If there was one thing I wish everyone knew, it’s that abstract management doesn’t have to be a pain point for meeting planners.
We conducted market research to understand how meeting planners are managing their call for papers, and where some of the biggest pain points are coming from. Most are not happy with their current solution, but are more afraid to switch than to deal with the known pain. As a result, they maintain status quo simply because it seems easier. In actuality, it often results in more (and unnecessary) work for the meeting planner.
Many organizations have legacy collection and review processes in place, and continue to maintain them because that’s how they’ve always done it. Or, they simply don’t realize there is a better way. When we start working with a new customer, the first thing we do is understand your current process, your ultimate goals and objectives, and then provide recommendations that deliver even better results.
Here are just a few examples of how we help improve your abstract management workflow:
Reverse-engineer your collection process so that you’re collecting exactly what you’ll need, in the way you’ll need it for your eventual conference materials. This ensures you are getting the cleanest data possible, saving a tremendous amount of time on the back-end.
Build your forms to collect your data in the smallest pieces possible, making it flexible enough to meet the requirements of all your outputs: mobile app, online, print, etc.
Have processes to validate and authenticate content before it passes on to the peer review stage
Maintain a database of record after your collection is complete so everyone knows which data is correct and current
We are lucky enough to have worked on thousands of conferences, and use that perspective to your advantage. We can configure CATALYST® in a way that facilitates cleaner, better and more complete submissions and reviews, while reducing your workload so you can focus on other aspects of your conference.
As you start thinking ahead to your next call for papers, know that abstract management doesn’t have to be your biggest pain. If you’re interested in exploring whether there are opportunities to simplify your collection and review process, we’d love to share some of our own experiences, as well as what others are doing. Making just a few, simple changes could make a world of difference for your next conference.
According to our annual State of the Conference Industry Report, a majority of associations recognize that education is the primary value their annual conference provides to attendees. And, the quality of educational programming is a major factor in whether an individual chooses to attend a conference. As a result, organizations continue to look for ways to increase the relevance of their programs and the quality of their speakers to maintain and elevate attendee satisfaction. But this alone will only take the learning so far. There is significant opportunity for meeting planners to incorporate proven educational ideas based on adult learning best practices into the structure and format of the conference.
Researchers spend considerable time studying how adults learn and retain information best. Using these findings, professional educators continually experiment with new classroom techniques to increase the amount of active learning and retention. Meanwhile, conferences continue to rely on the same, long-established format: subject matter expert positioned at the front of the room, walking through a PPT deck. The session may include some type of interactive, small-group exercise or discussion, but that’s as far as most sessions go to break from “traditional” format. Because the conference is a primary way that associations deliver education to members, there is significant opportunity to apply the principles of adult learning used by classroom educators into conference breakout rooms.
Here are four guiding principles to consider when thinking about the structure and format of your conference.
Guiding Principle #1: Andragogy
The study of andragogy, or the art and science of adult learning, was developed by Malcolm Knowles in the 1950s. The concept acknowledges that, unlike children, adult learners bring a wealth of professional experience with them into an educational session. According to Knowles, the best way to engage adult learners is to focus on how new information relates to these life experiences and allow them to be active participants in their education. Some examples of andragogy principles put into practice include:
Focus on task-oriented instruction versus memorization
Put learning activities into the context of real-world tasks, challenges and issues the learner encounters regularly
Guiding Principle #2: More sensory input leads to greater retention
The average adult classroom will contain three types of learners: visual (looking, seeing, watching), auditory (listening, hearing and speaking) and kinesthetic (experiencing, moving doing). Creating environments that incorporate all three learning styles does more than just appeal to a wider audience. It also increases retention for all learners. According to the Principles of Adult Learning & Instructional Systems Design, we retain approximately 10% of what we see, 30-40% of what we see and hear, and 90% of what we see, hear and do.
Guiding Principle #3: More content is not necessarily better
As meeting planners, we want to deliver as much value as possible for our attendees in return for the time and expense they invest in our conference. Delivering more content, however, can actually be detrimental to the overall experience. One of the greatest challenges attendees face when attending a high-quality, jam-packed conference is how to battle the inevitable learning fatigue that comes from trying to process a lot of information in a short period of time, while spending a majority of that time in a physically passive state (sitting and listening).
Guiding Principle #4: The “Forgetting Curve”
Hermann Ebbinghaus, a 19th Century German psychologist, conducted a series of memory experiments that uncovered some alarming statistics about learning retention. On average, we forget up to 90% of what we’ve learned within the first month. Repetition and reinforcement after the initial learning event does help to decrease this, to an extent. Retention is also affected by how meaningful the information is. The more a learner can connect new information with existing knowledge, the greater retention is over time.
Putting these principles into practice
Understanding how adults learn and retain information is just the first step in creating a more effective learning environment. The second (and perhaps most challenging) task for meeting planners is how to use this information to re-think the structure of your conference. Here are a few educational ideas to try at your next event.
