“Every human is looking for the exact same thing—to live out the truest expression of themselves as a human being.” – Oprah Winfrey, ATD 2019, Keynote Address
In her opening keynote speech at the Association for Talent Development’s annual conference and expo, ATD 2019, in Washington D.C., Oprah Winfrey spoke to a packed house of training and continuing education professionals about the idea of living out the truest expression of ourselves, applying it to the crowd of thousands of training and development professionals seated before her. She explained that by applying our talents toward the greater good, a paradigm switch from the conventional business mindset, we can achieve even more benefits from our own talents—an idea that resonated with the education professionals in the audience.
As training professionals and association leaders, you are responsible for fostering the advancement of your industry through education. In essence, you are helping others develop and apply their talents toward the greater good.
As organizations that set the standards for an industry, associations are also catalysts of change. It’s your role to both lead change based on new industry developments and respond to it, as societal norms and expectations change. Seth Godin, best-selling author, entrepreneur, teacher and ATD 2019 keynote speaker put it eloquently (and bluntly) when he stated at the top of his address, “The essence of your work is that you make change happen – or why bother.”
Adapting Technology for Educational Programming in a Changing World
We know what we do and why, but how do we stay at the top of our game and keep up with the ever-changing needs of learners who are now accustomed to remote work settings, the gig economy, and of course, technological advances in their field? Walking the floors of ATD it was apparent how fast-changing and competitive the education technology landscape really is. So, all we need is new learning technology and all our nuanced challenges as trainers and educators will get better, right? “Crapola!” pronounced an energetic Elliott Masie, education technology expert credited with coining the term “e-learning” and ATD 2019 speaker.
In his speech, Masie focused on first discovering how learners are changing and then deciding how and what technology to apply in order to make their experiences better.
So, how are learners changing? Thanks to the advent of the internet and mobile technology, learners can now search for answers by themselves, without a formal manual or instructor. They are engaging in self-directed, curiosity-based knowledge consumption. And what they find must be highly relevant, bite-sized content for microlearning—education industry jargon Masie sardonically called “learning words”. He suggests that we not pigeonhole ourselves into industry terminology, but rather focus on providing value to learners and their changing needs with the technology we choose to implement or create.
Other adult learners may want to gain the knowledge they need on the job, at the exact time they need it—just-in-time learning. In other words, people don’t want to memorize information and wait a long time before they can actually use it. Masie suggests there is “too much training at the wrong time.” And he’s not just talking about this in reference to millennials, which is often the microcosm for discussion among training pros on such topics.
“I’m not a fan of the millennial conversation. I don’t believe millennials are different. Anyone living in 2019 is different.”
Education professionals have historically relied on developing learning programs and strategies based on demographics. But this isn’t a relevant way to think about education anymore. We have all become equally reliant upon technology and tend to use it fairly similarly. Instead, think about how to use technology more thoughtfully to support the learner experience at any age.
Do Better, Not More
As training professionals walking the floors at an international conference and expo like ATD, it’s easy to not only be inspired by the advances in education tech, but it’s also quite easy to be intimidated—especially for association leaders who many times feel they are already behind the ball of their corporate counterparts. Stay calm, it’s ok to feel overwhelmed or to feel that you or your organization could be doing better when it comes to implementing technology into your programming. Instead, focus on doing better at meeting the needs of your learners with thoughtful curriculum. Start incorporating technology by breaking up and reorganizing your existing training content into bite-sized chunks that your learners can access easily on their mobile phones. Test and experiment with content delivery methods for effectiveness first before jumping into a costly overhaul of your education technology.
After speaking with attendees at ATD, we know that technology updates are top of mind. And according to our annual training trends report, they have been for quite some time. Across industries, whether association or corporate, be assured that not everyone is there yet. Not everyone needs to be there yet. Be thoughtful in your approach to how you implement technology and your courses and your learners will be better off for it.
For the fifth year in a row, Omnipress has tracked the evolution of conference content and the role it plays at an association’s annual event. While educational content continues to provide a significant amount of member value, this year’s report highlights some changes on the horizon: emerging themes, new challenges and increased opportunities for organizations.
Delivering Educational Content: Current Challenges and Future Opportunities
For instance, this year’s report indicates that meeting planners they are being asked to deliver conference content in more formats than ever before. On average, associations are providing content in 2.6 formats—up from 2.4 in 2018, and 2.1 in 2017. The most noted increase was in the number of respondents who are providing three and even four different content delivery methods for a single conference. The reason? Attendees have indicated this is what they want.
Conference demographics are more diverse than ever, with four generations now living concurrently in the workplace. Additionally, there are ways than ever for people to consume content, which is creating a diverse set of preferences that don’t always follow generational stereotypes.
While associations look for ways to provide device-agnostic content, budget does come into play—particularly with other internal stakeholders. Few meeting planners have the luxury—nor the bandwidth—to do it all, leading to some tough decisions.
Other conference industry trends from our 2019 report:
Association membership trends mirror conference attendance trends, which means membership and conference teams need to work together more closely to achieve organizational goals
While organizations are offering more content formats at the conference, there is still uncertainty on what the content mix will look like in the future
Emerging learning trends are starting to have an impact at the conference
Organizations have not yet fully addressed the needs of younger generations
The report compiles data from an online survey of 150 association and meeting professionals to understand how organizations use educational content to increase visibility, extend their value and reach new attendees.
