OmniPresence: The Land of the Lost (Learning)

Last week, our blog featured a subject that is very near and dear to me: 5 Ways to Continue the Learning After the Conference. As the CEO of a business that serves meeting planners, I spend a considerable amount of time attending meetings and conferences myself. I love to get out and meet our customers and industry partners. I love to collect firsthand knowledge about the challenges and opportunities that associations face. And most importantly, I love to learn—from subject matter experts, and from my peers. It’s how I continue to grow professionally, and how I ensure that Omnipress continues to deliver value to our customers, even as the landscape changes.

When I return to my office I feel energized, invigorated, and excited to put new wisdom into practice. But how long does that energy and momentum last after the conference? Unfortunately, not long enough.

I once read that an estimated two-thirds of learning and/or training gained through conferences and other educational sessions will be lost within 6 months without ongoing reinforcement. I can personally attest that, even with the absolute best intentions, we all get caught up in our own daily activities, leaving little time to put the learning from a conference into practice.

Stepping out onto our production floor, peering through the pallets upon pallets of printed knowledge, hot off the presses, it’s evident that there is an incredible volume of content that is developed for meetings. I couldn’t help but think about all of the time that has been invested in developing, packaging and distributing all of this content, and what a shame it is to know that up to two-thirds could be forgotten. Unless….

We work with many associations that have successfully lengthened the shelf life of their conference materials by making them accessible through a dedicated website that houses all past, current and future conference content. They use this website to drive a content marketing strategy that provides ongoing visibility and reinforcement of key topics to attendees throughout the year through while at the same time generating interest for next year’s conference.

How is your association maintaining visibility for your content after the conference? Do you have any tactics that have proven successful? Share the learning here by leaving a comment. Or, if you’re looking to implement a strategy for the first time, let us know. We can share some thoughts on what others are doing.

March Madness Champion: What Drives Meeting Planners the Most Mad?

Well ladies and gentleman, it’s finally over. The long battles between some of the biggest pains for meeting planners is over. We started with eight of the biggest issues that we have heard from meeting planners:

  1. The sales manager of your 2017 venue leaves her position, just as you were building a great working relationship.
  2. It seems like everyone you work with has champagne taste—and you’re working with a beer budget. Are you the only one who thinks about managing costs?
  3. Managing the process for collection and review of countless abstracts, working with a very clunky system. You’re ready to tear your hair out!
  4. Another presenter gave you their final materials after the deadline, and now you have to call three different vendors to update the app, the website, and the printed program.
  5. A CVB calls you out of the blue and tries to monopolize half an hour with their sales pitch. You don’t have time for that!
  6. This year’s keynote is well-regarded and popular, but he’s also the biggest diva you’ve ever met. If he requests green M&Ms; in his rider, you’re going to scream!
  7. You’ve called your conference printer three times this week and no one has gotten back to you. There’s no excuse for bad customer service.
  8. Attendees bring every device under the sun to your annual meeting—except laptops—and your online conference materials only look good on a full-sized screen.

MWe then randomly paired them to face off in the first-round, or our elite eight. And there were some interesting winners that advanced toour final four:

  1. It seems like everyone you work with has champagne taste—and you’re working with a beer budget. Are you the only one who thinks about managing costs?
  2. Another presenter gave you their final materials after the deadline, and now you have to call three different vendors to update the app, the website, and the printed program. For the fourth time this week!
  3. A CVB calls you out of the blue and tries to monopolize half an hour with their sales pitch. You don’t have time for that!
  4. You’ve called your conference printer three times this week and no one has gotten back to you. There’s no excuse for bad customer service.

It then came down the final two in the championship:

  1. You’ve called your conference printer three times this week and no one has gotten back to you. There’s no excuse for bad customer service.
  2. Another presenter gave you their final materials after the deadline, and now you have to call three different vendors to update the app, the website, and the printed program. For the fourth time this week!

After 68 different meeting planners participated in this year’s March Conference Madness, “8 Things That Drive Meeting Planners Mad;” we have a champion. The thing that drives meeting plann
ers the most is:

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What do you think? Do you agree with our participants ranking of the things that drive meeting planners mad? Or is there something else that was maybe left off the list?

 

The Attendee Addiction to Smartphones and Mobile Apps

Are your attendees constantly checking their iPhones during conference sessions?

Don’t worry. They aren’t bored or trying to be disrespectful to your speakers. It simply an uncontrollable impulse!

A 2011 study featured in the journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing shows the average person checks their phone 34 times a day. These checks are not out of necessity, but because they’ve developed “checking habits” where they need to repetitively check email and mobile apps like Facebook. The authors say people like the positive feeling of importance that is associated with a new email or update.

