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.

 

3 Simple Steps to Save Time During Your Collection Process (Video)

Conference content begins with the collection and review process. Before your content website is built or your app is approved, association staff, submitters, and reviewers begin the work of determining what content will be included in the annual meeting. This process is important because choosing the highest quality content, vetted by industry experts, sets your association apart.

But collection and review can be challenging. In fact, in our 2016 State of the Conference Industry survey, it was chosen as the single greatest challenge by 33% of respondents.

Why is collection and review so frustrating for meeting planners? Some things are just the nature of the beast: submitters will always want an extension, and last-minute schedule changes will happen, despite your best efforts to avoid them.

Other factors have more to do with the capabilities of the tool you use for abstract management. If you run up against your system’s limitations, you may find yourself spending a lot of time on manual work-arounds.

Thankfully, some issues can be addressed by making a few simple tweaks to your process. In our newest video, we outline three simple changes you should consider making to your collection process before your next call for papers:

  • When is the ideal time to think about your end outputs (printed materials, website, app, etc.)?
  • How can you set up optimal deadlines to keep your event planning moving forward?
  • What more can you do with your abstract management system that you might not be doing today?

View the video to learn more!

Have you found ways to save time and stress during your collection process? Leave a comment to share them with others!

 

3 Reasons Why We Love What We Do

Between Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month, we think about matters of the heart a lot in February. For this month’s column, I’ve been reflecting on how love plays out for Omnipress. There’s a lot of love in this company, after all, which led me to this conclusion: Members of the Omnipress team share a love of serving associations.

How do we love our jobs? Let’s count the (three) ways:

  1. We love seeing our customers succeed. Planning an association’s annual meeting is a complicated, multi-step process. The meeting planners we work with always seem a bit overwhelmed, and we marvel at their ability to keep everything running smoothly. Omnipress specializes in one of the many tasks on your plate. That means you don’t have to be the conference content expert! We’re here to help, and we find it so gratifying to help make your meeting more successful. Our mission is to help you deliver upon yours.
  1. We love serving a higher purpose. “Delivering knowledge” is our mantra, and we take it seriously. We’re thrilled to play a part in delivering knowledge to professionals around the country (and the globe!), in a wide variety of industries. We love our customers because they help us make a real difference in the world.
  1. We love making your life easier. In working with so many meeting planners, we’ve come to understand how stressful your job can be. But we also recognize that you find the joy in making everything come together, even if the process can be challenging. The Omnipress team is committed to making your workday (and therefore your life) a little easier by simplifying conference content.

We asked meeting planners about their conference goals, budget predictions, and conference content formats they offer in our 2016 State of the Industry survey. The results reminded us of a fact we already knew well: The meeting planners we serve are passionate about their work. What do you love most about associations and planning their meetings? Leave us a comment!

3 Ways to Protect Your Online Content

Your association’s online content is valuable, and access to it is a privilege of members, attendees of the annual meeting, or those who have paid to view the information. That’s why protecting online content is necessary—it’s not intended for just anyone to see.

On the other hand, it’s important for the content to be visible to a wider audience so your association can grow and have a positive impact on the industry it represents. And that means you can’t keep too tight a lid on the access.

Balancing protection and visibility can be tricky. Thankfully, there are options available to you to keep your online content safe while also increasing your association’s reach.

  1. Digital Rights Management (DRM)
  • What it is: DRM is a method of restricting access to copyrighted digital materials.
  • How it works: DRM assigns control of the use of digital content to a computer program—not an individual user.
  • How to use it: DRM offers a solid safeguard against unauthorized use. To lock down content tightly, go with DRM.
  1. Watermarking
  • What it is: Watermarking stamps a digital file with copyright information, plus date, time, and username.
  • How it works: Content remains visible underneath the faint stamp, but it’s clear that the file was intended for just one user.
  • How to use it: Watermarking is a compromise between DRM and no protection at all. Use it for protection that has little impact on usability.
  1. Subscription Management
  • What it is: Users receive access to content and sign in to an online content hub to view it.
  • How it works: Access is included in the price of registration to a meeting or membership. Associations can also charge for access to content outside of these situations.
  • How to use it: Generate non-dues revenue by offering access to association content—conference, training, and/or publications.

Which option would work best for your association? We have experience with all three and can help you make that decision. Reach out to us to start the conversation!