1. Create a layered approach to learning
Consider decreasing the number of topics featured within your conference schedule, and instead, feature multiple sessions that address a singular topic in a variety of ways. For instance, you may introduce a broader topic or concept in a standard, classroom-style session. Then, dive deeper into specific aspects of that topic in subsequent sessions, each featuring more active learning applications. So if, for example, you featured a general session on strategic planning, subsequent sessions may include:
A hands-on learning task where attendees build the framework for their own strategic plans, which they can then bring back to the office and use
A makerspace-type session where attendees gather together to tackle a specific organizational challenge or experiment with solutions, under the guidance of a facilitator
A hollow-square session, where attendees have the opportunity to pose questions to and learn from each other
2. Interject micro-learning moments
Zoos and museums are two examples of organizations that know how to create great on-site micro-learning moments. While walking from one area to another, you may find a staff member or volunteer standing next to a small cart or table, providing a hands-on opportunity to touch, feel or see one aspect of a larger display. They’ve figured out that learning can truly take place anywhere—including outside the exhibit. Similarly, think about how you might be able to interject short (two to five-minute), pop-up, multi-media learning sessions throughout the venue: in the hallway or stairwell during breaks, in a lounge area where many attendees are often taking a moment to sit and check email, on the sidewalk outside of the conference center. These can be fun, interactive, almost “freestyle” or “street-style” opportunities.
3. Add more thinking and moving time
Instead of packing every possible hour with expert-led educational sessions, think about ways to schedule more “whitespace” into your conference—blocks of time designed to make learning more effective and productive. Consider scheduling “study” time designed to absorb and use what has been learned. Provide workbooks to help structure notes from the entire day into ideas and action plans that participants can apply as soon as they get back to the office. Have multiple attendees from the same organization? This can become a valuable team collaboration session (which can be difficult to find time for when everyone returns to the office).
Look for ways to get people moving more at the conference. Consider removing the chairs from a breakout session to keep the blood flowing. Schedule a 10-minute networking “walkabout” before your mid-morning and mid-afternoon sessions. Turn a learning lab into a scavenger hunt. Think about including five minutes of breathing and stretching exercises throughout the day.
4. Provide resources for attendees to reinforce learning after the conference
Learning doesn’t have to end when the conference does. Consider creating value-added opportunities for attendees to continue the learning after the conference throughout the year. Use both structured (instructor-led) and unstructured (attendee collaboration) virtual events to foster continued discussion. Provide ongoing access to conference and supplemental materials through an online conference library.
By following these educational ideas for conference sessions, your conference attendees will be more engaged and retain more information, making your conference and its education much more valuable.
Software integrations extend the functionality of the systems we rely on every day. If your association uses an AMS to manage your member data, you know the benefits of having the most up-to-date information about your members, all in a single location. That’s why we’ve designed our CATALYST abstract management system to integrate with many of the most popular AMS providers.
Watch Omnipress General Manager Jonny Popp talk about the benefits this integration strategy provides for our customers, as well as those submitting information to CATALYST.
How you deliver conference content to your attendees is changing. Thanks to on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, the idea of omnipresent content—content that is available whenever, wherever, and in the format that is most convenient—is now the expectation. Associations typically offer some form of digital access to event materials, but the idea of providing a single digital format is no longer enough to provide attendees with the user experience they expect.
Feedback from attendees is prompting associations to look for ways to meet these new expectations. Rather than choosing one format, offer your attendees access to a variety of digital content to create a seamless, accessible experience that can heighten the educational value of your event.
Different digital format provide different benefits
It’s common for conference professionals to assume all digital conference products provide the same features, benefits and experiences. In reality, online conference proceedings, mobile apps and USB drives each bring their own unique set of benefits to your conference attendees.
Online Conference Proceedings
Online conference proceedings make conference materials accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Attendees can easily search by session, track and speaker to select the material that interests them prior to the conference.
With online conference proceedings, you can offer a preview of your event’s sessions. These previews can help people decide whether or not they want to attend your conference based on tangible examples of the information you provide. And, by hosting all of these items in one central location, you create a great online resource for attendees to return to after the conference has ended.
A conference app is best for portability and on-site information. Your conference attendees can use your mobile app to navigate around the conference using GPS technology, maps and can build their own personal schedule that fits right into their pocket.
Apps also help drive engagement during your conference. Features like live polling, social timelines and direct messaging between attendees and speakers facilitate one of the main reasons your attendees come to your conference year after year: networking.
Relying on the venue’s WiFi is never a good idea, which is why USB drives are great for storing conference materials. The devices are small and easy to carry, especially when they are stored in unique shapes or useful objects like pens and keychains.
One of the biggest perks of USBs is that they make it convenient to access information. While web addresses might be easily forgotten, a physical keychain or item on your attendee’s desk at work will remind them of your association, conference and the information they learned from you.
Why you need a comprehensive approach
Since each digital format has its own set of unique benefits, using multiple options at your event will give attendees the most flexibility in how they engage with your materials. Don’t think of them as a replacement for each other, but rather think about how each option fills a different role in creating a seamless educational experience.
Here are a few examples to illustrate why your conference should offer a comprehensive mix of digital content formats.
John is interested in attending your conference and goes online to find example conference materials to get a better idea of what your association offers. When he sees your conference proceeding sneak peeks, he registers and uses the online conference proceedings to figure out which sessions he wants to attend. When the day of the conference arrives, John wants to reference the conference materials, but cannot access the venue’s WiFi. Fortunately, he can still pull up materials using the USB keychain you provided at check-in.
Mary likes to be able to reference conference materials during break-out sessions, but does not want to be weighed down by her laptop all day during your event. Instead, she accesses the conference materials available through your mobile app. During breaks, she also uses the app to post about her experiences on the social timeline and sends a question to a speaker she didn’t get the opportunity to speak with. After the conference is over, Mary deletes the app to free up space on her phone, but is able to log onto your online conference library to reinforce the information she learned at the event.
