The Lighter Weight, Greener Approach to Conference Binders

Feeling the pressure to go green? So was one of our clients when they were looking for a way to convert their three-inch conference binder into more green conference materials. Not only did they end up with “greener” conference materials, but they also impressed their attendees with their new light-weight, versatile materials in multiple formats.

More Bang for their Buck

For the same price, this client was able to convert their three-inch conference binder into three different conference materials:

  1. Conference Notebook. With a conference notebook (or as some call it, a learning journal), they were able to include important information such as the schedule and sponsorship information, as well as evaluations that could be torn out. It also included extra pages for note taking during the meetings, making it less likely that attendees would throw away their notebooks after the conference ended.
  2. USB Drive. All of the content that was once in the heavy binder was now all conveniently placed on a USB drive, including speaker bios, handouts, presentations and sponsor and exhibitor information. The USB also included a note-taking option for attendees who preferred to take notes using their laptops. The USBs were secured to the front cover of the conference notebook.
  3. Hosting Conference Materials Online. By placing content online, attendees had opportunity to view the conference materials online one week prior to the conference and find updated materials after the meeting, allowing them to print their own handouts if they choose. This site was also mobile-friendly, giving attendees quick, convenient, on-site access.

Attendee and Association Reactions

Attendees were very happy with the new products! They loved how there was a place for the flash drive in the notebook so they didn’t have to worry about losing it. This also made the conference materials easier to hand out for the event staff. Additionally, attendees commented on the convenience of having to carry less than a pound of conference material versus the seven-pound binder. Overall, attendees felt like they were receiving more conference materials even though the cost of the new conference materials was the same.

Which methods are your associations using to go green?

Print Makes a Comeback in 2011

Over the past few years, the need to lower costs and “go green” coupled with increasing using of mobile and internet technologies has steered meeting professionals away from providing printed handouts and learning materials at events.

  • Is cost really the issue?
  • Do members and attendees not value hard copy?
  • Has print lost its impact?

Fact: Our printing business is growing. How? Because many training organizations still provide printed educational books (manuals, workbooks, binders, etc.) to help educate their attendees. And since they offer multiple training events at various locations, the need for for a distribution strategy and partner is important.

This doesn’t mean organizers of events should be printing everything, but maybe your organization needs to consider your attendees and members. I hear things like, “our attendees have not pushed back” … but maybe they just stop attending your event (or did not renew membership) because it lacks the educational value and networking they might get somewhere else? Maybe your registration numbers are a reflection of this?

So when this article hit my inbox, “7 Reasons Print Will Make a Comeback in 2011” written by content marketing expert, Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 – The Content Marketing Revolution, I had to read it.

Here are the key points that Joe Pulizzi makes and my reactions to them:

Junta42: What’s Old Is New Again: Social media, online content and iPad applications are all part of the marketing mix today. Still, what excites marketers and media buyers is what IS NOT being done. They want to do something different…something new. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve heard many marketers talk about leveraging print as something new in their marketing mix. Unbelievable.

  • My thoughts: As a marketer and attendee to events, social and new media compete for my attention. I used to find conference programs in my traditional inbox, so when I get something event or education-related in print, I like it. It’s different.

Junta42: Customers Still Need to Ask Questions: We love the Internet because buyers can find answers to almost anything. But where do we go to think about what questions we should be asking? I talked to a publisher last week who said this: “The web is where we go to get answers but print is where we go to ask questions.” The print vehicle is still the best medium on the planet for thinking outside the box and asking yourself tough questions based on what you read. It’s lean back versus lean forward. If you want to challenge your customers (like Harvard Business Review does), print is a viable option.

  • My thoughts: Do people really do their best thinking at their computers? I don’t. Sometimes it’s in my car or while I’m sitting on the couch or on the patio. And, I like having the content that I am working on in print, not my iphone or netbook. I like to write notes and circle things that I need to check out or dig into. That’s hard to do on my computer.

Junta42: Print Still Excites People: I talked to a journalist recently who said it’s harder and harder to get people to agree to an interview for an online story. But mention that it will be a printed feature and executives rearrange their schedule. The printed word is still perceived as more credible to many people than anything on the web. It goes to the old adage, “If someone invested enough to print and mail it, it must be important.” Whether that’s true or not, that is still a widely-held perception.

  • My thoughts: Amen to this point. When the editors of MPI’s One+ Magazine wanted me to write an article about online event communities and told me it would be in their printed magazine, I was ecstatic (did you see it?). Have you ever walked into one of your breakout sessions and asked the attendees if they would like a printed copy of the session handout? I’ve seen this happen in person. Almost 90% of attendees raised their hand. But why? They can get the handouts online.

Junta42: Unplug: More and more people are actively choosing the unplug, or disconnect themselves from digital media. I’m doing this more myself. I’m finding myself turning off my phone and email more to engage with printed material. A year ago I didn’t see this coming. Today, I relish the opportunities when I can’t be reached for comment.

  • My thoughts: With in a few clicks you can go from Google to Amazon to your email to Hootsuite, then back to email, then to… you get my point. I receive 100+ emails and internal messages EVERY day that ask me to click to more external links. I am not telling anyone to not publish content online, but realize you’re competing with the fact that you can lose you reader in just one click. Can you ever get beneath the surface with digital content? Maybe print is just what you need to learn?

What do you think?