The purpose of this report is not just to present the data, but to help facilitate a cross-team discussion on how to leverage your greatest asset—education—to advance your mission and achieve strategic goals.
Your annual conference is so much more than an agenda of sessions, speakers and networking events. It’s an exciting, energized community of attendees, where innovative ideas are shared and new relationships are forged. You go to great lengths to convey this excitement and energy on your event website and in your marketing and promotional materials. But the program booklet—as one of the last items checked off a meeting planner’s to-do list—often takes on a more practical and utilitarian format. This may be a huge missed opportunity.
One of the first interactions attendees have with your conference is with the program guide. This booklet, while providing all necessary logistical information for attendees, also sets the tone of the meeting, and helps the attendee prepare for what’s to come. How are you hoping to engage attendees at your event? Do you want them to actively participate in sessions and interact with the content? Collaborate with speakers and each other? Do you want to challenge them or pull them outside their comfort zone? The design of your program book can help promote and facilitate these objectives.
What Inspired Program Book Design Looks Like: An Example from ASAE
We’d like to give a shout-out to ASAE’s newest conference, Xperience Design Project (xdp). This event for meeting planners focuses on helping attendees re-think their own meetings and find new and innovative ways to deliver educational content. The branding and promotion of the event certainly communicated this. But as an attendee, I didn’t realize just how different this event was until I started paging through the program book when I first arrived. I could tell immediately this was meant to be a fun, energizing meeting. This extraordinary program book, designed by 360 Live Media, included design elements such as non-linear text, bold typography, graphic cues and on-page interactive elements, the xdp program book made it clear I was being expected to actively participate in my own learning. I was excited to be there even before the first speaker took the podium.
The takeaway: it’s not just about delivering relevant information to attendees, it’s HOW that information is delivered. Challenge yourself to think about how you can present the schedule, session descriptions, speaker bios, etc., in a way that really makes a lasting impact on attendees and sets the tone for the event, getting them fired up before the first session.
Six Design Pro Tips for Your Conference Booklet
First and foremost, your program book needs to be easy for any attendee to navigate. Think of it as user experience (UX) for printed materials. Beyond that, here are six aspects of your booklet design to consider.
Font and Typography
There is a documented psychology behind font choices and how they trigger ideas and emotions. Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, convey a feeling of class and heritage, making them appear formal. Sans serif fonts, like Arial and Helvetica, convey a straight-forward, simple and no-nonsense attitude. Modern fonts, like Futura, convey feelings of intelligence and chic style and have been reported to attract the attention of Millennials. The font choice you make throughout your program book should support the overall “vibe” of your meeting.
Also, don’t be afraid to go big and bold with font size in unexpected places. This is a great way to provide an assertion of key ideas and themes that attendees will expect to hear, gaining their buy-in before the meeting starts.
Color and positioning
Within your brand palette, do you have any secondary colors that provide an interesting contrast? Use these colors to highlight key aspects of your meeting content, make a statement or direct attendees.
Icons have emerged as a popular element of design, particularly on the web, because they provide quick and sometimes complex visual cues quickly while minimizing the amount of text needed. Incorporating iconography into your conference program booklet provides consistent visual cues throughout the book that help direct the reader. Depending upon the icon style being used, you can interject a bit of whimsy to make a more formal-looking program book feel approachable and conversational.
One of the top trends in meeting design for the past several years has been providing a more interactive and collaborative approach to the learning process. Conferences are no longer a place for attendees to simply consume learning; they are active participants. Your conference booklet can help facilitate and promote this approach as well. Sure, providing dedicated pages to take notes is always handy, but can you take it a step further? Provide thought-provoking questions and space to answer them. Include short workbook-like activities in your program book. Or, give them a specific place to take notes about people they’ve met.
Maximize Branding Opportunities Wherever You Can
One of our own fan-favorite program books features a simple, but impactful change from the previous year—we happen to know this because they are also one of our customers. The Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE) incorporated tabs in their book to make it easy for users to navigate. Taking it a step further, they used what is often blank space to extend their event branding. The flood of bold color and graphics on what is traditionally a blank page helped to reinforce the perception that this is a high-quality, professional conference.
Find Inspiration Outside of Your Industry
Some of the most cutting-edge event designs come from cutting-edge conferences, such as Adobe’s 99U and the Facebook Developer Conference. Take a look at how they are presenting program information and then see how you might be able to scale the execution to fit your audience.
Your conference booklet can—and should—do more than simply provide logistical information. By incorporating a more inspirational design you can help shape the attendee experience well before the opening session begins.
While conference attendees love good food, great networking opportunities, and creative activities, what they really value most about your event are the insightful, inspiring, and educational session presentations. Which makes the task of sourcing high-quality content extremely important. For many event planners, running a call for abstracts, papers, posters, and presentations is one of the most time and resource-intensive tasks. But it doesn’t have to be.
