Are You Missing Out on Another Key Data Point?

In a recent post, we discussed how to use data from your abstract management system to improve your conference performance. At the same time this post was released, we were in the process of surveying association professionals to learn more about the role of online conference materials for planners and attendees. Coincidentally, we learned that data that can be harnessed from online conference materials is also extremely under-utilized by organizations.

A majority (80%) of respondents indicated they do post their conference materials online for attendees, members and/or non-members to access. Unfortunately, a majority of those (77%) are not tracking any usage metrics on this online content. Why is this so important? Using insights provided by multiple data sources—including your online conference materials—can help you deliver additional value to your members and attendees.

Topics of Interest

Session attendance is one way to gauge interest in a particular topic, as long as it’s being tracked. Many conferences either don’t track attendance on a session-by-session basis, or rely on the imperfect science of post-session surveys or manual headcounts to capture this data. Additionally, attendees can’t usually attend every session they may be interested in. Adding the layer of web-based analytics on activities such as presentation and paper downloads will provide a more accurate picture of topic popularity, which can then be used to provide follow-up content such as articles, blog posts, and virtual Q&A sessions with the speaker, as well as help with future conference planning.

Content Usage

One thing we heard loud and clear in our 2018 State of the Industry Report is that most meeting planners are challenged with providing the right mix of content formats to an audience with increasingly diverse preferences. Your web-based analytics can help shed some light on how content is being used, by whom, and at what point in the conference.  For instance, are your attendees accessing papers and presentations before the conference so they can come more prepared to learn? Are they accessing materials on-site just prior to or during the session to follow along and take notes? Or, are they coming back afterward to use the materials to help reinforce the learning? You can also break out usage data by demographics and device type to make more informed decisions on the best way to deliver content that meets the needs of your attendees.

As you start preparing for your next conference, be sure to set-up and use web-tracking tools for your online content. In doing so, you’ll have insightful data right at your fingertips that you can use for future attendee engagement and conference planning.

Three Benefits of Online Conference Proceedings

 

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

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

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

Extend Engagement

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

Control Access

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

Enhance Search Capabilities

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

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

Create Conference Sponsorship Opportunities That Benefit Everyone

 

Associations often rely on their annual conference to be a source of non-dues revenue for the year. So it’s no surprise they are determined to make smart budgeting decisions for the event. As we talk with customers about their fall conferences (or in some cases, their early 2018 conferences!) we’ve been helping them think of their conference materials in a new way. For some, an event app or online content library is one more item on the list of necessary conference expenses. But as we’ve been pointing out in these conversations, these necessities are different than A/V equipment and Per Diems. The cost of conference materials can be offset—or even become revenue generators—thanks to sponsorship opportunities.

When done well, conference sponsorship opportunities can be a win-win-win solution to reduce the expense of your conference materials.

Win #1: Attendees benefit from learning about relevant products and services

Sponsorships can be a great way for attendees to learn about companies that provide solutions to their problems. To be truly effective, however, the sponsorship needs to focus on education rather than promotion. A modern example of this kind of attendee benefit comes from conference app sponsorships.

For most attendees, downloading the official event app has become a pre-show ritual. The app is full of useful information about the speakers, the schedule and the sponsors for the days ahead. Having this information before the event lets your attendees research companies they aren’t familiar with. That makes their time in the exhibit area more efficient and their conversations more productive.

Win #2: Sponsors benefit from continuing conversations after the show

Building relationships with your attendees that continue after the event is your sponsors’ main goal. Adding a sponsorship opportunity to your online conference library is one way to help your sponsors meet this goal.

The online conference library is a great choice for these sponsors because attendees typically visit the online conference library after the event is finished. As attendees review the information they learned at the event or browse through your conference’s other materials, they offer sponsors their prime target: highly engaged members of your industry.

