[SURVEY RESULTS] Training Professionals: What Are Your Go-To Resources?


A few weeks ago we surveyed continuing education and training professionals to learn more about which resources they turn to for ideas, inspiration and information on trending topics such as micro-learning, blended learning and getting ready for Generation Z. This survey was conducted as a response to what we’ve been hearing from our friends and customers in the industry—that there isn’t a centralized resource specifically for those working within associations.

So where do CE professionals gather online and in person? As expected, in a variety of places. Some are more vertical-centric, while others are geared more toward the corporate training industry, but provide best practices that can be applied across all organization types. There were certainly resources mentioned that we are very familiar with, and others that were completely new to us.

Here is a summary of the results:

A majority of the respondents serve in leadership roles at associations.

We provided a list of the more well-known conferences designed for Training and Education leaders  to choose from. Turns out, our respondents don’t actually attend many of them.  The top conferences attended include the ASAE Annual Meeting and the Association for Talent Development (ATD) International Conference and Exposition.  There were quite a few singular answers provided in the “Other” category, demonstrating just how fractionalized the resource landscape is. Some of the “other” answers provided include:

We then gave the respondents an opportunity to list any and all of the online industry resources (newsletters, blogs, webinars, etc.) they find to be the most valuable for keeping up with trends and best practices. Once again, the answers given were all over the board.

The top online resources include:

Honorable mentions also go to the following:

A number of respondents also mentioned they look for ideas in LinkedIn discussion boards, through discussions with other associations, peers and vendors.

Several times, respondents took the opportunity to tell us they didn’t feel there was a “perfect fit” resource within the industry.

It’s not surprising, then, that respondents overwhelmingly indicated they would be interested in attending more peer-to-peer learning opportunities for association-based continuing education and training professionals, if they were available.

It’s clear that with so many potential resources available, many of which don’t quite get to the core of challenges and opportunities specifically for associations, education and training professionals find it worthwhile to have more opportunities to learn from each other, in both formal and informal settings. Perhaps this will be the start of a larger grassroots movement to make that happen.

Why Does Online Association Content Require a Search Tool?

Do you have large works of association content housed on office shelves or saved digitally in files inaccessible to your members?

With the growth of content marketing and Knowledge Centers, or digital publishing platforms, associations are starting to use this valuable content as a resource to their members.

But to make online content useful, you need to develop a powerful search tool for your users.

  • Searching Content Needs to Be Intuitive.
    Digital publishing platforms can hold a lot of useful content. Unfortunately, making that content available via PDF or Microsoft Word files online isn’t as efficient as it is in print. Users need to intuitively be able to find the specific content most important to them.
  • Quick Search Results is Essential
    Individuals consume content differently online than they do in print. Members want to find exactly what they are looking for quickly. Having an advanced search tool on your content website will lead them to exactly what they’re looking for.

Searchability is Key

Searchability is the key to the success when posting association content online. Members and users will return to your publishing platform again and again if they are able to search your content quickly and easily, and, more important, find what they are looking for.

What kind of online search tool are you providing your members so they find content quickly and intuitively? Let us know on Twitter: #omnipress

3 Must-Have Tools for Conferences

As you may have heard, CareerCast.com named “Event Coordinator” the 6th most stressful job of 2012.

As a person who coordinates meetings and annual conferences for associations, you understand the stress of speakers not hitting their call for final presentations deadline, getting the most current information in the printed conference programs, ensuring those programs arrive on time, making sure your attendees can find their handouts online and offering a website that professionalizes your conference…and all of this is just work-related stress!

While there are a lot of details you need to be concerned about when planning an annual meeting, there are certainly some you SHOULDN’T be worried about. Here are 3 tools you can use to help ease the stress of event planning.

