5 Reasons to Offer Online Conference Materials (Even If You Already Have an App)

 

Your attendees are living in a mobile world, with nearly 80% of all Americans owning a smartphone. Of course, it would make sense for your conference to be mobile as well. Increasingly, attendees are becoming conditioned to using an app to access content and information while on-site. But does an app alone provide the greatest value? Not always.

Conference apps bring many benefits to the table, including a personal itinerary for the annual meeting and tools for engagement, but an app might fall short when meeting all the digital needs of your attendees. In addition to a conference app, consider hosting your conference materials on a dedicated website that can be accessed by smartphones, laptops and other devices.

Here are five reasons to pair your mobile app with online conference materials for your event.

1. Superior Search

Online conference materials let your attendees utilize advanced search tools superior to those available on a mobile app. Having options like full-text and faceted search makes a big difference when attendees must search through numerous technical papers and presentations.

2. Marketing and Promotion

To access content in the app, an attendee has to already be registered for the conference. But what about those that haven’t registered yet? Providing access to search engine-accessible online conference materials ahead of the meeting allows prospective attendees to gain a better understanding of the value of the event, ultimately driving registration for those who may still be “on the fence.”

3. Post-Meeting Access

Mobile apps provide the most value during the conference. Many attendees won’t use it at all after they plane home, although the content is still relevant and worth a second look. Having the ability to revisit materials on a computer when back in the office is often easier and preferred, and helps increase retention of the material.

4. Better Reading Experience

Close reading and deep comprehension are challenging when using a small screen. This is why many attendees choose to pore over new research on a full screen, rather than using an app, and where online conference materials have an advantage.

5. Non-Dues Revenue

As you build your association’s online conference content archive, you can plan to charge access for past years, generating non-dues revenue for your organization. This option is made even easier with the ability to restrict access to some or all of your online content. You can select who gets to see what content from recent or past events.

Even if you have a mobile app, supplement it through online conference materials. Having more avenues to deliver quality conference content to your attendees is far better than having too few. Each content format provides its own unique set of benefits to both attendees and your association, so it’s worth investing additional time and effort to select the ones that work best for your event.

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?

Biggest Mistake Associations Will Make in 2013: Postponing Mobile Strategy Development

The adoption rate of smartphones and tablets is not slowing down. In fact, nearly half of American adults own a smartphone, and the number of tablet owners has doubled since summer of 2011, to 18% of American adults
(Pew Research).

Yet, even with the overwhelming evidence that smartphones and tablets are not going away, many associations are still hesitant to implement mobile event apps.

.Why Associations are Putting Off their Mobile Strategies

Some of the greatest challenges we hear associations facing, and why they are hesitant to move forward with mobile event apps for their annual meetings and conferences are as follows:

  • The introduction of wide-ranging technologies. It seems like there is a new technology developing every day, expanding the number of ways you can reach your members at your annual meetings. But how do you determine the best way to reach your unique membership base? Is it through social media websites like LinkedIn and Twitter? Should you develop a mobile event app? Or, maybe you should create an online content library for your members and attendees, which you can also use to attract new members? Moreover, which technology will still be relevant tomorrow?
  • Your membership base is as diverse as it has ever been before (and so is the generational gap). Generations X and Y are tech-savvy, have a short attention span and not only want, but expect information and content when they want it and how they want it. At your annual meeting, they want to be able to access all of your conference content via their smartphones and tablets. And since, undoubtedly, the Internet connectivity is going to be limited at your conference venue, offline access via a mobile app better be available. BUT, if you get rid of your printed conference proceedings and session handouts, you better believe you’re going to receive phone calls from your Baby Boomer members about how they don’t want to download your mobile app to get the annual meeting proceedings; they’d very much prefer them in print. (If only your association budget was endless, right?)

These challenges have left many association professionals at a standstill, sticking to the technologies they know and are comfortable with and ignoring the fact that advancing technologies like mobile are not going away.

Jump Start Your Association’s Mobile Strategy

It is time to stop postponing the inevitable, and start implementing your association’s mobile strategy. Start small by testing out a mobile app for your annual conference. If your members adapt well, you can consider a mobile app for your association later.

Need Help Getting Started?

Check Out Our Latest White Paper

Implementing a Mobile Event App: 7 Steps to Choosing the Right Mobile App For Your Conference
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3 Requirements for Delivering Quality Association Content to Members

It is the end of 2012, and just as every year, there are thousands of “Top 10” posts: “Top 10 Trends of 2012,” “Top 10 Events of 2012,” “Top 10 Top 10 Lists;” it’s exhausting. I call them “Top 10” posts, but as we all know, they range from a list of five to sometimes hundreds (who would ever spend that much time going through a list that big is beyond me) of usually meaningless bits of information.

