To Those Planning Spring Conferences: We’re Here to Help!

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time for the March edition of Omnipresence! As the weather outside gets warmer and the days get longer, for those planning spring conferences, the deadlines are getting noticeably shorter.

Every one of us here at Omnipress knows this can be a hectic time of year for meeting planners. If you need materials printed for your spring conference, it’s not too late for us to get it printed, packed and shipped to your event. How can I be so confident we can meet your conference printing deadline? Watch the video to find out!

 


VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

If you’re a conference planner getting ready for your spring meeting, we’re here for you.

What we provide at Omnipress is we provide that 40 years of experience and over 30,000 meetings that we have produced materials for. And we know that it’s more than just taking a print-ready file, putting ink on paper and binding it and getting it to the conference.

We work on tight deadlines, because we know everything is a tight deadline. So we structured our whole business around that. From our project managers working with you on a schedule that fits your needs, to our project techs being able to turn a proof quickly, to our production team being able to take those print-ready materials and move them through our shop and get them to your meeting on time.

Everyone here is passionate about what we do. We work with over 500 associations per year and we understand meetings and how they work and our project managers don’t just take your materials and produce them for you, we’re here to help. So if you have questions for us, we will give you suggestions on how you can do things differently, how you can do things a little bit better, based on the experiences that we’ve had with our other customers.

 

Finding the Right Mix of Conference Materials is a Juggling Act

 

Congratulations! You have successfully sourced, secured and scheduled all the session content for your upcoming conference. And from the looks of things, this conference is going to be one of the strongest yet. With one challenge behind you, it’s time to focus on another important decision: finding the best way to get this content into the hands of your attendees. As we’ve seen in our 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report, for many conference planners, this is not as easy as it sounds.

Content Mix Uncertainties

Forty-five-percent of respondents surveyed in the report listed “Offering a mix of formats to meet the needs of all members,” among their top content-related challenges. Digging further into the data, the reason for this seems pretty clear: Meeting planners must juggle the expectations of legacy attendees with the perceived preferences of newer (and sometimes younger) attendees. All while keeping their conference budgets in line, of course.

Unfortunately, having more options for distributing conference materials creates a new question in the minds of planners: Are we offering the right mix? For instance, 85% of respondents currently offer printed conference materials today, but only 42% plan to continue to offer them in the future. Meanwhile, 69% admit that their attendees still want printed content.

And the issue isn’t just limited to print. The report also indicates that planners intend to replace web-based digital content with content delivered via mobile apps. Is this the right decision for the 66% of respondents who report that their attendees want content made available on a website?

Complicating matters even more, attendees themselves aren’t always the best at telling you what they actually want. We have seen many of our customers remove an option from their content mix, believing it to have a low perceived value because of feedback received from attendees, only to face a surprising amount of backlash after the event.  So how do you know what is truly most relevant to your attendees?

Capturing better, behavior-based data

Some of the associations we work with have developed some simple yet effective ways to gauge attendees’ conference materials preference based on observed behaviors. Here are just a few examples that we found worth sharing:

Opt-in to print. Rather than printing program books or proceedings for every attendee, require them to indicate their print preference during registration. Plan to have a handful of extras on-site for those that will inevitably request them after-the-fact. Between the two, you will have a more accurate measure of the true value of your printed materials. Some associations even go so far as to charge a small fee for the printed piece to help offset the production cost.

Set up analytics and conversion tracking for your online materials. You’ll be able to see how many people access content online and when (before, during or after the conference). You can also see how many attendees download session presentations, handouts and other support materials.

Observe attendee behavior in real-time. As any researcher will tell you, the distance between “stated preferences” and “actual behaviors” can be a mile wide. If you can, recruit volunteers or junior staff to observe and record how members interact with content throughout the duration of the conference.

If you’re like most associations, you are catering to the needs of a diverse membership. Which means there may be no single, magic formula to create the conference content mix that appeals to every attendee. But, there are steps you can take to better measure the true value of your conference materials. Doing so can help you make even better decisions moving forward.

Explaining the Stigma Surrounding Printed Conference Materials

I find it intriguing that when I have conversations with people about how they offer their educational conference materials to attendees, they always assume that I’m there to push printed materials. This makes complete sense since I work for a company with the word “press” in the name and most assume I’m an advocate for printed materials for personal and professional benefit. They often forget thatOmnipress isn’t just a printer, and that we’ve evolved with the market and offer online conference materials and mobile apps as well; but, I digress.

The real and singular reason that I’m truly an advocate for organizations to continue offering printed materials at their events is quite simple. Attendees want options! The bottom line is that the annual event is the number one source of non-dues revenue for a lot of associations nationwide, and that’s because they attract large numbers of attendees. So if attendees (a.k.a. your second largest source of revenue) want options of how and where they can access educational conference materials, why wouldn’t more associations continue to offer some sort of printed materials?

Here are three statements I hear all too often, and why the stigma surrounding them is just not true.

“The cost of printing materials is too high.”

Printing conference materials can be something that needs to be carefully planned out in the budget. That is absolutely true! However, one thing I think meeting planners don’t consider is the value they will lose without providing their educational materials in print. Is the cost of printing your conference materials a larger detriment to your conference than the potential drop in attendance would be in years to come, because attendees were unable to truly grasp the value your conference brings?

Is the cost of printing your conference materials a larger detriment to your conference than the potential drop in attendance in years to come because attendees were unable to truly grasp the value your conference brings?

“Everyone is Going Digital.”

In our Millennials & Print study, we showed that, even in terms of younger membership, an overwhelming 86% agreed with the statement, “The world is more connected than ever, but I think there’s still a place for printed materials.” This truly demonstrates the point that even though we are of course becoming more digital and sophisticated in ways we present material, your cash cow (attendees) still see an importance of having materials in a printed version.

“Printed materials are too cumbersome to carry around at conferences.”

Carrying conference programs or proceedings around at a conference may be cumbersome. However, there are a few applications most meeting planners might not think of. First, there are printing best practices and design best practices that can cut down on page count and overall size of these materials. Second, have you ever considered sending a printed conference preview or maybe a conference follow-up? The preview can include speaker outlines so attendees can come prepared to listen and learn, instead of hearing the information for the first time and reacting then. Or, send a printed conference follow-up recapping the sessions and some of the most memorable occurrences. What a way to help your attendees remember your annual conference! Enable them to learn before and after the conference and you’ll be amazed of how much your conference’s perceived value skyrockets!

Bottom Line: Attendees do NOT only want materials offered in new, shiny digital formats. Attendees want options. They want the option to consume their conference materials however, and whenever they’d like. I can sit here and talk until I’m blue in the face about how studies have shown that learners absorb educational materials better when it’s presented in printed format, but the essence of the argument is that attendees keep your association’s reserves up, so why not keep them happy?

Idea for Association Executives to Take Away from This Article:

It’s simple! Reach out to your attendees and membership and ask them via a quick survey of how they prefer to receive educational materials. You’ll quickly find that offering options is best for your entire membership, rather than deciding for them, and in turn alienating a certain segment who may decide not to attend because of it.