Optimize Your Conference Print Process with These 5 Tips

Printing materials for your association’s annual meeting is one of the last pieces to fall into place. And it’s not for lack of planning—it’s a necessity. Speakers are notorious for getting final presentations in at the last minute. When the last one hits your inbox, the scramble begins to get programs printed and shipped so they’ll arrive at the venue in time.

Do you ever wonder if conference printing have to be this hurried and stressful every time? You’re right to question the process. You haven’t been doing conference printing wrong, but there is room for improvement, even if you can’t get presenters to submit their materials on time.

We have been printing conference content for 40 years, and we’ve developed best practices along the way. For example, we recommend that you start the conversation with your printer before you start collecting content.

You might think that collecting materials and printing programs have nothing to do with each other, but that’s not true. When you talk about collection with your printer first, they can give you suggestions on how to structure your collection process to make the organization, formatting, and output of content into print-ready files as easy as possible.

What else can you do to set yourself up for conference printing success?

Read Managing Print Projects: Five Tips for Success, our new whitepaper, for more tried-and-true recommendations. Leave a comment to let us know what you think!

Groundhog Day: Abstract Management, Repetition, & Abstract Management

For many people, Groundhog Day conjures up memories of the popular Bill Murray/Andie MacDowell movie. A recap for those who have forgotten the plot: Phil is a weatherman reporting from Puxatawney, Pennsylvania. Because of a freak blizzard that he (ironically enough) didn’t forecast, Phil gets stuck in a time warp, living the same day over and over again. After Phil works past the crushing agony of repetition, he begins to use it as an opportunity to improve himself and—at long last—move forward into a better future.

Do you find yourself reliving the same process again and again? Some meeting planners feel that way about abstract management. Every year, they open a call for papers, go through the same motions (many of them manual and tedious), and hope for different results.

The truth is, the best way to escape from the endless repetition is to change the way you approach the task, like Murray’s weatherman Phil did. Once he changed the way he faced each day, positive changes and forward momentum broke the pattern.

Whether your abstract management process is manual or just a system that hasn’t kept up with your association’s needs, you can find an alternative to help you break free of a vicious cycle. Perhaps it’s time to take a close look at your abstract management system and whether it’s helping or hindering your collection process.

We’ve compiled an easy five-step test that every abstract management system should pass. For example: Can the system be configured to match your submission process? And do you need it to? This step helps you determine which type of system will work best for your association: out-of-the-box, custom-built, or configurable.

Does your abstract management system make the grade? Download our new white paper to find out!

Wishing you a happy February and an early spring!

Millennials & Print [Infographic]

By now, you’ve read our whitepaper, Millennials & Print: How & Why Your Youngest Learners Read from the Page (and if you haven’t, check it out to learn more about your new members!). It includes some really interesting data about how and why your association’s youngest members consume their educational and professional materials. To make things a bit easier to take in, we’ve created this easy-to-read infographic that includes some of the most important takeaways that can really impact the way you produce your materials.

Take a look at the image and make sure to let us know what you think of the data and the infographic. We love hearing from you all!

Millennials & Print Infographic

Is Your Annual Conference Ready for Generation Z?

Generation Z? What Happened to the Millennials? Those game-changing Gen Y youth who have been the subject of so much research and speculation have now hit the ripe old age of 30-ish. They have begun to settle into careers and families, and although they are the first true digital natives, they have proven to be a lesser disruptor than initially anticipated. (Case in point: read the Millennials and Print whitepaper.) That torch has been passed along to the next generation—Generation Z.

Who is Generation Z?

Although there are some reported variances in the dates that define Generation Z (also known in some circles as iGen—thank you, Steve Jobs), generally they are the children of Gen Xers—born between the mid-to-late 1990’s (roughly 1995) through the 2000’s (roughly 2010).

The eldest (around 20) are soon to be graduating college and hitting the workforce, while the youngest (around 6) are busy creating Google presentations, blogging and documenting prairie burns via iMovie as part of their first grade curriculum.

They are the largest generation—larger than the Boomers and larger than the Millennials. Today they represent over 25% of the U.S. population. And, in just 5 years, they will represent approximately 20% of the workforce.

They are also the most multi-cultural generation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there has been a 50% increase in the multi-racial youth population since 2000.

They are the product of events and innovations that have completely changed even the world that Millennials knew. This is (potentially) a very different generation.

