Finding the Right Mix of Conference Materials is a Juggling Act

 

Congratulations! You have successfully sourced, secured and scheduled all the session content for your upcoming conference. And from the looks of things, this conference is going to be one of the strongest yet. With one challenge behind you, it’s time to focus on another important decision: finding the best way to get this content into the hands of your attendees. As we’ve seen in our 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report, for many conference planners, this is not as easy as it sounds.

Content Mix Uncertainties

Forty-five-percent of respondents surveyed in the report listed “Offering a mix of formats to meet the needs of all members,” among their top content-related challenges. Digging further into the data, the reason for this seems pretty clear: Meeting planners must juggle the expectations of legacy attendees with the perceived preferences of newer (and sometimes younger) attendees. All while keeping their conference budgets in line, of course.

Unfortunately, having more options for distributing conference materials creates a new question in the minds of planners: Are we offering the right mix? For instance, 85% of respondents currently offer printed conference materials today, but only 42% plan to continue to offer them in the future. Meanwhile, 69% admit that their attendees still want printed content.

And the issue isn’t just limited to print. The report also indicates that planners intend to replace web-based digital content with content delivered via mobile apps. Is this the right decision for the 66% of respondents who report that their attendees want content made available on a website?

Complicating matters even more, attendees themselves aren’t always the best at telling you what they actually want. We have seen many of our customers remove an option from their content mix, believing it to have a low perceived value because of feedback received from attendees, only to face a surprising amount of backlash after the event.  So how do you know what is truly most relevant to your attendees?

Capturing better, behavior-based data

Some of the associations we work with have developed some simple yet effective ways to gauge attendees’ conference materials preference based on observed behaviors. Here are just a few examples that we found worth sharing:

Opt-in to print. Rather than printing program books or proceedings for every attendee, require them to indicate their print preference during registration. Plan to have a handful of extras on-site for those that will inevitably request them after-the-fact. Between the two, you will have a more accurate measure of the true value of your printed materials. Some associations even go so far as to charge a small fee for the printed piece to help offset the production cost.

Set up analytics and conversion tracking for your online materials. You’ll be able to see how many people access content online and when (before, during or after the conference). You can also see how many attendees download session presentations, handouts and other support materials.

Observe attendee behavior in real-time. As any researcher will tell you, the distance between “stated preferences” and “actual behaviors” can be a mile wide. If you can, recruit volunteers or junior staff to observe and record how members interact with content throughout the duration of the conference.

If you’re like most associations, you are catering to the needs of a diverse membership. Which means there may be no single, magic formula to create the conference content mix that appeals to every attendee. But, there are steps you can take to better measure the true value of your conference materials. Doing so can help you make even better decisions moving forward.

5 Ways to Use Video to Promote Your Conference

 

Video is quickly becoming one of the most popular mediums online. More people are watching and expecting video than ever before; in 2017, online video is expected to account for 74% of all online traffic. Videos inform viewers and can keep their attention for longer than a text post can.

Videos posted on YouTube or social media are great places to showcase highlights from your conference, present speaker information and generate excitement about your next event.

Here are five ways your organization can use video to promote your next conference:

  • Recap Video: There’s a lot going on at your events, which means there’s a lot to document! Recap videos help new or non-members understand what goes on at your events and can show that you provide a can’t-miss event. Record parts of the excitement during your conference, then compile clips into a visually interesting and informative recap video. Share the video shortly after the conference and then again as part of promotion for next year’s event to remind members of how much fun they had.
  • Announce Speakers: Announcing the speakers at your conference is a major selling point for your event and can help members make the decision to attend. Rather than writing bios for this year’s speakers, create short videos announcing each speaker and giving a preview of what their sessions will include.
  • Interview Speakers: Your conference speakers are industry experts, and attendees are interested in hearing what they have to say. To promote your upcoming event, record interviews with prominent speakers. Remember to have the speakers give an idea of what they will talk about at the conference, but don’t have them give their whole presentation.
  • Attendee Testimonials: Testimonials let you show the value your association offers members from members themselves! Record short interviews with attendees during the event asking their opinion on the conference and the organization. Combine a few of these together, and you’ve got a powerful testimonial video to use to promote the next event.
  • Session Recordings: Make arrangements to record sessions during the event so you can repurpose them online through your organization. But they also have another purpose—short segments can be used online to provide a glimpse into the conference as promotion for next year’s event. Potential attendees will love the ability to see what a session might be like before committing to attending. And, if they’re really interested in the topic, they might purchase the full proceedings, meaning more revenue for your organization!