Best Practices Guide for Sourcing High-Quality Content
We consulted with four of our resident abstract management experts, Erin, John, Dave, and Paul, to develop the Best Practices Guide for High-Quality Content. Using their experience working with hundreds of conferences each year, they provide ten simple changes meeting planners can make to simplify the abstract submission and review process.
As a follow-up to this guide, we sat down with these experts to dive further into the advice provided within the guide.
Q&A With Four Abstract Management Experts
Q: One of the tips featured in the guide is to “prepare your forms to collect all necessary data.” What does this mean, and why is it so important?
Erin: People spend a lot of time unnecessarily chasing down data from submitters at the eleventh hour because either they didn’t think to collect it, or they didn’t think they would need it. It’s really important to first understand where all of the collected data is ultimately going to live and how it’s going to be used, so we can help our customers get exactly what they need.
John: If the planner has a sample of what their final conferences materials will be, possibly from a previous conference, we try and get that early on in the abstract management process. The customer doesn’t think of the data the same way we do, and they shouldn’t have to. That’s our job. We look at the final conference materials and make the connection between what’s actually being published versus what’s being included on the collection form.
Paul: Here’s a real customer example of why collecting all necessary data on your form is so important. I noticed that one customer published the city, state, and country for each of their authors, but they weren’t asking us to collect it on the form. We had time to change that before the call for papers opened, which ultimately saved them a lot of time!
Dave: Best practice tip: If you know you’re going to need specific information, make it required in the first round of your call for papers, so you’re asking people to come into the abstract management system as infrequently as possible – they’ll really appreciate it!
Erin: At the same time, we do want to be mindful of how much people are asked to provide early on. We push our customers to really think about whether they really need some information, and if they are really going to use it. It’s a fine balance that we help customers maintain.
Q: Are there other ways that author or submitter data is sometimes used that customers don’t always think of?
Dave: Reports! Sometimes a customer will need to have certain data sets for internal reporting purposes, but they may not have collected it because they weren’t thinking of reports at the time. But the reality is, even though the conference site is still being built and they won’t need to access reports for several months, providing all data sets upfront helps streamline the process.
Q: What about data quality? How can we ensure an author or speaker provides a complete submission?
John: It’s all about the fields you use on your submission form. You have to break up data into smaller pieces. Otherwise five people will fill out the same field five different ways.
Erin: This is a huge culprit! For instance, don’t just include a “Name” field. Break out “First Name” and “Last Name” into two separate fields.
Paul: And, think of everything your authors are going to want to provide, like credentials and designations. If you don’t have a specific space for it, they’ll find a place to put it anyway, and that causes a lot of unnecessary data cleanup on the back end.
Dave: Co-authors can be tricky too. If the submitter is the only person that has access to that submission, they’re going to have a hard time completing it if they don’t know all of their co-authors’ information. So, on your instructions, tell your authors to gather all of their co-author information ahead of time, and it will be a much easier process for them.
Q: Speaking of instructions, how do they factor into the submission and review process?
Dave: Instructions are incredibly important! Having clearly-written instructions that are easily accessible at the right points during the submission and review process will increase compliance and quality substantially.
John: Keep your instructions very simple, and break them out into smaller, more digestible pieces. Some customers have a tendency to try and over-explain, and this actually causes more confusion and misinterpretation.
Erin: Be sure to have a brief overview of basic qualifiers on your conference website, where the call for papers is being advertised. This allows authors to determine whether their topic is a good fit before they get into the system and start a submission.
Paul: And don’t forget about your reviewers. Be sure you write instructions for them as well.
Q: If you could share just one piece of abstract management wisdom with all meeting planners, what would it be?
Erin: Finalize the big decisions about how you want the process to go at the very beginning, so you don’t find yourself having to change anything while you’re already in the middle of collection. I’ve seen this happen with some large committees, and the customer then had to go back and ask hundreds of authors to come back into the system and update information.
John: I’m going to add to that and say that it’s also important to determine early on who will be the designated point of contact for everything, and funnel all communication and decisions through this person. It simplifies the process tremendously, and you won’t have multiple committee members inadvertently providing conflicting information.
Paul: Provide a designated contact to field questions from submitters—particularly new submitters. Some customers don’t think they want to do this for a variety of reasons. Not having this available and accessible creates frustration for a potentially high-quality speaker.
Dave: Consider reducing the number of reviewers you recruit. I’ve had customers that wanted to assign a single reviewer to a single submission. With fewer reviewers, you actually get better data because they are seeing a bigger pool of submissions and have more context on quality.
John: I think the biggest thing for meeting planners or program chairs to know is they don’t have to be tied to legacy processes just because that’s the way it’s always been done. There may be an easier way to achieve the same outcome, so let us help you explore that option. That’s what we’re here for.
The concept of user experience (UX) is most often associated with online or web-based interactions, not printed conference materials. However, the actual definition is much broader than that, and encompasses all aspects of an end-user’s interaction with a company and any of its products or services—whether online or offline.
As meeting planners and event marketers, we take great care to ensure attendees can easily navigate our online conference tools. From finding relevant schedule and session information on the website, to making online registration as simple as possible, to providing the ability to search and download the appropriate conference materials before, during, and after the event. We understand that every touchpoint we have with an attendee helps shape their opinion of our conference, and affects whether or not they choose to return. So why limit the focus of UX to just their online interactions? To illustrate this concept even more, we dig into managing the user experience of a large piece of printed conference content that we are all familiar with – the conference program booklet.