A Pragmatic, Entrepreneurial, Connected Group Defined by Turmoil and Technology

Generation Z has never known a world without terrorism. They witnessed the fallout from the Great Recession. Unlike the so-called “entitled” Millennials, they understand that success isn’t guaranteed. They are prepared to work for it and to make it their own.

  • They are looking for stability and growth in their careers and actively seek out opportunities to learn, develop and grow.
  • Because their lives were terribly disrupted early on, they aren’t necessarily set on taking a linear path to success.
  • They have a greater entrepreneurial drive than their predecessors, and have grown up in a world where they’ve seen (via social media) even their youngest peers have success with self-derived ventures.
  • They are also more financially conservative than their predecessors.

Beyond Tech Savvy

While Millennials were considered to be the first digital natives, Gen Z are mobile-natives. Technology isn’t just present in their lives, it is fully integrated into everything they do. It has changed the model for how they interact with the world around them, how they learn and, most importantly, how they process information.

  • Where Gen Y is the generation that shares content, Gen Z is the generation that creates it.
  • In the classroom, a Gen Z student uses multiple platforms (including both print and digital) simultaneously to learn and reinforce a single concept and often has the opportunity to choose how they want to learn.
  • Thanks to DVRs, media streaming and 24/7 connectivity anywhere, the concept of appointment-based anything is fading fast.
  • While it appears that their attention spans are getting shorter, early research suggests it may be reflection of the fact that they have developed the ability to process more information at faster speeds.

Social Media Maturity

For Gen Z, social media is no longer a new fad. It’s an established reality. And while it is the basis of a majority of their social connections, Gen Z is much more “mature” in their use of it than Millennials are.

  • Social connections matter even more to Gen Z than to Millennials. They want to be culturally connected and have a tremendous fear of missing out.
  • At the same time, they are more conscientious of social media privacy and tend to be drawn to more private forms of social interaction such as Snapchat, Secret and Whisper.

How Gen Z Might Shape Your Association’s Conference

Today, many associations grapple with how to remain relevant at a time when access to free knowledge is just a click away. But there’s good news. Gen Z will find tremendous value in the growth opportunities that associations provide by increasing knowledge and facilitating connections… as long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms.

Here are 5 things to consider in your next conference strategy session:

  1. Would it make sense to unbundle your conference or develop a completely unorthodox structure to allow attendees to pick and choose (and pay for) the sessions, content and formats that they feel are most valuable and useful?
  1. Is there an opportunity to develop sessions that allow attendees to co-create content at the conference (rather than having all content pre-developed and pre-packaged ahead of time) as a means to facilitate learning and professional development? Could you use your conference app to help support this?
  1. Is there an opportunity to offer content in more formats including video, interactive platforms, virtual and 4D technology? Could you break it down into shorter segments and allow attendees to perform a self-directed deeper dive into the content as appropriate? With this, should you offer even more control and preference settings for that content?
  1. How can you more effectively tie print and online together in a complementary way, using a printed piece to facilitate deeper interaction with content online? In looking at your printed materials, how might you re-develop and re-design them to provide shorter pieces of content with more visual cues that support the text?
  1. How could your association both acknowledge the importance of connectivity while recognizing the need to purposefully disconnect? Today, session breaks are for networking, but they are also a time when attendees actively “plug back in.” As technology continues to become more tightly integrated with even the most basic daily activities, there could be a creative and innovative opportunity to provide a “digital break”—a chance for attendees to truly unplug, detox from their technology and connect with peers the old fashioned way. Within the next five years, this could very well be a novelty!

Although Millennials are still extremely relevant to associations, and soon will make up a large majority of the workforce, it won’t be long before all eyes are on Generation Z. How accurately can we predict future preferences based on this current profile of a very young generation? It’s too soon to tell for sure. What is certain, however, is that, just as with Millennials, it won’t be long before we’re reevaluating and reconsidering today’s best practices. It’s never too early to start planning ahead.

10 Things You Can Do to Make Your Abstract Management System Easier for Everyone—Including You!—to Use

Choosing presenters for your association’s annual meeting is a crucial process that can have a significant impact on the success of the entire conference. It’s important to get it right.

But important doesn’t have to mean tedious. Everyone involved with abstract management—submitters, reviewers, and association staff—is busy. They understand the importance of the process and their part in getting it done. But this task is a mere sliver of their days and anything that can make the process smoother is appreciated.