Creating and sharing videos is easier than ever with the amount of quality equipment and software available today. Using videos to promote your conference can give members the information they need to help them decide whether to attend. Plus, they can easily share videos with friends on social media, meaning your promotion might reach new audiences. Using video to promote your conference is a great way to engage members and showcase some of the best parts of your event.

Does your association use video to promote events? What kind of video content do you create?

Book Binding 101 for Conference Materials and Educational Publications

Lesson number one: Saddle stitch has nothing to do with horses or needlework. If you were surprised, please continue.

Whether you’re designing a conference program or syllabus for your next meeting or even a new training manual, there are many different bindings you can choose from. Selecting the best one starts with knowing what they are and when they work best.

 

Plastic Coil Bindingplasticoil-binding

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

Why we love it: It lays flat making it perfect for those seminars and training sessions. It allows the user to flip the book in half for easy note taking. They also ship well as the plastic coil is more forgiving than the metal coil. Additionally, plastic coil comes in a variety of colors and has the option to accommodate tabs and dividers.

When to use it: When note taking is key or the book must lay flat on the table. Also, if your room configuration does not have tables, or has theater-style seats with the pull-up half desks. It’s great for those cool conference learning journals that combine the program and pages for note taking.

 

Perfect Bindingperfect-bound-binding

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

Why we love it: They have the professional look for an affordable price. With the text on the spine, they are easy to find amongst all the other books on a bookcase. Like plastic coil, perfect binding also allows the option for tabs and dividers.

When to use it: Best for proceedings, reference manuals, and educational publications.

 

Saddle Stitchsaddle-stitch-binding

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

Why we love it: It’s great for lower page counts under 88 pages, and it also lays flat.

When to use it: Conference programs, journals, conference marketing brochures, or other titles that have a limited number of pages. If you desire text for publication on the spine, this isn’t for you.

 

Case Bindingcase-binding

Looks like: The hardcover textbooks we lugged around in college.

Why we love it: Very professional in appearance which normally lends itself to higher retail pricing. It’s ideal for high page counts.

When to use it: Textbooks, manuals.

 

 

Other Binding Types (we don’t favor):

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

Plastic Comb Binding: This is the lower end version of plastic coil spiral binding. Maybe it’s perfect for a college paper, but when it comes to your educational and conference books… It’s “cheap.”

Which binding have you found works the best?

5 Ways to Continue the Learning After Your Conference

There’s something magical about the vibe you get at a really good educational conference, isn’t there? Attendees are soaking in the sessions like sponges. You can see the wheels turning as they nod in agreement, already thinking about ways they can apply an “a-ha moment” to their daily work. They linger at their tables after a session has ended, enthusiastically trading ideas. They flag down their colleagues in the hallway, excited about new possibilities. Everyone is buzzing, and the energy is high.

But then the conference ends. And the chatter stops. And we are each sucked back into the vortex of our perpetual to-do lists, hoping to find time to implement at least one new good idea we gained.

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 does not 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 a few ideas to leverage content after an event:

  1. Start by archiving your content on a searchable website. More than a PDF, a website specifically built to house your conference content means that users can search for relevant topics by session, track, speaker or keyword. By giving your content a user-friendly home, you provide a platform to better leverage your content more easily (see ideas 2-5 below).
  1. Host an exclusive, post-conference online discussion group for your attendees in the weeks following your conference. This can be one larger group, or you can break the group out by session, track or job function. Invite your speakers to participate (ideally, as part of the initial speaker agreement). This provides a great opportunity for attendees to ask follow-up questions of your speakers, particularly if they were short on time during the session.
  1. Wrap your conference content into a broader content marketing strategy for your event. Turn a session topic into a blog post, infographic, video or interview article (with links to the initial session presentation housed on your content website). Send this to your attendees to keep them energized, keep your conference top-of-mind and provide additional value to increase your attendee retention. Send it to your members to remind them of the value your association provides and to let them see what they missed at the conference. Use it to market your association to non-members.
  1. Was there a substantial amount of interest in a particular topic? Based on your post-event surveys, is there an area your attendees want to continue to hear more about? Take a deeper dive into that particular topic with a webinar or webinar series and brand it as a continuation of the conference. Remember to keep driving them back to your content website and remind them of other featured topics they may not have seen at the conference.
  1. Start an online special interest group (SIG) around specific topics, and set monthly or quarterly virtual meetings. Then, use the discussions from those meetings as fuel for your broader content marketing strategy.