Susan is traveling from out of state to your conference and is uneasy about being in a new city. Fortunately, she has downloaded your mobile app, which provides her with GPS directions to the event location and helps her navigate the city during lunch and breaks. However, she finds it difficult to find the exact conference paper she’s looking for on her small phone screen, so she pulls out her laptop and uses the USB your association provided to access and search the materials to find the paper she is looking for.
Give your attendees the format freedom they desire
Providing content in multiple formats can be a challenge if you don’t have a strategy for managing them. One common pitfall is keeping data updated and consistent in multiple places as your content changes. The best way to avoid a data gap is to create a single source of record that is always up to date.
Updating content in multiple places and coordinating with multiple vendors is another scenario that can make managing multiple formats difficult, so consider working with a single vendor that offers all the formats you need.
By offering digital content in a variety of formats you’ll give your attendees the freedom to access materials whenever and wherever they want. All of the digital formats work together to increase the educational value of your event and create a top-notch conference experience.
Conference printing is one of the last tasks you have to tackle before your annual meeting begins. And who can blame you? It’s not like speakers wait until the last minute to submit their final presentations, right?
Backed up against a deadline, many associations think their only option is to choose a local printer to do the job. After all, aren’t all printers are the same? Not so fast!
Associations preparing for an event have different needs than other types of organizations. A printer that works with associations recognizes this and offers services that offer faster turnaround times, higher-quality results and more consistent branding designed specifically for an event.
In other words, a printer that works with associations:
Understands that your deadlines are tight.
It only takes one late delivery for associations to understand the value that a specialist printer can provide. Event professionals always run up against the deadline, but printers that work specifically with your kind of organization have production processes in place to handle the quick turnaround. When you work with us, you know that your materials will be delivered on time.
Recognizes that last-minute changes are common, necessary and largely out of your control.
Whether you set the date for final collection a month or a week before your conference, you’ll still get entirely too many late papers. Omnipress gets it. To get your materials to your event on time means there does need to be a final cut-off when materials must be received, but we can push this date later than most providers can. We are experts in dealing with an influx of last-minute changes.
Knows the basics of how conference materials are laid out.
If your program pages come to us print-ready, that’s great! Many associations need help getting there, though, and our team of designers are happy to provide formatting services to make it happen. Just send us a sample of last year’s program and we’ll do our best to match it. We work with hundreds of associations each year, so we’ll have a good idea of how you want your materials to look.
Has seen many variations on the standard conference program.
If you’re looking to create something a little different, odds are, Omnipress has seen it before. But, if you do bring something brand-new to the table, we’ll be well-equipped to handle it. Over the years, our project managers and production team have built up an impressive portfolio, meaning you can have your materials customized and printed in a wide variety of formats.
Knows you have many plates spinning, and that conference content isn’t always your top priority.
Conference planners have many different priorities, but that’s okay, because our top priority is delivering your content. We can help you manage the process with little input from you. We won’t make any major decisions without your approval, of course, but our project managers can take a lot off your to-do list while you’re taking care of other tasks.
Realizes that some people who work with you are volunteers or work part-time.
Coordinating schedules can be tough, even when everyone is in the office at the same time. When volunteers and part-time workers are thrown into the mix, it can be even harder to stay on the same page (sometimes literally!). We understand if the ad pages are being produced on a different timeline than the abstracts, which are trickling in on a schedule all of their own. We are flexible and can revise the program as more pieces are added until everything is ready.
Understands that content is the most valuable asset your association has.
When it comes right down to it, your association’s content is what keeps attendees coming back to your conference every year. When those conference programs or proceedings land in the hands of attendees, your association’s reputation is on the line. It all has to be right, or it’s all wrong, and Omnipress can help you deliver perfection.
Does every printer truly understand the specific needs of associations? According to our clients, the answer is no. Associations trust us because we know conferences and can empathize with busy meeting planners, executive directors and other association professionals.
There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes at Omnipress!
I wanted to use this month’s post to share some of the exciting things our customers can expect from us in 2018. You can watch the video or continue reading below.
The conference-related initiatives we are focusing on this year build on the success we’ve had launching our newest abstract management system, CATALYST. Customer reaction to CATALYST has been fantastic and there has been a lot of positive feedback on the flexibility of the system.
While CATALYST remains an efficient way for event professionals to collect and manage their conference content, we also have some new initiatives underway that will make it easier than ever to get that content into attendees’ hands.
One clear message we’ve heard from talking with our customers is that there is no single format that meets the needs of all attendees. As a result of these conversations, we’re investing in the tools and processes that will help meeting planners create—and manage—a consistent content experience for all attendees, whether they prefer a printed program book, mobile app or online and offline access to digital materials.
Omnipress consists of more than our products, however. I am privileged to lead an amazing team that is truly dedicated to seeing our customers succeed. As our customer roster continues to grow in 2018, we’ll be making investments in our staff and the tools they rely on, to make sure we deliver the outstanding customer support our clients expect from us. We know a lot of our customers think of us as an extension of their staff, and that is a compliment we want to continue to hear throughout 2018, and beyond.
Jonny Popp – Omnipress General Manager:
“2018 is going to be a very exciting year at Omnipress!
“Back in 2016, we launched our new online abstract management system, CATALYST. The first time a meeting planner sees CATALYST, a lot of time their first reaction is how clean, how modern that the interface looks. After that though, they start to realize how flexible the system can be and how many different things it can collect and different ways it can be configured, to really fit their needs.
“As we move through 2018, you can expect to see a lot of new and exciting things from Omnipress.
