Common Challenges for Associations

Have you ever wondered if, within your own association, your conference team and your continuing education team face similar challenges? According to the results of our two industry reports, they do!

Watch Dan Loomis discuss the most common challenges that appear on both the 2018 Training Trends Report and 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report. In the video, Dan also details a way to bring the conference and training groups together to find solutions to their shared challenges.

 


Video Transcript

Dan Loomis: “Within your own association, do you ever wonder if your conference team and your continuing education team have similar challenges? We looked at two industry reports and we found some interesting trends.

 

“What we found interesting is across conference and training, there’s challenges around managing content changes and how to deliver the mix of content that needs to be delivered for the learner. It’s not surprising that that’s a focus, because it actually helps with the strategic focus and the relevancy of an association. But, what I find interesting looking at these reports side-by-side, there’s a lot of associations that are still challenged with managing costs, deciding what quantities to produce and even order fulfillment and shipping.

 

“If you think about these things that are consuming their time and deciding what quantities to produce is taking up about 30% of their time, where they would prefer to spend 0% on that type of task.

 

“So, what if you outsourced to a third-party that could handle that stuff and still support your brand and all the things you would like to represent when that material goes out, and you could put that time towards some of those higher end, higher level strategic objectives of really focusing on the mix of the formats and managing those content changes.

 

“So, like we say in life, it’s not always about the big changes, it’s about the little changes and maybe it’s time we apply that to our own associations.

 

“Here’s a suggestion: Grab some members from your conference team, grab a few from your continuing education, have a little lunch and learn, do a little team bonding. It will be interesting to see what kind of common challenges they have in your association and see what kind of solutions they can come up with.”

 

2018 State of the Conference Industry Infographic

This year’s State of the Conference Industry Report makes clear that association professionals are facing new challenges as they strive to meet their attendees’ changing expectations.

Between the growing number of formats associations use to deliver content, the variety of initiatives designed to increase attendee engagement, and the wide-ranging expectations of today’s attendees, managing conference content is becoming an increasingly difficult task.

Take a look at the infographic below to see some of the highlights from the report. For a more complete view of how association professionals are adapting to the realities of omnipresent content, be sure to download the full report.

 

2018 State of the Conference Industry Infographic

 

Read the full report to learn how other associations use content to engage attendees before, during and after their events.

Reporting on the State Of The Conference Industry

 

2018 has officially arrived, which means it’s time to launch our 2018 State of the Conference Industry Report.

For the fourth year in a row, we have tracked and reported on the role that content plays at an annual conference. Through an online survey of 143 association professionals, this report outlines the challenges associated with managing, distributing and leveraging that content.

For the first three years of the report, we typically observed minimal changes in data from year to year, as you might expect. This year, however, we are actually noticing some significant shifts and new trends in the conference industry. Here are a few points we found particularly interesting:

The Introduction of “Omnipresent” Content

Determining how to provide content at the conference has always been a challenge for meeting planners who are continually balancing the diverse needs and preferences of a multi-generational audience with a generally flat conference budget. Based on this year’s survey results, however, the issue isn’t as much about appeasing the majority based on your attendance profile. Thanks to technologies such as on-demand streaming services, attendees are starting to think of content as being “device-agnostic”, accessing it anywhere, anytime, and in whichever format is most convenient and relevant for them at that moment, while also enhancing the learning process, of course. This is creating some new challenges for meeting planners, as well as some tough decisions.

Content is (finally) extending beyond the conference

For quite some time, it has been widely recognized that an organization’s educational content is its greatest asset, and the annual conference is one of the greatest sources of new, fresh content. Despite this, only about half of respondents indicated that they re-use their conference content for any purpose…until now. This year marks the first time we’ve seen a notable increase not just in whether they use it, but how.  Associations have finally figured out how to break down internal silos and are investing in resources and processes to make this possible. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

  • Membership growth rates continue to be flat, but the expectation to increase conference attendance still looms large.
  • Conferences and associations aren’t seeing a large uptick in younger members and attendees, despite the fact that they are becoming the largest segment of the population.
  • FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a tremendous motivator for younger attendees, who are already “content gluttons.”

This year’s findings have already sparked quite a bit of conversation around here. I encourage you to download the report and share it with your colleagues. We’ve even provided some thought starters to help jump-start the discussion in your own organization.

 

Now’s Your Chance to Weigh-In on the Conference Industry

Our annual State of the Conference Industry Survey is currently underway! Have you had a chance to weigh-in alongside your peers? If not, we hope you will.

Each year we collect data from association and conference professionals to understand the challenges and trends surrounding conference content—namely, how attendees want it, how associations provide it, and what changes lie ahead as attendee demographics and preferences shift. In January, we use this information to publish our annual State of the Conference Industry Report.

Our goal with this report is to help you take advantage of your members’ interest in your content. Whether this means offering a greater blend of materials at your annual event, using conference content to promote your association, or generating additional revenue for your organization, this report will provide ideas and considerations for leveraging your content in a way that is meaningful to your members and beneficial to your association.