What else has your association done (or is considering doing) to maintain momentum after a conference? Share your ideas with your community here!

Want to learn more about how to leverage online content before, during and after your conference? Read our free whitepaper: More Than Paper Behind Glass

March Madness Champion: What Drives Meeting Planners the Most Mad?

Well ladies and gentleman, it’s finally over. The long battles between some of the biggest pains for meeting planners is over. We started with eight of the biggest issues that we have heard from meeting planners:

  1. The sales manager of your 2017 venue leaves her position, just as you were building a great working relationship.
  2. It seems like everyone you work with has champagne taste—and you’re working with a beer budget. Are you the only one who thinks about managing costs?
  3. Managing the process for collection and review of countless abstracts, working with a very clunky system. You’re ready to tear your hair out!
  4. Another presenter gave you their final materials after the deadline, and now you have to call three different vendors to update the app, the website, and the printed program.
  5. A CVB calls you out of the blue and tries to monopolize half an hour with their sales pitch. You don’t have time for that!
  6. This year’s keynote is well-regarded and popular, but he’s also the biggest diva you’ve ever met. If he requests green M&Ms; in his rider, you’re going to scream!
  7. You’ve called your conference printer three times this week and no one has gotten back to you. There’s no excuse for bad customer service.
  8. Attendees bring every device under the sun to your annual meeting—except laptops—and your online conference materials only look good on a full-sized screen.

MWe then randomly paired them to face off in the first-round, or our elite eight. And there were some interesting winners that advanced toour final four:

  1. It seems like everyone you work with has champagne taste—and you’re working with a beer budget. Are you the only one who thinks about managing costs?
  2. Another presenter gave you their final materials after the deadline, and now you have to call three different vendors to update the app, the website, and the printed program. For the fourth time this week!
  3. A CVB calls you out of the blue and tries to monopolize half an hour with their sales pitch. You don’t have time for that!
  4. You’ve called your conference printer three times this week and no one has gotten back to you. There’s no excuse for bad customer service.

It then came down the final two in the championship:

  1. You’ve called your conference printer three times this week and no one has gotten back to you. There’s no excuse for bad customer service.
  2. Another presenter gave you their final materials after the deadline, and now you have to call three different vendors to update the app, the website, and the printed program. For the fourth time this week!

After 68 different meeting planners participated in this year’s March Conference Madness, “8 Things That Drive Meeting Planners Mad;” we have a champion. The thing that drives meeting plann
ers the most is:

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What do you think? Do you agree with our participants ranking of the things that drive meeting planners mad? Or is there something else that was maybe left off the list?

 

Top Challenges That Meeting Planners Face

The meeting planners we meet love their jobs. Working towards a successful conference is rewarding, and the journey from that first planning meeting to the closing reception includes many satisfying moments.

And yet … there are many frustrations that meeting planners deal with, too. In the spirit of fun and friendly competition, the Omnipress team drew up a bracket of things that drive meeting planners crazy. If you’ve followed along, you know that we’re down to the title game!

Conference content is Omnipress’ game, so I’ll give you some ideas to limit your frustration for the four content challenges in the bracket.

  • Managing the process for collection and review of countless abstracts, working with a very clunky system. You’re ready to tear your hair out! Look for an abstract management system that allows you the flexibility to meld it to your process—without the cost of customization. A configurable abstract management is a good compromise.
  • Another presenter gave you their final materials after the deadline, and now you have to call three different vendors to update the app, the website, and the printed program. For the fourth time this week! Doing the same task multiple times can be infuriating. As much as possible, limit the number of vendors you have to call to make a similar change. Some conference printers also provide content websites, USBs, and conference apps, and some may also handle abstract management. Use a single provider to cut down on the runaround when updates need to be made.
  • You’ve called your conference printer three times this week and no one has gotten back to you. There’s no excuse for bad customer service. Agreed! Providers who don’t respect your time and return your calls are the pits. Choose a conference printer that’s big enough to meet your needs—and your deadlines—but not so big that they don’t treat you right.
  • Attendees bring every device under the sun to your annual meeting—except laptops—and your online conference materials only look good on a full-sized screen. Good news—you can completely avoid this situation! Just make sure the provider of your content website can build your site with responsive design. Your site will look amazing on tablets, desktops, laptops, and smartphones.