“We have been investing in our other tools, we’ve been investing in our people and our processes. Because as good as technology is, and as much as technology makes a difference, it’s really the people that are behind it, they are supporting you and what you are trying to do, that really makes the difference.
“We know that planning a meeting is hard and there’s a lot of work that goes into it and a lot of steps along the way, and we want to make sure that our tools and processes are helping you along the way.”
Developing a plan to promote your event is a critical part of conference planning. Marketing can be expensive and time-consuming, and consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising. This is where content marketing comes into play.
Content marketing is the practice of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and engage a target audience. This method goes hand-in-hand with your goal as an association: to educate industry professionals and association members.
Luckily, as an event planner, you have a secret weapon: you sit on a goldmine of valuable information. This allows you to:
Connect with professionals looking for industry-specific information
Remind members of the value your association provides year-round
Build awareness of your conference and other events
Extend the life of the materials you work hard to collect
These shiny knowledge-nuggets are not something you have to go mining for; they are already at your fingertips.
Why Content Marketing Works for Associations
Content marketing has become one of the most popular ways for organizations to promote themselves online. Associations have some unique advantages when it comes to content marketing:
You have existing material. The biggest barrier to content marketing is creating new material. Your existing library of content gives you a head start.
Your review process provides authority. You can be confident that your peer-reviewed materials are insightful. This can be especially handy if you are not a subject matter expert.
You have access to the latest thinking. Your conference is an industry leader in providing timely, relevant information, allowing you to continue your role as a thought leader throughout the year.
You get feedback from the industry. Your conference feedback can provide insight into which topics are most in-demand. Think of this as “focus group” input on the material in your collection.
Reusing your existing content allows you to give your content a second life and extend its use beyond your conference. Using actual event content gives potential attendees a glimpse of the kinds of material at your conference so they can see for themselves why yours is a “can’t miss” event.
Develop a Content Marketing Plan
The first step in launching a content marketing campaign is assessing your existing materials. Determine what kind of content you have available and where it will be located. Your association’s website may seem like a good idea at first, but as time goes on, content can get lost or buried as the site gets updated. It’s best to create a standalone digital conference library. This will give visitors an idea of the broad range of information they can rely on your conference for.
It’s also important to determine a schedule that you will be able to follow. Be realistic. Will you be able to consistently post two pieces of content each week? Or is one piece of content every two weeks more likely? The rate that you choose is less important than your ability to stay on schedule. Readers stay engaged with a blog or social media profile that is updated on a regular basis.
Now that you’ve identified the most relevant materials and decided on how much time you can devote to sharing content online, you’ll need to consider the best ways your association can reach its followers. How can you make your content clickable? One way to effectively grab your readers’ attention is by using images.
Create Images for Social Media
The web is becoming an increasingly visual medium. Adding visual elements to your posts is one of the most effective ways you can increase the impact of your messaging. In fact, posts that include images see 650% more engagement than posts with just text alone.
Here are three conference-specific scenarios where visuals would be an effective way to promote your event. For each scenario, there is an example of an online tool well-suited for creating attention-grabbing artwork with minimal effort.
Scenario #1 – Promote a session by a prominent speaker
The speakers at your conference are a major factor in drawing in attendees each year, so it should be no surprise that speakers make for effective promotional content.
Imagine you’ve just finished your speaker selection process and are ready to announce the keynote speaker. You could certainly type out a post listing their names and the topics they will be discussing (Borrrrrr-ingggg!). A much more engaging approach is to present the same information with a visual design to it.
Pikiz is an image creator that is perfect for creating simple images that include text. Upload your own background image or choose from the images they have available. Then, double-click on the text box to add a customized message. Another great feature is that each social network has its own preset. This makes it super simple to post great-looking images to your favorite site.
Scenario #2 – Present research findings as an infographic
A presentation from last year’s conference coincides with some hot new research that is making the rounds. You know this is a great opportunity to join the conversation and promote your event. Since the presentation is available in your digital content library, it’s ready for people to see. But how do you make sure your post stands out from the crowd of others? Use the findings from the presentation and display it as an infographic!
Creating an infographic is a simple three-step process with infogr.am. Choose a design template, enter your data into their spreadsheet viewer and click share. That’s it! The program will create a shareable link to the social media site of your choice. You can also upload your own images or choose different fonts if you want a more customized design.
Scenario #3 – Call for award nominations using your own branded graphic
Part of your annual pre-event strategy is to ask for award nominations. You could do what you’ve always done: copy and paste the same text on the same social media networks and get the same results. Or, you can take it to the next level by creating a completely custom design (no designer needed)!
Canva is like working with a design pro that has dozens of designs ready for you to choose from (but doesn’t charge by the hour). Once you log in to Canva, you’ll see dozens of customizable templates sorted by format. Whether you are looking to create an image for social media, your blog or a poster, Canva has a file ready for you to start designing with. It’s also flexible enough to work with your existing elements. Just add your association logo, a picture of the award and text asking for nominations. You then have the option to share online or download.
Catch Their Eye
A well-designed image is critical in catching the attention of busy professionals, so having a visual presence online these days is essential. Presenting your existing content visually is a great way to keep your event in front of the attendees you want to attract.
Thankfully, the web is full of fast and intuitive ways to create custom graphics. With little effort, you can create designs that convey your message in an interesting and engaging way, and most importantly, in a way your audience enjoys seeing.
The next step is sharing those images and other content on platforms that will help you build and connect with your audience.