User experience and your conference program booklet
Your printed conference program booklet is more than just another way to capture sponsorship revenue. Most attendees use this printed content in tandem with digital tools, such as a mobile conference app, which allows them to access content while also being social with other members. Just like an app or website, attendees must be able to access the information they’re looking for quickly with your printed program, and use the materials as they were intended. If this is accomplished, you are on your way to having a good user experience with your program book.
Program booklet graphic design
When managing a print project like a conference program booklet, it goes without saying that the overall design of the book is a key component to usability and the attendee’s experience with it. Layout and formatting should be done in a way that helps guide readers through the material, provides consistent visual cues, and appropriately reflects your brand. Other key aspects of the conference program book’s design that aren’t always top-of-mind are size, fonts, paper, and binding, which all affect user experience.
Before you start the design and production of your next program booklet and other printed conference materials, here are some questions to take into consideration that will help you incorporate UX into your conference materials:
What is the purpose of the conference program booklet?
If it includes abstracts or other content designed for in-depth reading and ongoing reference, creating a book that is thick enough to have a printed spine will help ensure it becomes “bookshelf material” for the attendee after the conference ends. At the same time, be sure it’s easy to pack in a suitcase for the return trip.
Conversely, if the program guide is meant to serve as a quick-reference tool while on-site, a smaller thinner, or even a pocket-guide piece may be preferable.
Who is your average conference attendee?
If the demographics of your conference tend to skew older, be sure to use a larger font size that is easily legible, even in dimly lit rooms. Avoid pairing colors that don’t have enough contrast, which also decreases legibility.
Some attendees tend to prefer a booklet that is more portable, keeping it in their pocket rather than a briefcase or bag, which may make smaller booklets a smarter choice.
Are you providing added value with your printed conference materials?
If your attendees love having the program booklet as a place to take notes during the conference, then paper stock and binding type matters. Use an uncoated stock for notes pages, as they are easier to write on. Additionally, ensure your piece lays flat. Coil binding works better than saddle-stitch for this purpose.
If your program is a source of revenue for your conference, then you want to give your sponsors (and exhibitors) a chance to stand out, while providing the information that attendees are looking for. Advertising space should be large enough to feature a meaningful message and help attendees find them on-site.
How much content do you have?
If yours is a large, multi-day and or multi-track conference with a significant amount of content (sessions, speakers, special events, exhibitors, etc.), you want to make your program booklet as easy for users to navigate as possible. Consider including a table of contents at the front, so users can find relevant information easily.
You can include tabs to break up sections of content. Physical tabs sit out further from the book, making them easy to see. However, sometimes this makes the book harder to store. Bleed tabs provide a graphic reference to each section while remaining in-line with the rest of the book.
User experience applies across all attendee touchpoints of a conference. As you’re reviewing and evaluating your online and digital tools, be sure to apply the same scrutiny to your printed conference materials, such as your program booklet, as well. Doing so will help ensure that attendees have a positive user experience with all aspects of your conference.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that this was going to be a big year for our CATALYST online abstract management system, as we maintain a strong focus on ongoing product development, industry partnerships and third-party integrations. We have been doing a lot of work behind-the-scenes that I’m very happy to share with all of you.
Partnerships and Integrations
Omnipress has secured several industry partnerships that help to make CATALYST even more accessible to meeting planners who are looking to simplify their next call for abstracts, including:
Community Brands – Tech Partner
Conference Direct – Preferred Supplier
ACGI/Association Anywhere – Resource Partner
Fuzion — Network Member
We are also actively integrating CATALYST with other event tech and association platforms, including many of the leading AMS providers to provide a more seamless user experience.
Over the past several months, we have launched dozens of new features and updates that further increase data integrity, provide even more flexibility for meeting planners, and provide an even better experience for end users. Just a few of the highlights include:
More advanced review assignment rules so meeting planners can easily implement a variety of options within the same collection
Even greater flexibility filtering data and configuring reports to fit your needs, reducing or eliminating the need to spend time manually re-working spreadsheets
More robust schedule conflict detection
Ability to collect payments in CATALYST, with 100% of the collected revenue going directly to your organization’s account
Integration with iThenticate/CrossCheck Plagiarism Detection Software to help uphold the integrity of your submissions
Future Product Roadmap
Even with all of these advancements, we continue to work toward our goal of ensuring CATALYST sets the industry standard for online abstract and speaker management. Today, we’re currently working on strengthening the integration from CATALYST to your conference material outputs so it’s even easier for you to get that content into your attendees’ hands. Watch for more information on that to be released later this year.
For over 40 years, our single focus has been to help associations and other organizations simplify the process of collecting, producing and distributing educational content. The investments we continue to make are with the sole purpose to continue this mission.
How you deliver conference content to your attendees is changing. Thanks to on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, the idea of omnipresent content—content that is available whenever, wherever, and in the format that is most convenient—is now the expectation. Associations typically offer some form of digital access to event materials, but the idea of providing a single digital format is no longer enough to provide attendees with the user experience they expect.