Win #3: Your association benefits from the income that a sponsorship provides

No surprise, this is the “win” that affects our customers most directly. If a customer doesn’t have experience with finding a sponsor for their event, it isn’t always obvious how impactful these opportunities can be. One of the biggest “game changers” can be when a customer finds a partner that is interested in sponsoring their conference’s flash drive.

Flash drives are enticing to sponsors because they offer great brand awareness along with the ability for an attendee to learn more about the company. These two qualities provide value that a sponsor is willing to pay for. And since flash drives typically have a low price per unit, a sponsor can end up paying for most, if not all, of the cost of the drives.

When done right, we’ve found that sponsorships can be beneficial to your attendees, your sponsors and your association. The important thing is to ensure the sponsored messages focus on education instead of promotion and offer real value to both your attendees and sponsors. When your conference sponsorship opportunities match both of those criteria, you have an effective way to reduce the cost of your conference materials.

How One Customer Uses Their Conference Content Website to Facilitate Note-Taking

Online conference materials are at their best when they complement—not duplicate—print. Online content is more prevalent and important than ever before, and that has impacted how associations provide content to their attendees. They expect online access to content, and associations understand that in order to meet the needs of their members, they must deliver online conference materials as well as printed ones.

As you think about how to approach a content website for your next annual meeting, take a cue from Angie Guy, Meeting and Events Manager with International Meeting Managers. She helps her clients in the medical field do more with their online conference materials.

Ms. Guy’s client works with Omnipress to take its conference materials online. She incorporates other tools into the website, like Survey Monkey, to make it easier for attendees to take post-session surveys so they can more easily collect and interpret the results. To make it simple to download multiple presentations without searching for a specific session, Ms. Guy had Omnipress connect a Download by Day button to a Dropbox account. When users click the button, all of the documents on the website from that day’s presentations—slide decks, handouts, and more—were automatically included in the download.

“It really helps to have the site available year-round,” she said. “Members like having more time to access the materials. For example, lots of attendees like to download or at least view the handouts before the conference.” The website also includes general information about the conference, like maps and registration information. “That cuts down on the number of calls and emails we get in the office,” Ms. Guy reported.

Taking notes online is another important benefit for attendees. “Even if I don’t have the handouts available to add to a session online, I add a placeholder so attendees can take notes,” Ms. Guy said. One year, one of her clients didn’t offer note-taking capabilities for their online materials, and there was considerable pushback from attendees. The association added note-taking back in the next year.

Online conference materials allow for last-minute additions. “If a change comes in so late that it can’t be included in the printed materials, it will definitely be included online.”

For more ideas on how online content can help your association do more, as it did for these associations, read our new white paper! Many thanks to International Meeting Managers’ Angie Guy for sharing her experience.

Online Content 2.0: How to Get More Out of Your Conference Materials

Attendees consume conference content differently now than they have in the past. Just think about the abundance of mobile devices you see at your annual meeting, and compare it to what you saw in 2008. If you had initial doubts about whether digital content would stick, they are probably gone by now.

So you probably understand that your association should offer content to attendees online, but knowing how to do that—and how to make the most of it—can be a challenge. Posting PDFs of presentations on your conference website is a good start, but there are opportunities to make your online content do much more than simply be an electronic version of your printed materials.

Our new whitepaper includes ideas on how to leverage your online content so you can meet the needs of your attendees while striving to reach your association’s goals as well.

Here’s a sneak peek:

Encourage members to build a personal library

Attendees can use online conference materials to build a personal library of association content that’s most relevant to them, even from sessions they weren’t able to attend at the conference. When note-taking is available, they can do even more to make the content their own.

Learn how to leverage online content before, during, and after your conference—and how it can increase your association’s visibility. Download now!

7 Reasons to Offer Online Conference Materials—Even If You Already Have an App

When it comes to conference content, your association has accepted that many attendees prefer digital distribution. In a digital world, a printed program alone just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Attendees seem to bring smartphones everywhere they go, so a conference app felt like the best choice. You’ll still distribute some printed programs to cover your bases for attendees who don’t download the app or want to read content in print.