3 Tools to Improve Conferences

  1. Collect, Manage and Review Presentations Using an Online System.
    Stop using email as your tool for collecting your final presentations and start using a system that keeps you organized. Collecting final presentations via email may be better than Fed Ex deliveries, but it certainly doesn’t mean you have a cutting edge collection process. As busy professionals, we understand how easy it is for emails to disappear, sometimes even before we get to see them. (The love/hate relationship with our spam filters is never ending.) Creating one online location for ALL submitters and reviewers streamlines the entire process from your initial call for abstracts to collecting and reviewing speakers’ final presentations.
  2. Provide a Conference Program and Speaker Materials in a Condensed Learning Journal and Flash Drive. More conference materials mean more worry about which conference materials are going to arrive on which day from which vendor at what location. This is completely unnecessary. Instead of having your conference final program, session materials and notepads, try a conference learning journal that includes both your final program and extra note pages in one spiral bound book. Then, attach your flash drive of conference proceedings to the inside cover. And finally, right under that flash drive, include a link or QR code which will lead attendees right to your conference’s online event community where they can download the speaker handouts.
  3. Publishing Your Conference Handouts and Proceedings in a Digital Publishing Platform. Don’t leave it to your presenters to take business cards and send their handouts in a link to session attendees. This is crazy, but it still happens. Start publishing your conference proceedings and session handouts in a consistent online location (better known as a digital publishing platform). Then, keep publishing year after year in this same knowledge center under the same URL… for example, “conferencehandouts.yourassociations.com.” Market this website everywhere (in emails, on the program cover, on session starter slides, etc.). And, if you’re publishing your materials through this digital publishing platform, attendees should just be able to Google it and find it easily.

Spending less time worrying about conference materials will give you more time to focus on more important aspects of planning a meeting or conference.

What are some other resources that would help make your conference planning job less stressful?

Infographic – How to Put Conference Materials Online

Associations understand the importance of putting their session materials, proceedings and other annual meeting content online in order to remain relevant to members and to attract new members.

I know what you’re thinking… “But what is the right way to put conference materials online?”

To answer the question: it depends. (Don’t roll your eyes yet!)

Are you trying to create a year-round online community for attendees to interact? Do you want to become more discoverable by major search engines? Do you need accreditation?

Follow along on this infographic to discover the right way for your association to put conference content online.

Click to zoom, or here is a print-friendly version.

conference handouts websites

How should your association be putting conference materials online?

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Digital Publishing Platforms | Conference Handouts Website or Online Archive?

Looking for a new, affordable way to put conference proceedings, speaker presentations or session handouts online for your next annual meeting?

Or maybe your association is looking for a way to create an entire eLibrary of scholarly publications and technical conference papers from the past 10, 20 or 30+ years?

Most associations are at some stage of creating an online content strategy. Some associations are just looking for a way to quickly place some handouts online, while others are looking for a way to put an entire library of association knowledge online for members and non-members alike to easily find and search.

2 Ways Associations Create Digital Publishing Platforms

Many associations are now using digital publishing platforms for their annual meeting materials and/or full library of educational publications.

Here are two ways you can use a digital publishing platform:

  1. Conference Handout Website: Some associations are using a simplified digital publishing platform to host their symposium materials. It’s a low-cost way to put session handouts, speaker presentations and conference proceedings online for an annual meeting. Websites are all branded, optimized for search engines and have full text and advanced search options so attendees can find the handouts they’re looking for quickly.
  2. Digital Library of Scholarly Content: A full-fledged digital publishing platform hosts and organizes years of conference proceedings and scholarly publications in one centralized hub (we’re talking thousands of documents). This eLibrary has all the benefits of the simple conference handout website, but offers more access management and more customized and advanced features to meet specific objectives.

It’s Not a Learning Management System

It’s important to remember that a digital publishing platform is not a Learning Management System (LMS). Digital publishing platforms (whether they are simple conference websites or full-blown archives of digital content) are discoverable by major search engines, host various types of content from journals to webinars and have advanced search options within the site.

Still confused? Check out more of the differences between a Digital Publishing Platform and LMS.

Is Your Association Attracting Generation Y Membership?

In the words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changin’.”

I’m not sure if Bob Dylan was intending for his 1964 hit to reference associations, but it’s fitting, isn’t it?