Promote Your Event on Social Media
Social media platforms are great hosts for content marketing pieces, particularly visuals. The best part about social media is that it’s not only for sharing content—it’s also great for building communities of like-minded people, just like your association! Each platform has its own strengths, so it’s important to assess these and plan content accordingly when designing a content marketing strategy. Below are a few of the most popular social media platforms to get you started.
Another platform that’s useful for engaging members is Instagram, a photo and video-sharing social media app. Instagram is great for sharing eye-catching graphics and photos to promote your event and attract potential attendees. Users can accompany their photos with captions and hashtags, which help the posts be seen by non-followers.
Instagram is popular with your youngest members, making it the ideal platform for appealing to Millennials and Generation Z. By sharing posts on Instagram, you have a much higher chance of attracting and engaging a younger demographic to your conferences than on other platforms like Facebook. The most important aspect to Instagram is to make sure your posts are visually appealing and include appropriate hashtags to make sure they are seen.
Twitter can be a fantastic tool for event professionals. Its design works well for promoting a conference or creating year-round awareness of your association. Being active on Twitter lets you connect with industry thought-leaders and attendees on a platform that they prefer.
Using original and industry hashtags, retweeting interesting industry sources and sharing quotes and links to your association’s content can transform your Twitter feed into a hub of relevant, valuable industry information. This way, you can keep current members engaged while attracting future members from other parts of the industry.
Twitter is also a great place for personal engagement with industry experts, your conference speakers and your members. Mention speakers in tweets; follow and retweet thought leaders; and like, retweet and reply to your follower’s tweets to create a sense of community while spreading the word about your event.
To reach younger members, try using Snapchat to promote your next conference. Snapchat is a particularly useful social media platform during your event, but can also be used before the conference to build anticipation. Snapchats stories, which last for 24 hours, allow you to share behind-the-scenes photos and videos of event set-up. Your speakers can also “take over” your stories to share some insider information about their presentations or industry topics.
A branded Geofilter can be designed specifically for your event and applied the day of the conference, so your attendees can use it when sending snapchats to their friends or story throughout the day. Not only will the Geofilter feel exclusive due to its limited availability, helping engage your attendees, but it can help spread the word about your association.
Facebook is one of the most-used social media platforms across all age groups, which makes it the perfect place to provide event information and promote the sharing of your conference. Create a Facebook Page for your association where you can post conference information and other content.
You can also create a Facebook Event for your conference and invite current members, encouraging them to invite people who may be interested, as well. This is a free and easy way to spread the word and potentially reach new members through current advocates of your association.
Discover Your Audience’s Interests
Now you know that using conference content as a marketing tool is a great way for your audience to learn about your event and the value it provides.
But did you know that it can also be a great way for you to learn about your audience?
By analyzing the data from your content marketing posts, you can learn a number of important things about your audience. First, you can see what parts of the world your visitors come from; this can help you find speakers from those particular regions to boost attendance at your annual event. You can also identify which sites or platforms best connect you with your members, helping you tune your messages on the most critical platforms moving forward.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to identify which types of content your visitors prefer. This feedback can guide future conference planning as well as future content marketing efforts to best connect you with your audience.
Content marketing can also inform you about your own content. By recognizing what messaging is most effective with your audience, you will be better prepared for conference promotion techniques. Additionally, analytics can teach you which topics generate the most interest among your followers; consider including these topics in your next conference event.
Use the information you gain from your content marketing plan to inform future events, connect with key members and create a more successful content marketing strategy overall.
Make Your Content Work Year-Round
The whole point of content marketing is to show your followers you have value to offer with tangible pieces of content you’ve worked hard to collect. Choose the platforms that best connect with your audience and help your association achieve goals, whether that includes your website, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or one of the many others available online. Most of the content you share can be used across multiple platforms, giving you lots of opportunities to reach new people and prove the value of your event all year long.
Increase the value of your event for exhibitors, sponsors and attendees—and generate some new revenue for yourself in the process. Attendify’s mobile event app—which works seamlessly with our CATALYST Abstract management system—now offers integrated lead retrieval, making it super simple for your exhibitors to build relationships with the attendees at your event.
Event professionals are always looking for opportunities to generate additional conference revenue, and lead retrieval is a convenience that exhibitors and sponsors are willing to pay for. If you’ve ever watched an exhibitor struggle to jot down notes after a conversation with an attendee, you know the value a lead retrieval app provides.
Social Lead Retrieval
Scribbling on the back of a business card is the old-tech way of collecting information from event participants. With the Attendify app, exhibitors can use their own mobile phone to scan an attendee’s QR code. Contact information about the lead is available immediately, along with access to view the attendee’s activity stream posts. Exhibitors can also contact leads directly through the app to schedule follow up appointments.
Real-Time Engagement Data
During the event, an analytics dashboard helps you ensure that exhibitors use the app effectively. Lead generation data is available to monitor performance and see which exhibitors are successfully adding leads. These real-time insights are available on your existing device and don’t require adding additional hardware.
Using a lead retrieval app allows exhibitors to use their in-person conversations to build more meaningful engagement with attendees, knowing that details like contact information will be automatically synced to their device.
Providing an easy way for exhibitors to retrieve attendee data is becoming a must-have feature for an event app, similar to the way that attendees expect a mobile app to provide a schedule of the event. To learn more about pricing and the other benefits of offering your exhibitors an integrated lead retrieval app, check out the information on Attendify’s page.
Have you ever offered automated lead retrieval at your events in the past? What other ways are you using technology to create more value for your exhibitors and sponsors? Let us know in the comments below.