However, this year I came across a Top 10 list that really got me thinking. It was titled “Top 10 Nonprofit Tech 2.0 Posts of 2012,” and it highlighted a list of the website’s most viewed posts of the year. What was brought to my attention is something I try to tell our employees and clients as much as possible; if you want to write content that gets a lot of views, you must do three things (Yes, I’m sorry, another list.)

3 Ways to Increase Association Content Views

  1. Be Concise. There is in fact a reason why writers, bloggers and blabbers use lists so often. It’s because they are concise and get to the point. People are interested in their chosen topic, and they want the information in a tidy, little package. Do the same for your members and attendees; wrap that present of information up nice and neat for them. Some call this spoon feeding them information, but no matter what you call it, just make it easy to take in.
  2. Be Interesting. When you are writing a story, a lesson, even a tidbit of cool information, the thing that gets it noticed the most is making it interesting. Be unique, and write about a topic no one has heard before, or maybe choose an old topic and take a different approach than the norm.
  3. Be Relevant. As unique and interesting as you can be, the topic and information still has to be relevant to your members and attendees. Writing about the “Top 10 Things Your Dog Did in 2012” may be interesting to some, but it isn’t relevant to your organization’s goals or to what members or attendees would like to learn.

What else do you do to make sure you are delivering quality association content to your members?

5 Ways to Make Pinterest Work for Your Association

Is your association ignoring Pinterest in hopes that its popularity falls stagnant like Myspace or iTunes Ping?

If you’re looking to grow your association’s membership and promote your valuable educational content, avoiding Pinterest could be a big mistake.

I recently saw this great infographic called “Pin It to Win It” that does a great job of breaking down Pinterest for marketers. Here’s what I learned.

Defining Your Target Market

Before deciding to add Pinterest to the list of your association’s social media sites, it’s important to determine if their typical users align with your target market.

Here are a few facts about typical Pinterest users:

  • 87% of Pinterest users are female.
  • The most popular age range is 35-44 (29%), followed by ages 25-34 (27%).
  • The average income of users is between $25,000-$49,999 (37%), followed by $50,000-$74,999 (33%).

If this profile sounds like the members your association is trying to attract, then it’s time to fit Pinterest into your social media strategy.

5 Tips for Targeting the Right Audience on Pinterest

  1. Research your target market. How are the members you want to attract using Pinterest? What categories are they interested in? What content are they pinning? You want to make sure your association is posting relevant content your potential members will find and be interested in.
  2. Utilize the “Pin It” button. Your social media widgets should already be front and center on your association website or digital publishing platform. Simply add the “Pin It” button so users know your association is active on Pinterest, too.
  3. Make your content “pin-able.” Since Pinterest embraces the use of visual content, you should audit the images on your association’s website. Are there images on every page of content? Try to pin each page of content on your website. If an image isn’t available, users will not be able to pin content onto their boards.
  4. Don’t use Pinterest solely for self-promotion. Yes, your ultimate goal may be to expand your brand and increase membership, but Pinterest users don’t necessarily want to be “sold to.” Post content they will find valuable such as past conference proceedings, publications and other content you house in your digital publishing platform. Think of Pinterest as another way to promote your content marketing efforts.
  5. Learn from other associations on Pinterest. Do a search for associations on Pinterest. Who is showing up? How are they ensuring they’re found in searches? What boards have they created that have gained a significant number of followers? Apply some of what seems to be working for other organizations.

How have you seen other associations use Pinterest to attract more members? Give your input in the comments section below!

3 Steps to Making Your Content Easily Searchable Online

As discussed in our recent article, “Why Does Online Association Content Require a Search Tool?,” having a robust, full-text search engine that is intuitive and easy-to-use is the key to a successful digital publishing platform.

“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.”

So, how exactly do you begin to organize your content to ensure it is intuitive for your members to find online?

Checklist – Developing a Full-Text Search Engine for Association Content

Step 1: Decide how you want to organize your content.

Examples:

  • Table of Contents
  • Author Index
  • Subject or Track
  • Conference
  • Year
  • Type (presentation, paper, video, etc.)

Step 2: Create a list of the fields (metadata filters) to include in your Search tool. These are the fields your users will select as filters to find relevant content more quickly.

Examples:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Topic
  • Keywords
  • Publisher
  • Conference
  • Year of conference/publication
  • Type of document

Step 3: Determine your Search tool’s features, layout and capabilities.

Examples:

  • Simple Search and Advanced Search options
  • Location – on left navigation bar, pop-up screen, separate screen
  • Placement, color, size and prominence of Search button

Learn more here: Guide to Making Online Content Searchable

Or, simply click the green download button below.

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

Get Attendees to Network Before Your Conference

I recently read a fantastic article by Bernie Mitchell entitled, “5 Ways to Break the Ice with Social Media at Events,” which talked about how meeting and event professionals can get attendees to network and “break the ice” before the conference with social media.