Recently, Steve Manicor and Tracy Gundert sat amongst other association professionals at the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (WSAE) meeting where a hot topic was the changing demographic in associations. Networking and educational content were big talking points, and here I’ve mixed in my Generation Y perspective.

Associations are Facing a Shift in Demographics

If we look at associations today, it’s becoming clearer that the median age of members is continuing to rise. In order for associations to continue to grow, it’s important to start looking at ways to attract the next generation.

The problem with attracting Generation Y is that we are of a different breed. As a “Gen Y-er,” I can attest I need more than a face-to-face annual meeting with keynote speakers and a printed manual to join your association.

As you know, networking and educational content remain critical to attracting new members, but technology and the generation gap have complicated things.

Networking Isn’t Just Face-to-Face Anymore

Are you providing your members with a place to network year-round? Are you leveraging your association on Twitter and other social media sites?

Networking remains an important factor in gaining new members, but the way we network has evolved greatly. Networking isn’t just face-to-face anymore, and Generation Y loves to “Facebook stalk.” Before we meet new people face-to-face, we like to check them out on social media and learn about their interests. Whether it’s through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or a conference website, it’s important for associations to provide a place for their members to engage, network and, of course, “Facebook stalk.”

Face-to-Face Meetings Have Evolved, Too

Are your annual meetings educational and fun?

If you’re still holding your annual meeting in outdated session rooms of older convention halls with the buzzing fluorescent lights, metal chairs and one-way speaker communication, you’re risking your members being uncomfortable, bored and not engaged. The associations attracting Generation Y members are leveraging breakout sessions, themed events, social gaming and different presentation formats such as pecha kucha, fish bowls and so forth. It’s about the attendee experience.

How Findable is Your Educational Content?

How are you leveraging your association content to attract new members? How are you making sure they are finding your content on the internet? How are you making your content more usable and shareable?

Access is critical! A printed conference program is no longer sufficient. To keep Generation X and Y happy, you now need a printed program, a conference flash drive chock full of speaker presentations, session handouts available online before, during and after the meeting (don’t forget about Wi-Fi and mobile-friendly access!) AND an eBook. (Ok, so you may not need ALL of these, but member expectations are rising in regards to what they are getting for their money.)

Consulting your crystal ball won’t help. Understanding how members and attendees want to receive your association’s educational content is not a guessing game. The key is to ask members what they want, provide options and be multifaceted.

Generation Y Learned Differently

We aren’t trying to be a pain in your association – This is how Generation Y learned!

In college, we learned through two-way discussion sessions and watched streaming presentations. We bought printed course books and study guides, but we also were required to read scholarly journals online (that we didn’t have to search for far and wide on the internet).

We network online. We spend more time on social media websites networking than we’d like to admit. We use Facebook and LinkedIn to build relationships and share information just to stay connected. If we know we’re going to meet someone new, we like to connect with them ahead of time online.

And guess what – My Generation X boss feels the same way.

So while you listen to some Bob Dylan, talk to us on Twitter!
How is your association attracting new Generation Y membership? #omnipress

Differences Between Digital Publishing Platforms and Learning Management Systems

Previously, we observed that there are many names for Digital Publishing Platforms.

Some of these included:

  • eLibrary
  • Proceedings Central
  • Central Repositories
  • Resource Center
  • Digital Library
  • Body of Knowledge
  • Electronic Resource Library
  • Knowledge Library
  • Knowledge Center

One phrase that is not on the list above and one that is not a synonym for a Digital Publishing Platform: LMS, or Learning Management System.

Digital Publishing Platforms are NOT Learning Management Systems

Organizations like associations usually have a content strategy. An LMS and a Digital Publishing Platform are two different tactics.

Typically, an LMS contains training materials or a library of knowledge. If an organization issues continuing education credits, the LMS probably disseminates the education, administers a test, records a score and issues the credits.

Sometimes it’s not that complex. Some associations want to manage their content inside of a closed system for member benefit only, like with Sharepoint. With a system like Sharepoint, one can manage access to content and hold a large amount of content.

