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?

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.
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  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)
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  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.
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  4. Include the handouts URL on the session room walk-in loop slides that play in between sessions.
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  5. Include the URL on the foam-core room signs. The message can be simple: “Session handouts available at www.xyz2010-handouts.org”
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  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.
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  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
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  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.
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  9. Tape small signs right to the monitors at the email/internet stations with the short URL.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.

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