Feedback from attendees is prompting associations to look for ways to meet these new expectations. Rather than choosing one format, offer your attendees access to a variety of digital content to create a seamless, accessible experience that can heighten the educational value of your event.
Different digital format provide different benefits
It’s common for conference professionals to assume all digital conference products provide the same features, benefits and experiences. In reality, online conference proceedings, mobile apps and USB drives each bring their own unique set of benefits to your conference attendees.
Online Conference Proceedings
Online conference proceedings make conference materials accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Attendees can easily search by session, track and speaker to select the material that interests them prior to the conference.
With online conference proceedings, you can offer a preview of your event’s sessions. These previews can help people decide whether or not they want to attend your conference based on tangible examples of the information you provide. And, by hosting all of these items in one central location, you create a great online resource for attendees to return to after the conference has ended.
A conference app is best for portability and on-site information. Your conference attendees can use your mobile app to navigate around the conference using GPS technology, maps and can build their own personal schedule that fits right into their pocket.
Apps also help drive engagement during your conference. Features like live polling, social timelines and direct messaging between attendees and speakers facilitate one of the main reasons your attendees come to your conference year after year: networking.
Relying on the venue’s WiFi is never a good idea, which is why USB drives are great for storing conference materials. The devices are small and easy to carry, especially when they are stored in unique shapes or useful objects like pens and keychains.
One of the biggest perks of USBs is that they make it convenient to access information. While web addresses might be easily forgotten, a physical keychain or item on your attendee’s desk at work will remind them of your association, conference and the information they learned from you.
Why you need a comprehensive approach
Since each digital format has its own set of unique benefits, using multiple options at your event will give attendees the most flexibility in how they engage with your materials. Don’t think of them as a replacement for each other, but rather think about how each option fills a different role in creating a seamless educational experience.
Here are a few examples to illustrate why your conference should offer a comprehensive mix of digital content formats.
John is interested in attending your conference and goes online to find example conference materials to get a better idea of what your association offers. When he sees your conference proceeding sneak peeks, he registers and uses the online conference proceedings to figure out which sessions he wants to attend. When the day of the conference arrives, John wants to reference the conference materials, but cannot access the venue’s WiFi. Fortunately, he can still pull up materials using the USB keychain you provided at check-in.
Mary likes to be able to reference conference materials during break-out sessions, but does not want to be weighed down by her laptop all day during your event. Instead, she accesses the conference materials available through your mobile app. During breaks, she also uses the app to post about her experiences on the social timeline and sends a question to a speaker she didn’t get the opportunity to speak with. After the conference is over, Mary deletes the app to free up space on her phone, but is able to log onto your online conference library to reinforce the information she learned at the event.
Susan is traveling from out of state to your conference and is uneasy about being in a new city. Fortunately, she has downloaded your mobile app, which provides her with GPS directions to the event location and helps her navigate the city during lunch and breaks. However, she finds it difficult to find the exact conference paper she’s looking for on her small phone screen, so she pulls out her laptop and uses the USB your association provided to access and search the materials to find the paper she is looking for.
Give your attendees the format freedom they desire
Providing content in multiple formats can be a challenge if you don’t have a strategy for managing them. One common pitfall is keeping data updated and consistent in multiple places as your content changes. The best way to avoid a data gap is to create a single source of record that is always up to date.
Updating content in multiple places and coordinating with multiple vendors is another scenario that can make managing multiple formats difficult, so consider working with a single vendor that offers all the formats you need.
By offering digital content in a variety of formats you’ll give your attendees the freedom to access materials whenever and wherever they want. All of the digital formats work together to increase the educational value of your event and create a top-notch conference experience.
This year’s State of the Conference Industry Report makes clear that association professionals are facing new challenges as they strive to meet their attendees’ changing expectations.
Between the growing number of formats associations use to deliver content, the variety of initiatives designed to increase attendee engagement, and the wide-ranging expectations of today’s attendees, managing conference content is becoming an increasingly difficult task.
Take a look at the infographic below to see some of the highlights from the report. For a more complete view of how association professionals are adapting to the realities of omnipresent content, be sure to download the full report.
Read the full report to learn how other associations use content to engage attendees before, during and after their events.
Conference printing is one of the last tasks you have to tackle before your annual meeting begins. And who can blame you? It’s not like speakers wait until the last minute to submit their final presentations, right?
Backed up against a deadline, many associations think their only option is to choose a local printer to do the job. After all, aren’t all printers are the same? Not so fast!
Associations preparing for an event have different needs than other types of organizations. A printer that works with associations recognizes this and offers services that offer faster turnaround times, higher-quality results and more consistent branding designed specifically for an event.
In other words, a printer that works with associations:
Understands that your deadlines are tight.
It only takes one late delivery for associations to understand the value that a specialist printer can provide. Event professionals always run up against the deadline, but printers that work specifically with your kind of organization have production processes in place to handle the quick turnaround. When you work with us, you know that your materials will be delivered on time.
Recognizes that last-minute changes are common, necessary and largely out of your control.