When I talk to people who use Sharepoint or an online LMS, they tell me what’s missing is the discoverability of their content via today’s smartest search engines. Unlike Superman, search engines cannot see through walls. The wall is your Association Management System (AMS) or access control—the control that’s hiding your content from the outside world.

Exposing Educational Content to Search Engines and Members

Digital Publishing Platforms house educational content online and help improve discoverability and searchability.

What does this mean? Your content’s footprint is larger, so it becomes more discoverable.

Here’s how it works:

Suppose one could expose the educational content of an organization to Google, Bing and Yahoo? If an association’s content is indexed by search engines, people who search for its industry’s issues, content and education will naturally find the association’s website, its PDFs, webinars, teleconferences, audio files, publications, proceedings, journals and other types of content it wants to leverage to attract visitors.

Learning Management Systems Can’t Replace Digital Publishing Platforms

Discoverability is only the beginning. Here are 4 more things a knowledge center can do that an LMS cannot:

  1. Help monetize content with the use of an integrated eCommerce platform.
  2. Enhanced searchability using metadata.
  3. Host multiple content types including journals, books, reference work, webinars and other scholarly content.
  4. Easily share content using integrated widgets linked to Facebook, Digg, LinkedIn or RSS feeds.

Check your content strategy. Are you serving only your members? How will you attract new ones?

Does Google Recognize Your Association?

Google the definition of “google.” (I know- it’s pretty much the ultimate google.)

The Merriam-Webster dictionary does not list “google” as a verb for no reason. Chances are when members are looking for answers they aren’t going to go to your association’s website to find them. What do they do? They google it.

Google is recognized and liked by your members, but is your association recognized and liked by Google?

If Google doesn’t recognize your association, neither will your members.

Using Educational Content to be “Google Relevant”

I’m willing to bet your association has a large amount of educational content from years of conference proceedings and training manuals to educational publications. Your valuable educational content is one of the main reasons your association exists. But to survive today in the highly-competitive playing field of the Internet – online existence goes hand in hand with being recognized by Google.

So how can you increase the likelihood of Google finding your association’s brand?

Hint: Google loves content.

Association Digital Publishing Platforms Have A Lot of Content

Many associations are now archiving their educational content in a branded digital publishing platform. Exposing your association’s education content from meetings, publications and more in an online archive is like a pot of gold to Google. You can then interlink your digital publishing platform to your association website so those googling content know who’s behind it. (You!)

Google especially loves content that is continuously updated and changed. This means as you continue to update your digital publishing platform with more educational publications and future speaker presentations from various meetings and training seminars hosted throughout the year (while utilizing various search engine optimization techniques), the likelihood of being found by Google and your members is greatly increased.

Unleashing your association’s content to this powerful search engine helps make your association more discoverable and relevant to your members. So the next time someone googles something relevant to your industry, you can rest assured knowing your chances of being found are a hundred (or maybe even a thousand) times better.

Infographic – Harnessing the Power of Educational Content

Looking for new ways to use your old speaker presentations, training materials or publications?

Out of the 550 responses in our “Capitalizing on Content” survey, associations were in agreement that educational content is key to brand awareness and industry relevancy, yet less than half are actually doing this.

What about creating a usable online archive of all your old conference or training materials and publications making this valuable content more discoverable? How about taking it a step farther and making this content marketable?

Check out our infographic to see what associations had to say about their educational content, and how digital publishing platform can capture and deliver this content.

You can click to zoom, or here is a print-friendly version for you.


Curious about the rest of our survey findings? Download our free executive summary.


Free Download: Capitalizing on Content

Spin This “ALBUM” – Five Must-Haves for Publishing Content Online

Moving more content online is on every association’s strategy plan. And who isn’t trying to find new revenue sources, improve membership experience and be more findable?

Most associations have online Content Management Systems (CMS) for their main websites or conference sites, and try to push as much content into these systems as possible. Unfortunately, most CMS’ are not designed to act as publishing engines for large collections of content, nor do they allow for
controlling access to content.

So what do you need to put your content online? … ALBUM! (No, I’m not talking about vinyl.)

