impact at the conference
  • Organizations have not yet fully addressed the needs of younger generations

The report compiles data from an online survey of 150 association and meeting professionals to understand how organizations use educational content to increase visibility, extend their value and reach new attendees.

The purpose of this report is not just to present the data, but to help facilitate a cross-team discussion on how to leverage your greatest asset—education—to advance your mission and achieve strategic goals.

Download the free report to read the full results, and use it to spark a conversation within your own organization.