Whether you set the date for final collection a month or a week before your conference, you’ll still get entirely too many late papers. Omnipress gets it. To get your materials to your event on time means there does need to be a final cut-off when materials must be received, but we can push this date later than most providers can. We are experts in dealing with an influx of last-minute changes.
Knows the basics of how conference materials are laid out.
If your program pages come to us print-ready, that’s great! Many associations need help getting there, though, and our team of designers are happy to provide formatting services to make it happen. Just send us a sample of last year’s program and we’ll do our best to match it. We work with hundreds of associations each year, so we’ll have a good idea of how you want your materials to look.
Has seen many variations on the standard conference program.
If you’re looking to create something a little different, odds are, Omnipress has seen it before. But, if you do bring something brand-new to the table, we’ll be well-equipped to handle it. Over the years, our project managers and production team have built up an impressive portfolio, meaning you can have your materials customized and printed in a wide variety of formats.
Knows you have many plates spinning, and that conference content isn’t always your top priority.
Conference planners have many different priorities, but that’s okay, because our top priority is delivering your content. We can help you manage the process with little input from you. We won’t make any major decisions without your approval, of course, but our project managers can take a lot off your to-do list while you’re taking care of other tasks.
Realizes that some people who work with you are volunteers or work part-time.
Coordinating schedules can be tough, even when everyone is in the office at the same time. When volunteers and part-time workers are thrown into the mix, it can be even harder to stay on the same page (sometimes literally!). We understand if the ad pages are being produced on a different timeline than the abstracts, which are trickling in on a schedule all of their own. We are flexible and can revise the program as more pieces are added until everything is ready.
Understands that content is the most valuable asset your association has.
When it comes right down to it, your association’s content is what keeps attendees coming back to your conference every year. When those conference programs or proceedings land in the hands of attendees, your association’s reputation is on the line. It all has to be right, or it’s all wrong, and Omnipress can help you deliver perfection.
Does every printer truly understand the specific needs of associations? According to our clients, the answer is no. Associations trust us because we know conferences and can empathize with busy meeting planners, executive directors and other association professionals.
Several members of the Omnipress team made the trek up to Vancouver recently to participate in this year’s AMCI Annual Meeting. The event was packed with interesting sessions on a number of topics, but if you had to condense it all into one word, it would be “sustainability.”
The association world has seen dramatic growth over the past 20 years, and taking steps to sustain that growth into the future was an underlying theme of each presentation. The speakers at the event offered many ideas, but in general, there were three approaches to help associations build on the success of the past two decades:
Approach #1: Creating Excellence Within Your Organization
Several presenters at the conference suggested that organizational success begins by looking within. These speakers focused on making internal improvements to your culture, mission or processes.
Virtual workforces: This organizational structure is becoming increasingly common for both corporations and associations. For associations, there are some clear advantages in creating this type of environment:
Allowing employees to work off-site is an effective incentive in the hiring process. Millennials, in particular, are interested in non-traditional work environments, and the ability to work remotely is an enticing benefit.
Having a de-centralized staff creates greater flexibility for growth. In a traditional scenario, growing your staff often results in outgrowing your office space. When you have staff that works from home, you can quickly scale up without needing to find larger offices.
“The Givens”: This presentation focused on the culture within an association. “The Givens” refer to those aspects of your mission statement that are so common, they really are a given. Boilerplate values like integrity and honesty don’t need to be part of your mission statement because these qualities are assumed. Instead, your mission statement should include the values that only your organization can provide.
Approach #2: Promoting Your Association to New Members
Marketing continues to be another area that generates interest from association professionals. Using content marketing for promoting the value of membership is still something that many struggle to put into practice. As older members retire and leave the association, online content marketing is an effective way to reach the next generation of young professionals.
AMCs that can provide guidance and best practices for associations to reuse their content can add tremendous value to the organizations they work with.
Approach #3: Improving Member Engagement
For most associations, increasing member growth and engagement are top priorities. Educational sessions that delve into these topics are always crowd favorites, and one presentation combined both of these elements into one interesting hour.
Associations that have a large number of Baby-Boomer members are facing an interesting scenario: As members retire from the workforce, they may not be ready to retire from the association. In fact, retirement may allow these senior members an opportunity to participate in ways that were not possible while they were employed. One solution for these members is for them to serve as mentors to younger members. Mentorships offer a new kind of engagement for members and provides a tangible benefit for younger members that are looking to advance their careers.
In addition to these sessions, the 2018 AMCI Annual Meeting provided many opportunities to talk with peers about how they are working to keep the momentum going. Listening to the ideas presented at the event, it’s clear that the association industry is poised to continue the success of the past 20 years.
There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes at Omnipress!
I wanted to use this month’s post to share some of the exciting things our customers can expect from us in 2018. You can watch the video or continue reading below.
The conference-related initiatives we are focusing on this year build on the success we’ve had launching our newest abstract management system, CATALYST. Customer reaction to CATALYST has been fantastic and there has been a lot of positive feedback on the flexibility of the system.
While CATALYST remains an efficient way for event professionals to collect and manage their conference content, we also have some new initiatives underway that will make it easier than ever to get that content into attendees’ hands.