So, how do you compete with your attendees’ uncontrollable checking habits?

Well, you know what they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Go Mobile with Event Mobile Apps

If you can’t take attendees’ attention off of their phones, then bring your conference where their attention is… their mobile apps! Mobile Apps for events are becoming an increasingly popular way for meeting organizers to keep their conferences and meetings interactive, innovative and engaging.

5 Reasons Mobile Apps Improve Your Events

  1. Attendees stay informed. A mobile app is a great place to post important event information such as location changes, sponsor deadlines and schedule updates. You can even include a RSS feed to your association blog to keep attendees updated on the latest event news.
  2. Your association generates more revenue. By creating an event mobile app you are also creating more sponsorship opportunities! If you’re including an exhibitor listing on your mobile app, you could offer “premier logo placement” where exhibitors could pay a fee to have their logo featured at the top. You could also encourage local restaurants and hotels to include sponsorship ads as well.
  3. Attendees can personalize their conference experience. Attendees should be able to create a profile on your conference mobile app with contact information and messaging capabilities. Many event mobile apps allow attendees to create a personal itinerary including the sessions they plan on attending, and connect with other individuals who plan on attending those sessions as well.
  4. You create a more engaging conference and increase networking. By allowing attendees, speakers and sponsors to create profiles, they are able to easily connect before the conference which leads to greater engagement at the actual event. In addition, you can increase social engagement by sharing Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn feeds on your mobile app. Many conference apps have even enabled live polling/surveying and discussion boards to keep attendees engaged during sessions.
  5. It’s easier to measure conference success. Analytics can be integrated into your mobile app so you can gain insights to attendee’ preferences and behaviors year round. This is yet another great way to measure access to your association content; providing a more accurate measure of your ROI.

What are some of the best event mobile apps you have seen?

How to Create an Active Online Community

Wondering how to create an online event community where attendees, sponsors and exhibitors are logging into (and actively involved with) as much as their email accounts?

As a meeting or event planner, you understand creating a networking opportunity is critical for attendees, sponsors and exhibitors of your conferences. And as your conference participants become more engaged in online networking and social media sites, it is critical to create an online hub where your conference participants can network before, during and after your events.

3 Ways to Create a Successful Online Event Community

  1. Have a strategic plan.
    This is probably the most important aspect of having a successful community. What is the goal of the community? What will deem it successful? You need to be sure your online event community is in alignment with your bigger picture goals and objective. Write down these objectives as it provides you with a basis for measurement. Some core objectives might include: Visitors to the site, repeat visitors, number joined vs. total attendees, activity within the site. Who will manage and run the community? What will the technology be? How will you incorporate this with your other event marketing initiatives? What content or topics will draw people into the community and engage participants. By having a plan, you have a much greater chance for success. Plus, you’ll have something to measure against as you go.
  2. Assign a leader.
    Someone must own the community and make it theirs. It can’t be owned by everyone or a group of people, it really needs a leader who is passionate and unselfish. Someone who knows and understands relationships and social media. Giving this responsibility to someone because they have the time or because they are in marketing doesn’t cut it. They must have solid project management skills, excellent communication skills. They must understand the big picture and have the authority to drive the community. Failure to have the right person lead your community usually results in a stale, unused web site and a poor representation of your efforts.
  3. Outline your communications plan.
    This is essential to knowing who’s doing what, what’s being created and when it’s being shared. It will involve formal communications, promotional content as well as informal and just informational content. This plan will involve many different participants in your community. For example, you will want the speakers to create content and engage attendees by asking questions and providing insights to their sessions a few weeks out from the event. The key is to know the members of the community expect action and communications. They didn’t sign up to the community to just create a profile and never come back to the site again. Your plan should address how you and others will engage all participants.

What other ways can you think of to create an active community?

Is Your Abstract Collection System Really that Rigid?

How would you describe your online system for collecting abstracts, reviews and final presentations?

A. It’s as flexible as my yoga instructor!

B. It’s as stiff as a board!

C. Does collecting via my email count as an online system?

Managing Abstracts and Final Presentations is Easy-Peasy

If you answered A:
Congratulations! Collecting abstracts, final presentations and managing your reviewers and submissions should make your life easier. It should
be adaptable to your process, not the other way around.

An Online Collection System That Doesn’t Bend

If you answered B:
Are you compromising your collection and reviewing process because your system isn’t flexible enough?

  • Are you using two or more systems because you can’t find one to take care of the whole job?
  • Are you limited to certain types of fields you’re using to collect materials?
  • Are you not able to stagger deadlines for different types of submissions?
  • Are you not able to communicate with authors and organize their materials easily?
  • Are you not able to export the data you want, when you want it?
  • Are you getting nickeled and dimed for customized programming?