How can you make abstract management easier for everyone, yourself included?

For submitters:

  1. Offer more submission formats—Go beyond the PDF and Word doc! Your submitters can upload audio and visual content, too. Rich content will help make a stronger case for a presentation and provide a more complete picture of the submission.
  2. Outsource support services—Make questions like “What’s my username?” the dominion of your abstract management provider—not you. Your packed schedule probably doesn’t allow you to respond as quickly to these requests as you’d like, so it helps to have someone else handle them.
  3. Allow them to save a draft—Your submitters, especially those who are younger and less experienced, may feel nervous about sending in an abstract. They may want to be able to put together their submission, sleep on it, revise, and then click SEND. Make sure your system gives them that option.

For reviewers:

  1. Provide clearly-defined scoring criteria—Develop concrete, numeric criteria (instead of rank-based criteria) to steer reviewers in the right direction and foster consistency. This will make it easier to decide who’s in and who’s out when the time comes.
  2. Ask for reviewer information up front—Have reviewers to fill out a form for each submission, including the scoring criteria, a text box for comments, and other information. When you ask for this at the beginning of the process, you don’t have to follow up with (and potentially annoy) reviewers later.
  3. Implement lockbox/rolling review—With this option, submitters can’t go back and revise a submission; they send it in and then throw away the key. That allows reviewers to get a head start—they can read and score submissions as they come in, rather than wait until the submission deadline to begin the review process.

For you:

  1. Account for all information you will need for conference materials ahead of time—Add custom fields to your submission process that ask for the information you need, even if it’s not built into the system. This step will save you a lot of time and aggravation in the long run.
  2. Separate your collection communications—Use your abstract management system as the place where information you need is stored, including emails to groups of submitters and reviewers. Separate these communications from your office email inbox to avoid losing messages in the shuffle.
  3. Use reports to manage compliance—Keep tabs on the process and follow up with submitters who haven’t completed the process or reviewers who have a few abstracts to finish.
  4. Leverage the scheduling tool—Plan ahead by using a user-friendly, drag-and-drop scheduling tool to give shape to your conferences as sessions are accepted. The tool helps you visualize how everything will fit together.

Abstract management is everything as you begin to plan your conference. It may be your primary focus for a matter of weeks or months.

But think about it—abstract management isn’t a full-time job for anyone. Not the submitters, not the reviewers (many of whom volunteer their time), and not even you. Take a few steps to make it easier for everyone involved and you’ll get the job done without letting it take over your life or anyone else’s.

Reach out to us to schedule a customized demo!

7 Things to Consider When Choosing Conference Giveaways

Choosing useful, effective conference giveaways that provide value and fill a need for attendees is a tall order. There’s no limit to the options available; your inbox is likely full of marketing messages from companies selling promotional items. And let’s face it—95% of them are junk. Keep your association’s educational objectives in mind as you search for items to fill that goody bag.

Here are seven qualities to think about when choosing conference giveaways:

  1. Relevant: Does the item help creatively communicate the value your association or the sponsor brings to the attendee? Don’t give out a widget for a widget’s sake! Make sure it helps to support your key messages.
  2. Portable: This may be common sense, but it’s good to keep this consideration top-of-mind. Can attendees take the giveaway home without trouble, or will it take up valuable real estate in their carry-on?
  3. Branded: Increased awareness of your association’s brand is a major factor when choosing a conference giveaway. If the item can’t bear a legible logo, what’s the point?
  4. Sponsorship opportunity: Sponsors are always looking for useful ways to contribute to your event. Choose a giveaway that lets you promote your sponsors, too.
  5. Cost-effective: Some relevant, portable, memorable giveaways might be perfect for meeting those needs…but don’t pass muster for staying within your budget. If sponsorship can’t help out, you may have to make another choice.
  6. Intriguing: Take a risk and try something new and creative! The gold standard is a clever giveaway that provides value beyond the first week or two after the conference.
  7. Usable: Think about how attendees would use your giveaway. Will it live on their desk, often in sight and in mind? Or will it get a few uses for the fun of it and then live out its days in the bottom drawer? Novelty will only get you so far.

Your association stands for professional development and lifelong learning. Why not support your mission with a giveaway that checks all of the boxes and provides attendees with access to conference content?