One clear message we’ve heard from talking with our customers is that there is no single format that meets the needs of all attendees. As a result of these conversations, we’re investing in the tools and processes that will help meeting planners create—and manage—a consistent content experience for all attendees, whether they prefer a printed program book, mobile app or online and offline access to digital materials.
Omnipress consists of more than our products, however. I am privileged to lead an amazing team that is truly dedicated to seeing our customers succeed. As our customer roster continues to grow in 2018, we’ll be making investments in our staff and the tools they rely on, to make sure we deliver the outstanding customer support our clients expect from us. We know a lot of our customers think of us as an extension of their staff, and that is a compliment we want to continue to hear throughout 2018, and beyond.
Jonny Popp – Omnipress General Manager:
“2018 is going to be a very exciting year at Omnipress!
“Back in 2016, we launched our new online abstract management system, CATALYST. The first time a meeting planner sees CATALYST, a lot of time their first reaction is how clean, how modern that the interface looks. After that though, they start to realize how flexible the system can be and how many different things it can collect and different ways it can be configured, to really fit their needs.
“As we move through 2018, you can expect to see a lot of new and exciting things from Omnipress.
“We have been investing in our other tools, we’ve been investing in our people and our processes. Because as good as technology is, and as much as technology makes a difference, it’s really the people that are behind it, they are supporting you and what you are trying to do, that really makes the difference.
“We know that planning a meeting is hard and there’s a lot of work that goes into it and a lot of steps along the way, and we want to make sure that our tools and processes are helping you along the way.”
Developing a plan to promote your event is a critical part of conference planning. Marketing can be expensive and time-consuming, and consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising. This is where content marketing comes into play.
Content marketing is the practice of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and engage a target audience. This method goes hand-in-hand with your goal as an association: to educate industry professionals and association members.
Luckily, as an event planner, you have a secret weapon: you sit on a goldmine of valuable information. This allows you to:
Connect with professionals looking for industry-specific information
Remind members of the value your association provides year-round
Build awareness of your conference and other events
Extend the life of the materials you work hard to collect
These shiny knowledge-nuggets are not something you have to go mining for; they are already at your fingertips.
Why Content Marketing Works for Associations
Content marketing has become one of the most popular ways for organizations to promote themselves online. Associations have some unique advantages when it comes to content marketing:
You have existing material. The biggest barrier to content marketing is creating new material. Your existing library of content gives you a head start.
Your review process provides authority. You can be confident that your peer-reviewed materials are insightful. This can be especially handy if you are not a subject matter expert.
You have access to the latest thinking. Your conference is an industry leader in providing timely, relevant information, allowing you to continue your role as a thought leader throughout the year.
You get feedback from the industry. Your conference feedback can provide insight into which topics are most in-demand. Think of this as “focus group” input on the material in your collection.
Reusing your existing content allows you to give your content a second life and extend its use beyond your conference. Using actual event content gives potential attendees a glimpse of the kinds of material at your conference so they can see for themselves why yours is a “can’t miss” event.
Develop a Content Marketing Plan
The first step in launching a content marketing campaign is assessing your existing materials. Determine what kind of content you have available and where it will be located. Your association’s website may seem like a good idea at first, but as time goes on, content can get lost or buried as the site gets updated. It’s best to create a standalone digital conference library. This will give visitors an idea of the broad range of information they can rely on your conference for.
It’s also important to determine a schedule that you will be able to follow. Be realistic. Will you be able to consistently post two pieces of content each week? Or is one piece of content every two weeks more likely? The rate that you choose is less important than your ability to stay on schedule. Readers stay engaged with a blog or social media profile that is updated on a regular basis.
Now that you’ve identified the most relevant materials and decided on how much time you can devote to sharing content online, you’ll need to consider the best ways your association can reach its followers. How can you make your content clickable? One way to effectively grab your readers’ attention is by using images.
Create Images for Social Media
The web is becoming an increasingly visual medium. Adding visual elements to your posts is one of the most effective ways you can increase the impact of your messaging. In fact, posts that include images see 650% more engagement than posts with just text alone.
Here are three conference-specific scenarios where visuals would be an effective way to promote your event. For each scenario, there is an example of an online tool well-suited for creating attention-grabbing artwork with minimal effort.
Scenario #1 – Promote a session by a prominent speaker
The speakers at your conference are a major factor in drawing in attendees each year, so it should be no surprise that speakers make for effective promotional content.
Imagine you’ve just finished your speaker selection process and are ready to announce the keynote speaker. You could certainly type out a post listing their names and the topics they will be discussing (Borrrrrr-ingggg!). A much more engaging approach is to present the same information with a visual design to it.
Pikiz is an image creator that is perfect for creating simple images that include text. Upload your own background image or choose from the images they have available. Then, double-click on the text box to add a customized message. Another great feature is that each social network has its own preset. This makes it super simple to post great-looking images to your favorite site.
Scenario #2 – Present research findings as an infographic
A presentation from last year’s conference coincides with some hot new research that is making the rounds. You know this is a great opportunity to join the conversation and promote your event. Since the presentation is available in your digital content library, it’s ready for people to see. But how do you make sure your post stands out from the crowd of others? Use the findings from the presentation and display it as an infographic!