Finding the best mobile event app for your conference can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical details and lose focus on what really matters: providing a convenient way for your attendees to access event information while at your conference. With that goal in mind, we’ve put together an overview to help your association learn the basic functionalities that are available in a mobile app and, most importantly, the benefits that different event app features offer your attendees.
The first decision to make when choosing your mobile event app is selecting the right type of app for your event. To help you decide, think about the goals for your organization, conference, and attendee and exhibitor experience.
Types of Mobile Apps
Mobile event apps come in three basic forms: native apps, web-based apps, and hybrid apps. Each of these types of apps has its own unique advantages, and depending on your specific needs, one option might be better suited for your event than the others.
Native apps are built for a specific operating system, such as iOS or Android. These apps are self-contained, meaning most features operate with or without an internet connection once you’ve installed it. All of the content, maps and other information you need on your app will be built-in for optimal performance on each attendees’ device. However, an internet connection will be required to update content once a user has installed it on their device.
Web-based apps are built using HTML code, just like traditional websites, but are specifically optimized for smaller-screen devices. Using these types of apps requires an internet connection, since all content will be hosted online. On some devices, users can create an app-like experience by adding a bookmark to their home screen that, when clicked, will take them directly to the website.
Hybrid apps use a native app “shell” that is built for each operating system, but pulls content from the cloud. These apps can offer partial functionality while offline, but require an internet connection for the app to fully function. Some examples of these types of apps would be Facebook or Twitter; the base app is designed for the phone, but the content is downloaded from the internet.
The table below illustrates a few of the major pros and cons of the three basic types of mobile apps.
Built specifically to the needs of the various operating systems such as Apple’s iOS or Android
Speed, performance and user interface are optimized
Works without Internet connection
Must build a specific app for each operating system
Takes more time to develop and deploy
Higher development costs
Websites built using HTML that are designed specifically for smaller screens
No need to distribute using app stores
Works on any device with a browser, but experience varies
Lower deployment costs
Internet connection is required
Native app shell with feeds from the website
Caches content, so it works offline to a degree
Downloadable from app stores
Easier to deploy cross-platform than native apps
Lower cost than native apps
Doesn’t run as smoothly as native apps
Offline performance can be inconsistent
Built to specific operating system
Which Type of App is Best?
When choosing the type of mobile app that is best for your event, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. First, internet connectivity will largely determine the usability of your event app. Does your conference location offer free WiFi? If not, a web-based or hybrid app may not be the best choice. If attendees have to pay for WiFi just to access your app, there’s a good chance they won’t use it. A native app with preloaded content would be a better fit in this scenario.
Also, consider how much you’re expecting your attendees to rely on the app during the conference. Will the app be something used to only check session schedules? Or will you encourage attendees to browse program content throughout the day? If you expect attendees will use the app regularly during the event, you’ll want to choose an app that has better performance, like a native app. Some other factors to consider include:
Will the attendees be downloading the app ahead of time, or at the event?
Will the venue’s WiFi be fast enough to support all of your attendees’ devices?
What types of content are you trying to provide your attendees?
How fast or slow do you need content to load?
Ultimately, you’ll want to choose the type of mobile app that fits your association’s objective. Access to content can largely be done on offline native apps, but interactivity and live information feeds will require internet access and will be better suited for a hybrid app.
Increasing Engagement with Mobile Event Apps
A mobile app can increase engagement at your event by creating new opportunities for attendees to learn about your conference and connect with speakers, sponsors and their peers. Interactive features such as direct messaging, personal itineraries and live polling can help your attendees create an immersive experience and truly connect with their colleagues before, during and after the event.
These attendee connections are crucial to the success of your event; many attendees come to network, and mobile event apps can help facilitate these connections. Incorporating social timelines directly into the app can help attendees interact with speakers and other attendees while at the venue. This is especially helpful if your conference is large, and finding specific people might be a challenge. The ability to network virtually can expand the number of connections your attendees make and helps open the door for new conversations.
Another way to keep your attendees engaged via the app is to include the ability to build a personal profile. A profile allows the user to enter their personal and professional information to create more networking opportunities. Profiles can also let attendees build personal itineraries that help them navigate through a busy day at the conference.
Creating an engaging event app can benefit your association, as well. As host of the event, your association can create a profile to post polls, questions and conversations on the social timeline. Real-time activities like live polling can help spark discussions between attendees, while at the same time providing your association with instant feedback about the event. You can use this information later to improve on your event and help attendees know their opinions matter.
Other Benefits of Mobile Apps
In addition to increasing attendee engagement, mobile event apps offer other benefits as well, from providing event information to generating extra revenue to giving attendees easy access to conference content. Here are some additional benefits that a mobile event app adds to your event.
Simplify event navigation
Emails with conference maps, directions, hotel and parking information are easily buried in your attendees’ and speakers’ inboxes. Instead, all of this basic event information can be hosted on the event app for your attendees to access before and during the conference. GPS-enabled maps can also help your attendees navigate inside the venue and the surrounding area, if necessary.
Your event schedule is another piece of important event content that can be housed on the app. Help your attendees keep track of session start times and speaker locations by including this critical piece of conference data.
Provide up-to-date event information
Mobile apps offer a unique ability to keep your attendees up to date about information throughout your event. Push notifications can help deliver timely alerts if a session has been moved to a different room, for example. Sending a notification directly to attendees’ phones will avoid confusion and reduce the time your staff spends redirecting people.
