Three Benefits of Online Conference Proceedings

 

How often do you overhear conference attendees gush, “I never go anywhere without my giant, 10lb three-ring binder of annual conference proceedings”?

Technology has given your attendees easy, quick, 24/7 access to anything they want… And it fits in their pocket, purse and handbag without giving them back pain. The advancement of smartphones and tablets has exploded in the meetings industry. As an event planner, it’s important to make sure your annual conference is staying up to date with technological trends. It’s time to reap the benefits of online conference proceedings!

But it’s more than just staying on top of the trends. Taking your proceedings online brings a lot of benefits not only for you as a meeting planner, but also for attendees, sponsors and speakers alike:

Extend Engagement

Attendee engagement is an important part of a successful conference. Online conference proceedings provide an effective way to increase engagement before and after your annual meeting. Providing detailed session and speaker information online before your annual meeting will help attendees choose which sessions are right for them. And reviewing the materials beforehand will allow them to be more engaged during the actual session. Additionally, hosting presentations and papers online after the event will help continue the learning that began at the conference.

Control Access

The greatest source of value the annual conference provides is its educational content. So it makes sense that meeting planners, associations and speakers are interested in controlling how this information is accessed. Does someone with a certain membership level get unlimited access? Are attendees the only people who can view online content for the first 30 days after your annual meeting? That wouldn’t be possible with printed proceedings or conference flash drives, but with an online conference library, you are able to control access.

Enhance Search Capabilities

Typically, the conference proceedings for your annual meeting encompass a large amount of content, including session handouts, presentation outlines and technical papers. Instead of thumbing back and forth between the table of contents and specific documents, attendees can simply type the session number, name or speaker (depending on how your content is organized) into the search box and be taken straight to the technical paper they are looking for.

Does your association put conference proceedings online? What benefits do you enjoy the most?

Hit the Reset Button on Your Content Marketing Program

 

It’s September, which means the mad rush of a new school year has begun, filled with new beginnings, new learnings and new adventures. And not just for the kiddos. Did you know that Labor Day marks a time when many of us adults hit the mental reset button too? New York Magazine featured an article calling it “Second-Chance January”—a time to refocus on our previous personal and professional goals before the end of the year.

If this is true, then Labor Day is a tremendous gift for associations. As the leading source of knowledge, information and development opportunities for your industry, you provide the resources that your current and prospective members are “Googling” right about now. The question is… will they find you?

In a previous post, I observed that too many associations are wasting their most valuable resource—their content—simply because they don’t have a well-defined content marketing program to effectively share it with the world. The content exists in the form of conference educational sessions, continuing education courses, standards and other resources.  But it’s not necessarily repackaged in a way that directly answers some of the most common questions your constituents are asking.

The concept of content marketing is not new to associations by any means. But many of us still struggle to launch and sustain a measurable content marketing program that directly contributes to increased conference attendance, membership and retention.  It’s time to crack this nut once and for all because your competitors—any other free or for-profit resources—already have.

So, during this time of “resets,” and “fresh starts” I challenge you to take just one more step toward leveraging your association content to its fullest potential. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Try these ideas to improve your content marketing program:

  • Create a searchable and discoverable online “home” for all of your conference or other continuing education content, so that you have a destination for your content marketing efforts.
  • Develop a content calendar that re-purposes existing content into multiple topics and formats to lessen the burden on your marketing team.
  • “Gate” your most valuable content behind a simple sign up form to generate new member leads for your organization.
  • Test one or two new channels to expand your reach beyond your active “base” to new audiences.

Any one of these steps can help your association use content marketing to reach your organization’s goals. And with “Second-Chance January” creating a renewed interest in your members’ goals, now is the perfect time to take action!

 

Marketing with Conference Content: Part 4 – Promoting Your Conference with Twitter

 

Twitter is one of the most intimidating social media sites for people to start using. I’s seemingly secret language of #s and @s can easily scare off newcomers who try to use the service for the first time. (It’s such a common problem that Twitter has a glossary page to help users learn the terminology!)

Once you understand the basics, though, Twitter can be a fantastic tool for event professionals (or #eventprofs, in twitter lingo). Its design works well for promoting a conference or creating year-round awareness of your association. And, if your conference content is already available on a digital publishing platform, you are in luck! Twitter can extend the life of your content beyond your conference dates and make these assets effective year-round promotional pieces.

Being active on Twitter gives you a way to promote your conference, connect with industry thought leader and stay on top of industry news.

Here are 16 ways you can use Twitter to raise the profile of your association and conference.

Note: If you are new to Twitter, you’ll need to set up an account and get started before you can use these tips.

  • Create a hashtag for your event: This allows users to search for your event and to join in on the conversation.
  • Mention speakers from your conference: Speakers with an existing online presence can help spread the word about your event.
  • Create links to your existing content: Show the Twittersphere the kind of quality content your conference is known for.
  • Use quotes from your conference content: Pick interesting statements that your followers can retweet.
  • Encourage app downloads: Increase downloads of your app in the days leading up to the conference by including a link to the Apple Store or Google Play.
  • Promote your conference: Include details like date and location, then link to your registration form.
  • Tweet pictures from last year’s event: Keep your event top of mind by posting images from your previous events.
  • Tweet your social images: Twitter is the perfect place to showcase your infographics or other conference-promoting graphics.
  • Make announcements about attendance: Create excitement by tweeting out milestone attendance markers.
  • Promote your other online accounts: Make sure your Twitter followers know where to find you on other social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Promote updates to your website: Alert your followers about new materials that have been added to your digital publishing platform.
  • Find and follow thought leaders in your industry: Strengthen your in-person relationships by adding online connections.
  • Retweet interesting thoughts and articles from industry sources: Sharing their message with your followers may make them more likely to return the favor.
  • Search for relevant industry hashtags: Add these to your tweets, too, so people interested in your topic will see your messages.
  • Retweet news articles relevant to your industry: Make your feed the go-to source for the latest developments in your field.
  • Create a poll about a current event: Twitter lets you quickly poll your followers. Ask a question about a current event in your industry.