Creating an infographic is a simple three-step process with infogr.am. Choose a design template, enter your data into their spreadsheet viewer and click share. That’s it! The program will create a shareable link to the social media site of your choice. You can also upload your own images or choose different fonts if you want a more customized design.
Scenario #3 – Call for award nominations using your own branded graphic
Part of your annual pre-event strategy is to ask for award nominations. You could do what you’ve always done: copy and paste the same text on the same social media networks and get the same results. Or, you can take it to the next level by creating a completely custom design (no designer needed)!
Canva is like working with a design pro that has dozens of designs ready for you to choose from (but doesn’t charge by the hour). Once you log in to Canva, you’ll see dozens of customizable templates sorted by format. Whether you are looking to create an image for social media, your blog or a poster, Canva has a file ready for you to start designing with. It’s also flexible enough to work with your existing elements. Just add your association logo, a picture of the award and text asking for nominations. You then have the option to share online or download.
Catch Their Eye
A well-designed image is critical in catching the attention of busy professionals, so having a visual presence online these days is essential. Presenting your existing content visually is a great way to keep your event in front of the attendees you want to attract.
Thankfully, the web is full of fast and intuitive ways to create custom graphics. With little effort, you can create designs that convey your message in an interesting and engaging way, and most importantly, in a way your audience enjoys seeing.
The next step is sharing those images and other content on platforms that will help you build and connect with your audience.
Promote Your Event on Social Media
Social media platforms are great hosts for content marketing pieces, particularly visuals. The best part about social media is that it’s not only for sharing content—it’s also great for building communities of like-minded people, just like your association! Each platform has its own strengths, so it’s important to assess these and plan content accordingly when designing a content marketing strategy. Below are a few of the most popular social media platforms to get you started.
Another platform that’s useful for engaging members is Instagram, a photo and video-sharing social media app. Instagram is great for sharing eye-catching graphics and photos to promote your event and attract potential attendees. Users can accompany their photos with captions and hashtags, which help the posts be seen by non-followers.
Instagram is popular with your youngest members, making it the ideal platform for appealing to Millennials and Generation Z. By sharing posts on Instagram, you have a much higher chance of attracting and engaging a younger demographic to your conferences than on other platforms like Facebook. The most important aspect to Instagram is to make sure your posts are visually appealing and include appropriate hashtags to make sure they are seen.
Twitter can be a fantastic tool for event professionals. Its design works well for promoting a conference or creating year-round awareness of your association. Being active on Twitter lets you connect with industry thought-leaders and attendees on a platform that they prefer.
Using original and industry hashtags, retweeting interesting industry sources and sharing quotes and links to your association’s content can transform your Twitter feed into a hub of relevant, valuable industry information. This way, you can keep current members engaged while attracting future members from other parts of the industry.
Twitter is also a great place for personal engagement with industry experts, your conference speakers and your members. Mention speakers in tweets; follow and retweet thought leaders; and like, retweet and reply to your follower’s tweets to create a sense of community while spreading the word about your event.
To reach younger members, try using Snapchat to promote your next conference. Snapchat is a particularly useful social media platform during your event, but can also be used before the conference to build anticipation. Snapchats stories, which last for 24 hours, allow you to share behind-the-scenes photos and videos of event set-up. Your speakers can also “take over” your stories to share some insider information about their presentations or industry topics.
A branded Geofilter can be designed specifically for your event and applied the day of the conference, so your attendees can use it when sending snapchats to their friends or story throughout the day. Not only will the Geofilter feel exclusive due to its limited availability, helping engage your attendees, but it can help spread the word about your association.
Facebook is one of the most-used social media platforms across all age groups, which makes it the perfect place to provide event information and promote the sharing of your conference. Create a Facebook Page for your association where you can post conference information and other content.
You can also create a Facebook Event for your conference and invite current members, encouraging them to invite people who may be interested, as well. This is a free and easy way to spread the word and potentially reach new members through current advocates of your association.
Discover Your Audience’s Interests
Now you know that using conference content as a marketing tool is a great way for your audience to learn about your event and the value it provides.
But did you know that it can also be a great way for you to learn about your audience?
By analyzing the data from your content marketing posts, you can learn a number of important things about your audience. First, you can see what parts of the world your visitors come from; this can help you find speakers from those particular regions to boost attendance at your annual event. You can also identify which sites or platforms best connect you with your members, helping you tune your messages on the most critical platforms moving forward.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to identify which types of content your visitors prefer. This feedback can guide future conference planning as well as future content marketing efforts to best connect you with your audience.
Content marketing can also inform you about your own content. By recognizing what messaging is most effective with your audience, you will be better prepared for conference promotion techniques. Additionally, analytics can teach you which topics generate the most interest among your followers; consider including these topics in your next conference event.
Use the information you gain from your content marketing plan to inform future events, connect with key members and create a more successful content marketing strategy overall.
Make Your Content Work Year-Round
The whole point of content marketing is to show your followers you have value to offer with tangible pieces of content you’ve worked hard to collect. Choose the platforms that best connect with your audience and help your association achieve goals, whether that includes your website, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or one of the many others available online. Most of the content you share can be used across multiple platforms, giving you lots of opportunities to reach new people and prove the value of your event all year long.