Guess what? Your abstract system doesn’t need to be this rigid. A truly robust system for collecting and managing you call for papers and review process will be flexible enough to adapt to your unique process (without you having to be the flexible one).

Your online collection and review system should help you collect, organize, review and produce:

  • Abstracts
  • Proposals
  • Final papers and manuscripts
  • Disclosures and copyright releases
  • Session handouts and presentations
  • Speaker information, photos and biographies
  • A/V information
  • Session scheduling

Using Email to Manage Your Collection Process?

If you answered C:

You may want to read this article: Email to Collect Final Presentations… Really?

Bringing Awareness to Your Meeting and Online Event Community

As over 1,100 school health professionals from all over the country were gathering at the registration table in the hustle and bustle of the National Association of School Nurses’ (NASN) 43rd Annual Meeting, they were greeted with the tweets of conference attendees, sponsors and speakers on NASN’s Online Event Community displayed on projection screens throughout the conference.

Where NASN conference-goers had been engaging and getting pumped for weeks prior to the conference, they were now giving shout outs, drawing crowds to booths and hyping up sessions on the online event community. As part of NASN’s communication strategy they strive to keep members engaged and social media sites current and active. “The Twitter wall’s purpose was to support these efforts, create exposure to the way Twitter helps enhance an event,” explained Sharon Conley of NASN.

“This purpose was served beyond our expectations. Attendees, staff, contracted employees, speakers, exhibitors and volunteers engaged in posting tweets for our Twitter wall.” Conley continued, “Several NASN leaders approached staff for instructions on setting up a Twitter account and joining in on the fun.”

Promoting the Twitter Wall Movement

NASN marketed the Twitter wall on their Online Event Community by asking attendees if they were interested in tweeting their conference experience.

For those interested:

  • An instructional email was sent out prior to meeting.
  • The same information was included in the attendees’ registration packet along with a ribbon that said “Tweeter.”

“The NASN Grants Coordinator was skeptical of the wall when she first heard of it. After seeing it and the activity it generated, she was sold on that idea that it was a worthwhile component of the communication media offered during the conference,” Conley explained.

NASN most likely plans on featuring their online event community’s Twitter wall again at future conferences. They’ll be working on ways to engage non-attendees – Both by tweeting information pulled from educational sessions and also by marketing the hashtag.

How are you using your online event community to engage conference go-ers before, during and after events?

Three Conference Materials You Don’t Want to Ditch

During these times where laptops have replaced our desktop computers and iPhones make iPods useless items we once obsessed over, I think we’d all agree that keeping up with technology can be an exhausting, never-ending chase. Maybe this is a good time to stop chasing our shiny, new technologies, and think about what we shouldn’t be so quick to toss in the trash.

In the conference realm, more and more planners are posting their conference materials online creating a place where content is more accessible and findable for attendees. This is fantastic, but before jumping on the bandwagon, don’t forget about these useful conference materials that you may want to keep around. (AND when you’re through, make sure and check out these nine considerations to make before posting your conference materials online.)

Three conference materials you don’t want to ditch:

  1. Learning Journals/Conference Notebooks: Attendees appreciate having one place where they can take their personal and session notes, and find out where their next session is located. In a perfectly green world, we would all have paperless conferences, but let’s be serious, attendees still love these learning journals. Plus, there are definitely ways to spice up the ol’ conference notebook. Check out how ACVS combined their conference final program with a conference notebook (AND increased their ad sales doing it). With a conference notebook those problems involving internet access and battery life are out the window.
  2. Flash Drives: While flash drives are not used much anymore in everyday life, they work very well for conferences and meetings. With CD-ROM drives disappearing from laptops and $50 per user Wi-Fi at convention centers, flash drives are a great way to deliver content and have a little more control over access. By making all your content available on a conference website (even when password protected), people are still able to share passwords with each other. Sure, information on a flash drive can still be copied, but it’s definitely a lot more work than sharing a nine character password.
  3. CD-ROMS: Yes, I prefer to listen to my music via my iPhone versus a CD, but when it comes to conferences, CD-ROMS can be a great way to share a lot of information at a very low cost. Once again, worries regarding the internet and battery life are non-existent.

Ask yourself: What’s the most important part of your conference? Did you say the “The Attendees”? Regardless of your concerns to go green, be online, or cut costs… It’s all about creating the best experience for your attendees. Listen to them, give them what they want. If they want to take notes by hand, give them a learning journal. If they want to be able to access information without having to go on the internet, give it to them.

Your best option as a meeting planner is to give them options. By giving attendees their conference materials in multiple formats, they can choose what works best for them.

What’s your conference material “cocktail”?