 

Being active on Twitter lets you connect with industry thought-leaders and attendees on a platform that they prefer. By engaging in industry-specific conversations, you can reinforce the expertise that your organization brings to the subject…all in 140 characters or less!

What are some of the other ways you have used Twitter to promote your conference? Any suggestions for creative ways to incorporate your existing conference content on the platform?

 

Interested in learning more about promoting an event with your existing conference materials?

Check out the other entries in our Marketing with Conference Content series for more ideas:

Part 1: The Event Planner’s Advantage

Part 2: 3 Ways to Stand Out From the Crowd by Using Images

Part 3: How to Learn From Your Own Content [Infographic]

 

 

Training and Development Talk: Microlearning 101

The way people learn is changing, which means that the way continuing education programs approach their courses should be, too. A lengthy lecture followed by homework, with little opportunity for student interaction and discussion, is no longer considered to be the best choice for deep, lasting training and development to take place.

Our attention spans are shorter than they used to be, especially (but not exclusively) among Millennials. Also known as Generation Y, these young professionals (born approximately 1982-2004) grew up alongside the internet. Answers were readily available online and their patience for information is notoriously thin.

To adapt to this change, a new approach to teaching and learning has sprung up. Microlearning breaks down lessons and concepts into bite-sized pieces of four minutes or less. Hallmarks of this technique include very narrow learning objectives (only one per “chunk” of content) and frequent, mini-quizzes to test retention.

Printed course books can accompany classes that make use of microlearning practices, but supplemental online resources are another option. Blended learning enhances microlearning—instructors can take complex concepts they learn through a standard lecture or reading in a textbook and break it up into smaller components online. Video is also a particularly good format to use in this type of training and development situation.

Many associations offer face-to-face, instructor-led training, though some are also exploring online delivery of content and self-study. No matter how you offer training to your learners, microlearning can be incorporated.

Are you ready to try microlearning to supplement your training and development programs? Start by bouncing your ideas off of someone with an outside perspective who can offer suggestions for content delivery. Reach out to me or leave a comment below to get the conversation started!

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

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!

5 Ways to Use Digital Content to Market Your Training Programs

Training professionals are always looking for fresh ways to promote their training programs. Using direct mail, email marketing, and social media can help market a new course or draw new students to your existing programs.

Have you considered using online training materials to drum up interest in your continuing education courses? Some ideas to get you started:

  1. Share the course syllabus. Some potential class participants will be motivated to sign up after viewing an overview of the material to be covered.
  2. Offer a free chapter of the course book. Give learners a taste of the content the course will cover to entice them to register.
  3. Post a practice exam. Want to take this tactic to the next level? Show what students can expect to learn by the course’s completion.
  4. Increase your online presence. When you make training materials available online, they are indexed by search engines, which makes it easier for people to find your organization when they search for professional development opportunities.
  5. Cross-promote other training programs. When learners access training materials online, you can use other areas of the website—banner ads, sidebars, pop-ups—to advertise similar courses they might be interested in.

Can you think of other ideas to market your program using online training materials? 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!

Is Your Continuing Education Program 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 & Training 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.
  • They are the ultimate self-educators, particularly when it comes to technology, as they have already seen how quickly it can become obsolete.
  • 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 a 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 more 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 Training & Education Programs?

Today, many organizations grapple with how to develop new and innovative programs that attract participants and facilitate greater learning. Looking to the future, there is good news. Gen Z will find tremendous value in the growth opportunities that come with increased skills and knowledge… as long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms. Their current learning preferences coupled with their techno-behaviors may force continuing education professionals to develop unconventional learning delivery models.

Here are 4 things to consider in your next program planning session:

  1. Would it make sense to develop a program delivery model that is even more accessible and self-directed, allowing learners to learn on their terms, when and where it’s convenient for them—any hour, any place? At the same time, might your new program build in opportunities for more virtually-based social connection and collaboration with peers and with instructors, locally and across the globe? Could this social connection continue after the training session is complete, to help reduce any “learning loss” that may normally occur?
  1. Is there an opportunity to develop curricula that allow attendees to co-create content (versus having all materials pre-produced and pre-distributed) as a means to facilitate learning?
  1. How might you incorporate new technologies across multiple platforms to teach and reinforce a particular concept, including print, video, interactive tools, virtual and 4D technology? Could you use a printed piece to introduce a concept, and then offer multiple ways to conduct a more in-depth, hands-on exploration of the concept?
  1. Do you need to take a closer look at your current training materials and course books and determine if there are opportunities to restructure and redesign them to provide shorter blocks of information with more visual cues that support the text?

Although the needs and preferences of Millennials are still extremely relevant—soon they 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 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. And it’s never too early to start planning ahead.