For instance, in the 2017 State of the Conference Industry report, we uncovered that despite the benefits of re-using educational content outside of the conference only 55% of respondents are doing so – a surprising number given how effective content can be in promoting the conference and increasing attendance.  We also learned that Millennials are no longer a generation to prepare for in the future, but are already becoming a significant slice of the membership pie. Yet, only a small percentage of associations have a strategy in place to meet the needs of this generation.

What insights will we gain in 2018? Did associations make any significant strides in addressing the challenges and opportunities outlined in the 2017 report? Have any new ones arisen?

We’d love to have your voice included in this year’s results. The survey takes just 5-10 minutes to complete, and all responses remain confidential for the report.  As a thank you for your time, each participant will be entered into a drawing to receive a $100 Visa Gift Card.

Please take a moment to complete the survey here. Feel free to pass it along to your colleagues as well. We look forward to sharing the results with you in January.

Now is the Time to Start Using Your Educational Content for Marketing

 

Regular readers of this blog know we believe content marketing is a great fit for associations. The reason is simple: We’ve seen how well it can work to engage members and generate interest in an association’s events. So it was surprising to see that only about half (55%) of the respondents in our 2017 State of the Conference Industry survey said they are re-using their content. That means many associations are missing out on a great way to connect with their membership.

If your association is still not using your educational content for marketing, now is the time to start!

As with any organizational undertaking, it’s best to start your planning with a clear goal in mind. Content marketing is no different. Here are three questions to keep in mind as you assemble a team to begin this project. These questions will help you focus your efforts and provide a framework to measure the success of your work:

Question #1: What outcome does my association want to achieve?

Developing your content plan with your end goal in mind is a great way to begin your planning. Content strategy outcomes typically involve generating interest, awareness or revenue. Some common objectives that are well suited for content marketing include:

  • Promoting you conference
  • Building awareness for your association
  • Keeping members or attendees engaged throughout the year
  • Generating non-dues revenue for your association

Question #2: Which materials are of most interest to my attendees/members?

Another important question to answer early in your planning process is to determine which topics interest your audience. Talk with some of your members to find out their preferences. Doing this before you begin will save you a tremendous amount of time and effort later. Every industry is different, so there is no single type of content that works best. Some popular types of content to consider include:

  • Promoting innovative research
  • Becoming a resource for industry best practices
  • Offering commentary on industry trends or other types of thought leadership

Bonus: Having a conversation with your members about their interests on a regular basis can help you offer in-demand conference sessions!

Question #3: How will we use our educational content for marketing?

With a goal in mind and an understanding of what interests your members, the next step is to think about putting your content to work. One common pitfall to content marketing is trying to do too many things. Answering this question will help your team stay focused. Again, let your goals drive the answer to this question.

For example, if your goal is to raise the awareness of your conference, you may choose to promote your online conference materials on social media to gain a wide audience. If your goal is to generate revenue for your association, however, a subscription-based site would make more sense.

A third option would let a visitor access your materials only after they provide their email address. You could then use this information to keep them up-to-date year round on important association news.

Conclusion

If your association is one of the 45% only using your educational materials at the conference, make this the year you do more with that content! The good news is you can start small and see how it works for your association. Every industry is different and what works for one group may not work for yours. Experimenting is key. So determine your goal, find out what material interests your members and put your content to work!

Infographic | Top 5 Reasons to Participate in the State of Continuing Education Content Survey

I’m excited to announce that we are conducting ‘The State of Continuing Education Content’ survey again this year. If you are responsible for training or continuing education programs for an association, we want to hear from you! Please take just a couple of minutes and complete the short survey.

This is the 4th year in a row that we will be using your survey responses to compile ‘The State of Continuing Education Content’ report, which will be released in January. The report provides a glimpse into how your colleagues are developing and implementing educational programs.

But before we can produce the report, we need your input! Take a look at the Top 5 Reasons to Participate in the State of Continuing Education Content survey graphic below if you’d like to see some more reasons to take the survey.

Top 5 Reasons To Participate graphic

 

Omnipresence: It’s ‘State of the Conference Industry’ Survey Time!

 

If you play a role in planning conferences for associations, I invite you to complete the survey here.

Once the survey results are in, your answers will be compiled into a ‘State of the Conference Industry’ report that will be released next January. The report will cover topics ranging from the goals of your conferences, challenges in delivering conference content and dealing with demographic shifts within your association. It’s the only report of its kind that addresses association conference content planning and trends.

Omnipress works hard to be a resource for associations, not just their vendor. Helping customers reach their goals is part of our company mission and is a natural extension of who we are as people, too. (I guess that “helpful Midwesterner” stereotype turns out to be true after all). Our goal is to help customers make the informed decisions that lead to great conferences. The ‘State of the Conference Industry’ report is one example of our commitment to helping conference planners.

But before we can create an insightful report, we need your input. As a way of saying “Thanks!” for filling out the survey, everyone that completes the survey will have the option to enter a drawing to receive a free FitBit Charge 2!

Speaking of “Thanks,” I’d like to say thank you for being a part of our conference professionals’ community. We’ve had a lot of good feedback on the report over the years and you are what makes this survey possible. I’m always interested in how people address the challenges that come with conference planning, and excited to see your expectations for the future. Every year it seems like the industry is changing at a faster pace than the year before. Is it the same this year? I can’t say for sure unless you complete the State of the Conference Industry survey!

 

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