So now you’re covered, right?

Not so fast! Apps bring many benefits to the table, including a personal itinerary for the annual meeting and tools to engage with others, but there are many reasons to offer access to online conference materials as well.

  1. Better search: The search tools available online, including full-text and faceted search, are superior to the basic keyword search on the app. When attendees are looking for a specific presentation, it matters!
  2. Post-meeting access: Apps are most useful during a conference. Many attendees don’t use it at all once they board the plane home, though the content is still relevant and worth a second look. Viewing materials on a computer, when back in the office, is easier.
  3. Better reading experience: Deep reading is challenging on a small screen. That’s why many attendees choose to pore over new research on a full screen, rather than using the app.
  4. Long-term access: Most apps have a 12-month license. Once it’s time to release the 2016 app, all of the digital materials from 2015 will be removed and … well, then what? If you offer online conference materials, however, you can begin to build an archive of content that extends through the years.
  5. Search engine accessible: Websites are accessed by search engines; apps are not. To increase your SEO (search engine optimization), which helps new members find the association, and give presenters and authors maximum exposure, online is the way to go.
  6. Responsive design: Websites built with responsive design appear differently, depending on the size of the screen used to view them. If an attendee brings a tablet to your conference, as many do, viewing conference materials online will trump an app. Setting up an itinerary, receiving push notifications, and connecting with other attendees, however, are reasons to keep the app as well.
  7. Non-dues revenue: As you build your association’s conference content archive, you can plan to charge access for past years. You can also restrict access for current content to attendees and/or members. Generate non-dues revenue and control access online.

More avenues to the quality content from your annual meeting is better than fewer. When each format brings key benefits like the seven outlined here, it’s clear that investing more time and effort in conference content will pay off in the long run.

To keep the conference content process clean and streamlined for your association, choose a single-source solution. Omnipress can provide everything you need, from abstract management to all outputs—conference printing, USBs, conference apps, and online conference materials.

The Newest Must-Have for Online Conference Materials: Responsive Design

This spring, Google announced that mobile-friendliness would be considered in its ranking algorithm, beginning in April. As Ernie Smith noted in his excellent Associations Now article on the subject, responsive design—an approach to web design that makes a page appear appropriately on any device used to view it—would no longer qualify as a “nice-to-have.” Websites must be mobile-friendly, or pay the high price of points docked in Google’s ultimate popularity test.

Is your association’s website up to snuff? How about your online conference materials? All pages under your domain count. If you have hundreds of abstracts available online from your 2014 conference, using a provider whose sites are not mobile-friendly, each of those pages is a small ding in your association’s reputation in the eyes of Google. Ouch!

If you don’t offer online access to your conference materials, you don’t need to worry about the mobile-friendliness of your online abstracts. That’s the good news. The bad news? You won’t get the “gold stars” of all that content, in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) and the appreciation of members, who would be glad if materials were easy to find and access on the go.

Best case scenario: Your conference materials are online—indexed, searchable, and easy for users and for Google to find. Your provider recognizes the importance of responsive design for modern workers on the go and built your conference content website accordingly. Google gives you gold stars for mobile-friendliness, your members love having online access to materials, and your SEO is strong because your association’s valuable conference materials are part of its online presence.

Omnipress has been helping associations put their content online for years, all with responsive design. When you work with us to provide your online conference materials, your site will please “the Google gods” and users.

For even better results and an easier conference content process, work with Omnipress for abstract management as well, and all other content outputs you may need—conference printing, USBs, apps, and more.

You can also work with us to build an online archive of your association publications with our digital publishing platform, which also uses responsive design. Google will love your association—and so will members!

Before & After: How Attendees Use Online Conference Materials

On the blog yesterday, I argued that online training materials helped learners—and especially high-achievers—prepare for class. As it happens, many professionals (not just those who sign up for continuing education courses) are interested in lifelong learning. These individuals are likely to attend your association’s annual meeting and represent a very good reason why you should offer online conference materials.