In short, Mitchell suggested:

  1. Creating a unique Twitter hashtag and promote retweeting
  2. Recording speaker video interviews or a podcast and write blog posts
  3. Collecting attendee Twitter handles and reach out individually
  4. Asking questions on Twitter to get attendees engaged and interacting
  5. Making sure attendees know about the hashtag before the conference

Yes! I couldn’t have put it better myself, but I do think we’re missing a #6, which might make 1-5 a little easier.

6. Create an online event community for attendees to network.
Online event communities are the one stop shop for all your attendees’ conference needs. Give your attendees (and speakers, sponsors and exhibitors) an online hub where they can create user profiles, develop their personal conference itineraries and connect with other attendees who are scheduled for the same sessions. Then, post the conference final program and session handouts onto the branded homepage of the event community next to your Twitter wall and blog posts, and there you have it a one-stop social media shop!

Online Event Communities – Help Attendees Avoid the Awkward Silence

Social media has been a gift to meeting planners and attendees alike. Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have provided attendees a virtual place to get the introductions out of the way. Attendees no longer need to go into an annual conference not knowing anyone (which is a blessing if you’re anything like me and a little shy). Plus, this increases the quality of conversations at the actual meeting, allowing attendees to get right into the conference content.

Not sure if an online event community is exactly what your association is looking for, but you still want a place to put speaker presentations or proceedings online? Read here to find the right place to put conference materials online.

 

12 Ways to Help Your Attendees Find Your Online Session Handouts

When placing your session handouts online these days, you need to be sure your attendees know where they can find them.

I’ve attended a few educational seminars and sessions over the past year only to have event staff and speakers tell me (verbally) where I can get a copy of the session handouts. “They’re on the conference web site,” they tell me. This is perfect if if I’ve memorized the event URL and the links to the conference session handouts is in an intuitive place. Well, the fact is, I don’t memorize the URL and conference web sites are not designed in the most intuitive manner and usually contain links to a ton of other things. The point is, session handouts used to be conveniently located in the session rooms or in a conference binder for me to pick up and read, and now I have put on my camouflage and go hunting for them.

That said, conference planners need to make their session content easy to find.

Here are 12 ways you can make online session content east-to-find for your attendees:

  1. Create a easy-to-remember domain name that links itself to your session handouts online. No one wants to type a URL that’s longer than 30 characters. Try something like www.xyz2010-handouts.org. Or, create a named URL shortener like tinyurl or bit.ly and create an alias such as: www.tinyurl.com/2010xyz-handouts. Don’t make attendees search through a maze of links and icons looking for the place they might find content.
    .
  2. Promote the handouts URL in your program book in many different locations (redundancy is OK):
    – On the front and back covers
    – In a full page ad near the table of contents, agenda of sessions and other indices
    – As a footer on note pages (if you’re producing a conference program notebook)
    .
  3. Provide speakers with a PPT slide that indicates the session handouts URL and have them place it at the beginning and end of their slide deck.
    .
  4. Include the handouts URL on the session room walk-in loop slides that play in between sessions.
    .
  5. Include the URL on the foam-core room signs. The message can be simple: “Session handouts available at www.xyz2010-handouts.org”
    .
  6. Schedule regular tweets each day to your conference hashtag with your handouts URL (this one can be done via a URL shortner). If your members are on Twitter, this information will travel fast and it’s a good way to gain marketing exposure to your event.
    .
  7. Post the URL on other social media outlets such as your:
    – Private digital publishing platform
    – LinkedIn groups or Facebook pages
    – The front of your conference web site
    .
  8. Send all attendees at least two emails prior to the event, one email daily during the event and a two emails after the event that has the subject line “Sessions handouts for XYZ online” and only include a short paragraph with the link. Do not send an email that contain eight other agenda items. Remember, people don’t read and they don’t like long emails. A clear subject line will get their attention and they will appreciate your brevity.
    .
  9. Tape small signs right to the monitors at the email/internet stations with the short URL.
    .
  10. Get creative! Tape a flyer in the restrooms (at the urinal, in the stalls or on the mirror). I’m not kidding either. The restrooms are a common place people need to go and spend at least one minute of their time a few times each day. Think about it, you’d rather read anything than be staring at a blank wall. Bathrooms are great places for announcements.
    .
  11. Include the handouts URL and other important web site information on a flyer in the hotel rooms that are blocked off for your attendees. The hotel is probably a key place your attendees will be going online to catch up with their online life.
    .
  12. Advertise the handouts URL in your “Daily News” if you are providing this. Again, place this in many different locations and call attention to it.

Hopefully, you are creating some type of online knowledge or event community that contains your content such as your session handouts and other resources for your attendees and members to download and talk about online. It’s a great way to create value and extend the life of your event.