Your work as a meeting planner is so important—all you do helps your association fulfill its mission. Though there are daily annoyances that drive you crazy, I hope you realize how critical it is to your association’s members to have access to an annual meeting that’s a rich, meaningful experience. Thank you for working hard to make professionals in your industry more successful. We appreciate meeting planners and all they do for their associations!

Make your vote heard! Vote in the championship round for the thing that drives meeting planners crazy. Follow this link or visit our Facebook page and click on the March Conference Madness tab. We’ll announce the results next week!

March Conference Madness is Underway! Vote Today!

Omnipress is happy to bring you March Conference Madness! Last week, 40 meeting planners like you voted on what drives them mad. With their help, we’ve narrowed the field to four options:

  • It seems like everyone you work with has champagne taste—and you’re working with a beer budget. Are you the only one who thinks about managing costs? Sometimes, unfortunately, you have to be “the bad guy” and bring up the budget when a colleague’s eyes are bigger than their stomach.
  • Another presenter gave you their final materials after the deadline, and now you have to call three different vendors to update the app, the website, and the printed program. For the fourth time this week! Those late submissions are enough to drive any meeting planner mad. To make it a little easier on yourself, work with a provider that handles all of your outputs—print, website, and app—so you only have one call to make with updates.
  • A CVB calls you out of the blue and tries to monopolize half an hour with their sales pitch. You don’t have time for that! Unsolicited sales pitches are the phone call equivalent of spam emails—the worst! If you don’t recognize the number, voicemail is your first line of defense.
  • You’ve called your conference printer three times this week and no one has gotten back to you. There’s no excuse for bad customer service. This lack of response would drive anyone mad! Meeting planners need to hear back quickly more than others, because deadlines are always coming at you full-speed. If your printer can’t keep up … well, maybe that shouldn’t be your printer anymore.

Let’s take this madness to the next level: the championship! Here’s the schedule for the remainder of our March Conference Madness:

  • Monday, 3/28 – Vote between the two remaining answers to determine the winner!
  • Friday, 4/1 – Voting closes
  • Monday, 4/4 – Winner is announced

Visit this page to vote, or go to our Facebook page and click on the March Conference Madness tab.

What drives you mad about delivering conference content? In our State of the Industry report, over 150 meeting planners answered the question. See their answers and read the full report!

Learn How One Association Takes Its Online Content Beyond the Conference

The International Wire and Cable Symposium (IWCS) understands how important technology and innovation are to its members, which is why the association has embraced digital options in addition to the traditional print offerings to deliver conference content to its attendees.

IWCS also realized that each digital format is a separate entity, and attendees use each to accomplish different things. An app isn’t simply a digital version of a printed program; it’s a different animal altogether, with its own purposes and strengths. Considering these points, IWCS wanted to make their conference materials available in a wide variety of formats.

IWCS offers content from its annual meeting in print, on a conference content website, on a USB, and through a mobile app. The association also uses an online abstract management system for collection and review.

The conference content website is a cornerstone IWCS’ digital strategy. As a result of taking its conference content online, IWCS accomplished these worthy goals.

Strengthened academic relationships
Members of the academic community must “publish or perish,” and a digital publishing platform makes it easier for professionals to gain exposure. Space is much less limited online than it is in a printed book of proceedings. Since IWCS added online conference materials to its content offerings, academic participation has skyrocketed.

Extended the lifecycle of the conferenceOnline content can be accessed by search engines, which increased IWCS’ online visibility. Not only could attendees easily find the content they needed, but others in the industry could find conference materials as well. Prospective members and attendees could access IWCS’ high-quality, well-vetted content, which could give them just the push they need to join the association or register for the conference.

Learn more about how IWCS took its content digital—read the case study! For more tips on using your online conference materials to meet your association’s goal, download our whitepaper Tap Into The Full Potential of Your Online Conference Materials

Vote Now! March Conference Madness Begins Today

The collegiate men’s basketball tournament is slated to start its first round games tomorrow. In just a few weeks, a champion will be crowned in the title game on April 4th in Houston.

But why should college athletes have all the fun? Meeting planners know how to winnow down a list to the very best options. You do that every day to pick the top vendors for your conference and the most cost-effective options to make your event run smoothly and under budget.