When you give registrants online access to your conference materials, you allow them the opportunity to make informed decisions on how to spend time at the annual meeting. They can read abstracts behind the sessions they plan to attend and build a personal itinerary on the content they find the most compelling.

All attendees will appreciate online conference materials. Every so often during the workday, you need a break from the task on hand. It’s healthy to make time to clear your mind from your work a little, and then return to it with a fresh perspective.

Personally, I spend this time reading articles about the association industry and tips for personal productivity and living a balanced, fulfilling life. If I were looking forward to a conference, however, I would spend those mini-breaks perusing online conference materials, learning about the speakers, and determining which sessions most interested me. Wouldn’t you?

Online conference materials are also important as a marketing tool. Members who haven’t yet decided whether they will attend your annual meeting can look online for information. Even a short preview of conference content would help potential attendees realize that they need to make the time to come. In fact, they can’t afford to miss it!

Attendees will also make good use of online conference materials after the meeting, poring over abstracts, posters, handouts, and other content to reflect on what they have learned and read about sessions they missed. In order for attendees to get the very most out of your association’s conference content, it’s essential to offer access to it before, during, and after the event. Logistically, it makes the most sense to distribute the content online.

Wherever members are on the spectrum—in their careers, in their decision-making process on attending the annual meeting, and in terms of dedication to their craft—online conference materials help them move forward. Make sure your association offers attendees the opportunity to learn more online.

Have Your Attendees Found What They’re Looking For?

A great search engine is so effortlessly competent that you barely notice it. Only when you have to do battle the search results do you recognize that a website’s search could be so much better.

If you offer content from your association’s annual meeting online, you would be wise to give search some serious thought. A simple keyword search, based on the meta description you provide to your site manager, may not tell the whole story of the information included on the page.

Say an attendee searches for a specific technical consideration discussed in a paper. That aspect of the presentation wasn’t a main point, so you didn’t include it in the metadata. Neither the attendee nor you was wrong to take those actions, but the search won’t be successful, and the attendee will leave that interaction with your site unsatisfied and frustrated.

With full text search, however, every word in the abstract is considered when a search term is entered. Go beyond the keyword and your attendees will get what they need from your online conference materials. They’ll leave your site with the information they need and consider your association the right place to find quality content quickly and easily.

But that payback is so subtle, it’s not even consciously recognized. Sometimes the best impression you can hope for is a neutral one; the alternative is worse.

Rest assured, though, that if your online conference materials continue to deliver, attendees’ search for professional development materials will begin and end with your association.

It’s Coming: Digital Education & Content

What happens when your members change … but your association doesn’t? Any answer to that question—declining membership, waning conference attendance, association staff cuts—means bad news.

But keeping up with your members is no easy task. Technology is quickly changing how people learn and communicate, and what’s good for younger professionals may not work at all for your long-time members. It’s tempting to stick with what has worked in the past and what some seasoned professionals prefer, until those members retire and younger members aren’t retained—or never join in the first place.

Steve Drake’s article “What Happens When Digital Education Reaches Your Profession/Industry?” addresses this issue. As more electronic delivery systems are being utilized in higher education, it won’t be long before today’s college students become tomorrow’s young professionals. They’ll come to your association with expectations of how teaching and learning takes place in a modern, digital world.

They’ll have expectations about content delivery, too. They might like using a high-quality printed program—many young professionals still do—, but they’ll probably wonder if that’s the only way they can access your content. At least, they’ll also want online access to association content. Not just the conference proceedings, but also the directory, publications, and the policy book. Ideally, you’ll also offer a mobile app for a more interactive conference experience.

Is your association ready to meet these expectations? Omnipress is! Partner with us and we’ll meet all of those needs and whatever content distribution innovations arise in the future. The newbies are going to want it all, and in order to provide it to them without losing your mind, you need a one-stop shop for all association content.

Ensure your future relevance and simplify your content process with one phone call. Hope to hear from you soon! 1-800-828-0305.