USBs fit the bill. Conference content is relevant to attendees. A flash drive is portable, even if a novel style like a slap band is used. USBs provide ample space for branding and are attractive giveaways to sponsors. Custom options are memorable and intriguing, offering initial excitement and lasting value. And, compared to other trinkets that won’t make it home with attendees, the per-unit cost is affordable.

Curious how USBs could work as a giveaway at your association’s next meeting? Contact us to start the conversation and request a sample!

5 Reasons to Use a Configurable Abstract Management System

Associations are in constant evolution, as influences like technological advances, research best practices, and industry standards change the way business is done. Your association doesn’t operate the same way it did 20 years ago, and it shouldn’t. Paying attention to the industry and remaining flexible is essential to your association’s survival.

The same is true of the process you use to choose presenters for your annual meeting. Your call for papers has changed over the years, and a one-size-fits-all system doesn’t cut it anymore.

Abstract management systems fall into three categories:

  1. An out-of-the-box system that is cost-effective but Oftentimes, this type of system is built by an association staff member to fill a need. On a basic level, the system gets the job done, but it can be “clunky” and frustrating to use.
  2. A custom system that is built with your association’s process in mind. This interface is easy to use and the system does exactly what you want it to do. After all, it was made for you! But that customization comes at a steep price, which many association budgets can’t accommodate.
  3. An affordable system that performs basic functions well and is easy for submitters, reviewers, and association staff to use. The system can be configured to add flexibility and work with an association’s unique process. There are limits to the configuration that’s available, but most associations get the level of personalization they need without the high cost of a customized system.

As we have learned from our customers, associations needed the third option, which offers flexibility without breaking your budget. We made a conscious decision to pivot our abstract management system in this direction so we can help associations find that perfect balance.

How can a configurable abstract management system help? You can …

  1. Make the system fit your process—not the other way around. Each association is different. Your abstract management process won’t look the same as another organization’s, even within the same industry. Your system should be able to adjust.
  2. Bring us your challenges and we’ll suggest configurations that work for you. The Omnipress team is continually revising its best practices, based on feedback from your association and others. What works best is a fluid concept. Are you struggling with an aspect of the system? Bring it to us and we’ll work on creating a better fit. Once we do, other associations can also benefit from your insight.
  3. Help create a process that’s easier for submitters and reviewers to use. We know that if an abstract management system isn’t simple and straight-forward, you’re going to hear about it from other users. And since we work with meeting professionals like you every day, we know how frustrating this can be for you. When the submission and review processes are smooth, your phone may not ring quite as often. We’re pretty sure you’d be okay with that.
  4. Save time and frustration. Is there a part of the abstract management that seems clunky to you? Let us know. Maybe there’s a workaround that makes sense, or a tweak we can make that simplifies the task. We want you to be as pleased as possible with the system and we’ll do what we can to save you from hassle.
  5. Use the system for other purposes. What works for abstracts can also work for posters, awards, grant applications, and anything else that needs to be collected in an organized way. Once you understand the ins and outs of the system, you can use that knowledge to simplify other work that your association does.

Omnipress responds to customer needs to make the system better for everyone, and to customize your experience to fit your needs and the challenges your submitters and reviewers bring to you. To see the system in action, try our abstract management system demo. But remember—nothing is written in stone. Just like your association, the Omnipress abstract management team welcomes change.

Get In On the Action: Mobile Devices & Conferences

Picture a crowd of attendees at your conference. They have just a few minutes before the next break-out session starts; the whole space is buzzing with activity as attendees use the time to connect with colleagues back at the office, jot down a few notes from the previous session, and update social media.

How are the attendees completing all of these tasks quickly and efficiently? With their mobile devices, of course. Smartphones and tablets are as common at conferences as business cards these days. Getting and staying connected is simply the way we do business now.

So what is your association waiting for? Mobile devices nearly outnumber attendees at your conference, and you still don’t have an app? Get on there!

When your association uses an app, your conference becomes part of the flurry of activity that takes place between sessions. The notes being taken can live within the app. A tweet shout-out to an attendee’s network about the great session she just attended? The app made that easy, too. Checking the room number for the next session, messaging a fellow attendee to firm up dinner plans, and skimming the handouts from the plenary session—attendees can do all of this within a conference app.

Your attendees’ mobile devices are coming to your conference. Shouldn’t your app meet them there? See what Omnipress’ conference app can do—try the demo!