Let’s blow off some steam! We’ve got our own “March Conference Madness” bracket. Take a look at eight things that drive meeting planners mad and choose one from each category. You’ll help us pare it down to the top four. Here’s how it works:

  • Monday, 3/14 – Vote on eight things that drive meeting planners mad NOW!
  • Friday, 3/18 – Voting closes
  • Monday, 3/21 – Vote on the top four!
  • Friday, 3/25 – Voting closes
  • Monday, 3/28 – Vote between the two remaining answers to determine the winner!
  • Friday, 4/1 – Voting closes
  • Monday, 4/4 – Winner is announced

Fill out your bracket! Visit this page or go to our Facebook page and click on the March Conference Madness tab to vote.

You know what’s a real pain? An abstract management system that just doesn’t cut it. Our whitepaper outlines a five-step test your system should pass with flying colors. See how yours stacks up!

How One Customer Uses Their Conference Content Website to Facilitate Note-Taking

Online conference materials are at their best when they complement—not duplicate—print. Online content is more prevalent and important than ever before, and that has impacted how associations provide content to their attendees. They expect online access to content, and associations understand that in order to meet the needs of their members, they must deliver online conference materials as well as printed ones.

As you think about how to approach a content website for your next annual meeting, take a cue from Angie Guy, Meeting and Events Manager with International Meeting Managers. She helps her clients in the medical field do more with their online conference materials.

Ms. Guy’s client works with Omnipress to take its conference materials online. She incorporates other tools into the website, like Survey Monkey, to make it easier for attendees to take post-session surveys so they can more easily collect and interpret the results. To make it simple to download multiple presentations without searching for a specific session, Ms. Guy had Omnipress connect a Download by Day button to a Dropbox account. When users click the button, all of the documents on the website from that day’s presentations—slide decks, handouts, and more—were automatically included in the download.

“It really helps to have the site available year-round,” she said. “Members like having more time to access the materials. For example, lots of attendees like to download or at least view the handouts before the conference.” The website also includes general information about the conference, like maps and registration information. “That cuts down on the number of calls and emails we get in the office,” Ms. Guy reported.

Taking notes online is another important benefit for attendees. “Even if I don’t have the handouts available to add to a session online, I add a placeholder so attendees can take notes,” Ms. Guy said. One year, one of her clients didn’t offer note-taking capabilities for their online materials, and there was considerable pushback from attendees. The association added note-taking back in the next year.

Online conference materials allow for last-minute additions. “If a change comes in so late that it can’t be included in the printed materials, it will definitely be included online.”

For more ideas on how online content can help your association do more, as it did for these associations, read our new white paper! Many thanks to International Meeting Managers’ Angie Guy for sharing her experience.

Online Content 2.0: How to Get More Out of Your Conference Materials

Attendees consume conference content differently now than they have in the past. Just think about the abundance of mobile devices you see at your annual meeting, and compare it to what you saw in 2008. If you had initial doubts about whether digital content would stick, they are probably gone by now.

So you probably understand that your association should offer content to attendees online, but knowing how to do that—and how to make the most of it—can be a challenge. Posting PDFs of presentations on your conference website is a good start, but there are opportunities to make your online content do much more than simply be an electronic version of your printed materials.

Our new whitepaper includes ideas on how to leverage your online content so you can meet the needs of your attendees while striving to reach your association’s goals as well.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Encourage members to build a personal library

Attendees can use online conference materials to build a personal library of association content that’s most relevant to them, even from sessions they weren’t able to attend at the conference. When note-taking is available, they can do even more to make the content their own.

Learn how to leverage online content before, during, and after your conference—and how it can increase your association’s visibility. Download now!

Does Your Conference Content Need Some Spring Cleaning?

With spring is just around the corner, many people think about which areas of your office need a deep clean. If you have a spring conference, though, you might need to shift these cleaning tasks to another time. There don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to manage your conference content, much less declutter your desk.

Take some of that cleaning ambition and direct it towards something else that could use some tidying up—your printed conference materials. A well-organized program is an attractive, useful representation of your association and its brand.

It can be a challenge to take content from collected abstracts to well-organized conference program. Thankfully, you don’t have to take on this task yourself. Many providers can handle design and formatting of your content as well as managing the printing and shipping of your conference programs.

To make it even easier to bring your association’s content to life, use the same vendor for abstract collection and printed materials. Because the provider will already have access to your content, you won’t have to act as the middleman between your abstract management vendor and your printer.

When you leave formatting to your conference printer, you’ll simplify content delivery and streamline your day. You might just find five minutes to clean your desk!

For more tips on conference printing, download our 4-page white paper, Managing Print Projects.