To keep attendees informed throughout the day, an RSS feed can provide a consistent stream of event updates and information right on the attendees’ phones. A real-time Twitter feed can help them stay informed and engaged throughout the day.
Deliver content directly to attendees
With so much content available to attendees, you want them to be able to access it quickly and easily. An event app can be configured to give your attendees the ability to access abstracts, papers and presentations right on their mobile devices.
Promote networking through gamification
Gamification is another way to incentivize attendee engagement and mobile app use. Features such as leaderboards turn engagement into a game by awarding points to users who conduct certain actions on your app, such as posting a photo on the social timeline or participating in a poll. You can control how many points each action earns, meaning you can strategically incentivize certain aspects of your mobile app.
Generate additional revenue
Your mobile event app doesn’t only have to benefit the attendees. Sponsorships on event apps are a common way for associations to monetize their event. Banner ads and other branding opportunities can allow your organization to generate some extra revenue during the event.
Create value for your exhibitors and sponsors
Exhibitors and sponsors are an important part of your event’s success, and a mobile app increases the value your conference offers them. A live activity feed within the app lets you promote your event sponsors and exhibitors with sponsored posts, banner ads, document downloads, eCommerce links and promoted sessions.
Using a mobile app with lead retrieval allows exhibitors to focus on connecting with attendees, and not on collecting their information. Rather than taking notes on a sheet of paper, exhibitors can simply scan a QR code with their phone to sync an attendee’s information to their device.
Get real-time insight
One of the best things about mobile apps is that they can track how your attendees use them, providing you with insights that can help your association in the future. Perhaps you want to see if people used the engagement features more than the content features. Analytics can help you make informed decisions about what type of app and what event app features you should focus on for next year.
Case Study: How A Mobile Event App Helped IWCS
Offering a mobile event app at your conference can have a dramatic impact on how attendees engage with your event. One association, the International Wire and Cable Symposium (IWCS), experienced this effect first-hand with the addition of digital content to its annual event.
As a tech-based association, IWCS understood how important technology is to its members, which is why it elected to offer content from its annual meeting in print, on a conference content website, on a USB and through a mobile app. The introduction of this new technology helped them increase attendee engagement and participation and raise the profile of their event.
IWCS’s event app included session handouts, program/speaker info, attendee profiles and conference details. In the first year, 87% of attendees downloaded the app, proving the true capabilities of mobile event apps.
As you move forward with a mobile event app, be sure to focus on the benefits you’ll be providing to your attendees, and not just on a list of features that sound good on paper. It’s a good idea to talk with other association professionals that have experience creating mobile event apps to gain insight on what has worked for their conferences. A conversation with an Omnipress Event Specialist can also help answer any remaining questions you have about creating an app.
If your association is looking for a new way to improve attendee engagement at your annual event, consider trying a mobile event app. From the variety of capabilities and features to the numerous benefits they provide, event apps are a great choice for conferences of all sizes.
(Editor’s Note: Throughout the month, we’ll be highlighting the most popular blog posts from 2017.)
Some of our most popular posts this year focused on planning your next conference. Each of these articles offered ideas on how to leverage the single greatest value your event provides: educational content. Whether you are looking to promote your event with social media, find new ways of engaging attendees at your conference or ensure members return to next year’s meeting, take a look at these articles for suggestions on how to do more with your valuable event content.
Infographic: Promote Your Event With Conference Content Marketing
You know social media is a great tool for promoting your conference and engaging attendees. But do you know which network is best for sharing specific types of conference materials? Take a look at this infographic to see which social media networks are the best fit for promoting your event with existing conference content.
Infographic: 10 Easy Ways to Promote Your Call For Papers
Attracting the best speakers to your conference can be tricky; especially if they aren’t aware you are accepting submissions. View at this infographic for 10 easy ideas to help you promote your Call For Papers. Try a mix of these traditional and creative ways to widen the pool of speakers for your next event!
Discover how association professionals increase attendance and engage attendees with content before, during and after their conferences. Read the 2017 State of the Conference Industry Report now to learn which formats your peers use at their conference, the most popular ways they re-use content, and the challenges they face as they use content in an expanded role.
6 Tips for Bringing Your Conference Attendees Back
Association professionals want to increase conference attendance, but it takes more than just focusing on attracting new members. Your existing members play an important role, too. Follow these 6 tips to ensure your members return to your organization’s events year after year.
Education is the primary reason attendees come to your annual conference. This is why your association puts such a focus on selecting the best content for your event. However, content is only half of the equation. How the information is presented and packaged is critical to educating your attendees.
Help ensure your conference provides the educational experience that your attendees seek by following these tips to make sure your speakers deliver engaging conference presentations. And, be sure to provide the opportunity for attendees to revisit the material afterward in order to help the information really stick.
Delivering engaging presentations
In order to help your presenters create a relatable conference presentation, ask them to frame the “story” of their presentation. People relate and react to stories with a beginning, middle and end. Nobody wants to listen to someone recite a list of facts or statistics.
Discussing case studies can help your speakers present specific information in a relevant and engaging way, while at the same time creating this story. Good case studies provide an example of the existing problem, the solution that was implemented and the outcomes that the solution provided.
By creating a story and delivering it personally and uniquely, your conference speakers will be able to more effectively share information. The attendees will appreciate the presentations more and retain more of the content.
When it comes to presentation slides, few things are worse than seeing a speaker’s entire speech pasted in small text. If text is necessary, encourage speakers to limit the number of words on each slide and to use large, easy-to-read font styles and colors. The strategic use of imagery can also vastly improve a presentation, and most conference presentations should include at least one visual or imagery device.