Publishing Your Content Online with ALBUM:

A – Access Control: This could be the most costly aspect of managing content, but it’s crucial. You need to ensure you have a system than can expose your rich content to the world, yet still offer you the ability to control access. This opens up opportunities to increase revenue and protect member benefits. Additionally, this allows you to create offers and sell your content in the ways users want to consume it.

L – Large Collections of Content: You need a system that allows you to quickly load and manage hundreds if not thousands of files… AND in a cost-effective way.

B – Branding: Content is YOUR asset… and the world should know. Bringing valuable assets to the members and non-members under your brand strengthens your organization as the place to go for information.

U – User and Staff Experience: For the reader, it’s important to make your content easy-to-use and accessible on different devices such as tablets, smartphones as well as desktop computers. For your staff, make sure you’re hosting a solution that isn’t a burden to support. If you need your IT Manager to support the site, then your system is too complex. And if your system frustrates your visitors, they’ll leave!

M – Measure: Measuring performance is the key to success… And doing so in a way that is understandable and actionable is key.

Bottom Line: There is no greater opportunity for associations to grow than to better leverage and extract value from their educational content! Just remember: When publishing content online, make sure you have your “ALBUM” because the right tool at the right time (and with the right components) can make all the difference.

Help Attendees Search Conference Materials Online

Having an online archive of all your conference proceedings, recordings and other materials for conference attendees, association members or even the general public is great, but if all you did was dump 10 years of technical papers and presentations on a website, it’s not exactly going to help your users find what they’re looking for, is it?

Think about it… You go to a website to seek a quick and easy answer.

No member or attendee is going to spend 30 minutes digging through a sea of 4,000+ speaker presentations to find one paper. It’s a needle in a haystack, and you’re lucky if they spend 30 seconds looking before moving on.

The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) ran into this issue- A collection of knowledge wrapped up in years of conferences papers both online and on CD, but absolutely no organization. (See, you’re not alone… We all struggle with organization.)

Q: When you’re seeking answers online, what do your eyes automatically look for?
A: The almighty SEARCH button- The answer to our “crazy-busy-gimme-answers-NOW” lives.

Making Conference Proceedings Searchable

Giving users the ability to search through your online archive (aka digital publishing platform) allows them to find what they need quickly. The key to a successful search is finding the most relevant information as quickly as possible. Using key words and full text search is very helpful, but to really find the content of interest metadata is invaluable.

Metadata allows your users to set up filters such as author name, publication date, event name or subject to narrow down the results to the information that matters most to the user. Providing a metadata search filter gives users a guided tour through the digital publishing platform leading them to exactly the technical paper or speaker presentation they are looking for.

Additionally, creating indices using metadata can not only lead users to the technical paper they are searching for, but it also points out additional related content.

What others ways can you make your digital publishing platform more searchable?

Archiving Educational Content with a Digital Publishing Platform to Spark Association Growth

The speakers have spoken. The attendees have gone home. And as a meeting planner, you are left alone with the conference proceedings you worked so hard to collect, organize and create. While the knowledge that lies within these materials could stimulate association growth, often times after a conference has ended, these materials get lost in file cabinets
and book shelves.

Unleash the Value of your Educational Content

Many associations are failing to recognize that this same content can be archived, repurposed, and monetized to bring ongoing value to your association. Now more than ever, technology has made it simple and cost effective to take conference content and repurpose it to enhance membership value and attract new members. Think of the value in having multiple years of content in a single location that is searchable by members and discoverable by nonmembers. Having an digital publishing platform with archived conference content can extend the life of your conference and leverage the value of your association’s knowledge.

Once your educational content is organized in a single location, it opens up an array of opportunities to market and monetize your educational content. A knowledge center allows you to sell subscription access to content, share content on social media sites such as Facebook and Digg, enrich content using metadata and makes content more discoverable by exposing it to search engines. This all greatly enhances the value of your content for both members and potential members.

You don’t want to miss this opportunity to extend the life of your conference and your conference content, do you?

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