Additionally, encourage your speakers to go out of the box with their presentation, whether that is with organization, media or delivery techniques. The presentation should be unique and interesting, not just a cookie cutter 10-slide powerpoint presentation. Encourage speakers to add interactive elements to their presentations to keep attendees engaged, such as Q&A sessions, audience suggestions and short audience activities.
Your association itself can help speakers create unique conference presentations, too. Avoid forcing speakers to use the same powerpoint template. Although providing a template makes it easy to review the submitted presentations, it also stifles creativity and makes them repetitive and far less interesting to attendees.
Give attendees options to revisit the materials
After your speakers deliver their fantastic presentations, you’ll want to help reinforce that content by giving attendees the option to revisit the materials. Ongoing engagement is critical for attendees to master concepts presented at your event.
To help ensure this happens, make sure your association’s content strategy involves providing resources your attendees can use when they return to their offices. These methods can include sharing content on social media or providing them with a take-home piece like a USB drive.
One of the best ways to help attendees revisit your conference materials, though, is through an online conference library. Here, you can archive your conference materials, including presentations, allowing attendees to return to this information on their own time.
Put your attendees’ educational needs first by helping provide them with engaging conference presentations, then help them retain that content by giving them a tool to revisit it as often as they’d like.
Your conference attendees receive a lot of information during your annual event—so much so that it may be daunting to try to take notes or remember it all. But when you give your attendees a USB drive loaded with all of the content from your conference, you’re giving them an easy-to-use way to revisit what they learned and keep your association top of mind.
There are so many reasons why associations continue to hand out USBs at conferences, it’s as easy as A-B-C!
A – Access to Content: Attendees come to your conference to learn, but they might not be able to remember everything they’re presented with. USBs give them access to your conference content during and after the event so they can revisit it as often as they’d like.
B – Banner Ads: By creating an offline site on your conference USB drive, you can showcase banner ads to promote other events or continuing education programs your association members might be interested in.
C – Custom Options: Your USB drive can be customized for your needs. Choose specific colors, shapes and forms, such as a pen or business card USB.
D – Diverse Documents: You aren’t restricted to only offering one type of file on your USB. Your drive can hold everything from abstracts to program content PDFs and media files.
E – Engagement: Because the USB holds all of your content, your attendees will be able to routinely engage with and revisit it again and again.
F – Full-Text Search: A full-text search option allows users to easily find the content that matters to them by searching through the entire document text.
G – Giveaway Item: Everyone likes getting freebies. USBs at conferences are a great functional giveaway item that your members can continue to use after your event.
H – Hierarchy: Your conference content can be grouped in many different ways to allow your attendees to find it more easily. Organize content by track, session or author.
I – Interactive: USBs are the perfect way to let attendees search your content and explore what is most interesting to them.
J – Justification: If you’re still on the fence about USBs, remember that your attendees value your association for your content, and a USB is giving them continued access to it. You can also look for sponsors to help defray the costs.
K – Keywords: Keywords are an important way that attendees will search for content after the event, and full-text search helps them find the content most relevant to what they need.
L – Logos: The exterior of the USB drive can show your association or event’s logo to remind your attendees of your organization. And, banner ads and logos on the offline site can also be branded to match your association.
M – Memorable: A USB isn’t something attendees will just throw away after your event is over. They’ll hold onto it because of its functionality, then remember who gave it to them because of the branding.
N – Navigation: Setting your USB up like an offline website provides intuitive navigation that makes it easy for attendees to find what they’re looking for quickly.
O – Offline: Your attendees won’t need an internet connection to access your content, which comes in handy since event venue wifi is rarely reliable. They’ll be able to find what they need on-the-go, no matter what.
P – Power + USB: The newest addition to the Omnipress USB family is a combination USB and mobile device charger that can charge attendees’ phones and other devices. A combination that is perfect for those jam-packed conference sessions!
Q – Quickly Find Content: An easy-to-use interface, hierarchical content and full-text search make finding your content quick and easy.
R – Reusable: Your attendees can use your USB giveaway after the event to store their personal or professional data, making it a long-lasting gift. And, your branding will be there to remind them of your association every time they use it.
S – Sponsorship Opportunity: Giving away USBs at conferences can provide you with an opportunity to generate revenue for your association through sponsorships. Put your sponsor’s’ name or logo on the USB device or a banner ad. They’ll love the ability to get exposure to a defined audience on a physical product.
T – Take Anywhere: You won’t find another giveaway item as functional, small and portable as USB drives are. Your attendees can easily take your USB drive with them wherever they go!
U – User-friendly: Navigating technology can sometimes be tough, but your attendees will appreciate the clean, easy-to-use interface and quick search options that help them find what they need.
V – Video: Your conference USB can even hold videos if you’d like to add recordings of past sessions, extra content or even a fun thank you video!
W – Web-like Experience:You can set your USB up to look similar to an online web page. Your attendees with appreciate the familiar web experience without needing an internet connection.
X – XL for All Your Content: If you have a lot of content to store, there’s no need to fret! USBs come in many sizes and offer as much storage as you need.
Y – Your Attendees Love Them: There’s a reason so many associations giveaway USBs at conferences: their attendees love them, and so will yours!
Z – Zilch: The number of reasons not to offer your content on USB!
Now that you have 26 new reasons to give USB drives to the attendees at your next conference, why don’t you see what’s so great about them yourself? Request a sample Power + USB drive from Omnipress and be one of the first to test it out.