Paperless Conference | Fact or Fiction?

Published by Steve Manicor | Topics: Conferences, Print

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paperlessWith all this talk about paperless meetings, I was motivated to learn why conference leaders are calling their meetings “paperless” and if there is such a thing as a “paperless conference.”

A lot of hours went into writing our white paper entitled, “Debunking the Myths of the Paperless Conference,” which contains good insights from association leaders and conference managers.

My thoughts? Delivering educational conference materials online may be a great option that saves duplication and printing costs, but you might want to consider the tradeoffs before you go all digital. The best way to make decisions about all paperless options is to analyze attendee habits and preferences.

Here are five questions you need to ask before you go paperless:

  1. What do your attendees truly want? If they want printed materials and an association offers only digital, will that frustrate them?
  2. If online content is offered before your event, will attendees want to (or remember to) print out their desired handouts and bring them to the event? Will your speakers want their handouts posted before the event?
  3. Will attendees want print stations so they can print out handouts before the sessions? Keep in mind that this may be a costly solution that takes time to coordinate and staff to monitor, since you have to have adequate stations to handle the rushes right before sessions.
  4. Will attendees bring their laptops? If the answer is yes, is the facility internet friendly? Wireless internet access at larger hotels or convention centers can cost $15 a day or more.
  5. Do attendees actually use their laptops in a session for taking notes or are they going to create distractions (e.g., checking email) to the speaker and other attendees?

Interesting… Did you notice the number of times “attendees” is mentioned in those questions? Make sure you’re delivering the content in a way that your attendees prefer.

Free Download: "Paperless Conference"


About Steve Manicor

Steve is Omnipress' Director of Business Development. He has over five years serving the meetings and training industry. He leads our product/service leadership and development teams. more

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August 14th, 2008Mickie Rops says:

I couldn’t agree more. Regardless of what the party line is, I think the drive behind most paperless conferences is cutting costs. And that’s fine, but call it what it is. And, I think most groups would benefit from offering (at a fee) a conference handout book. I think there are usually enough attendees who value that and would buy it. For some of the “paperless” conference I attend, I’d love that option.


August 14th, 2008Beth Ziesenis says:

So, it’s 7 p.m. the day before the ASAE conference starts, and I’m kind of unhappy. ASAE is trying to go paper *less*, if I understand things correctly. I don’t know if there will be a final program on site for me to go through, but I’m guessing I need to plan my schedule before I go.

So I tried to print the program from my computer, but it’s perhaps 60 pages of PDF broken down into maybe 6 sections. So I tried to print only the parts I needed to see, and my printer went out of ink and my computer kind of lost its mind and had to be rebooted.

Trying a different approach, I just spent the last hour trying to use the virtual planner, which is kind of cool, but the application is kind of funky. I picked sessions I wanted to see and went to tried my schedule. I pushed the button to expand my events so I could have more than the title when I tried to remember why I wanted to go… and the page wouldn’t display!

This is a long, long comment to say one thing: I want my final program! I want things to look at! I want to sit at a table in the convention center, sipping a double Americano and browsing the days options. I want to flip through descriptions and handouts to determine how to best spend my time at this important (and expensive) event. I want to use a pen I stole from the exhibit hall to circle the sessions that I want to see or jot more notes from my last presentation.

In summary… I want my money’s worth.

PS — I don’t actually know that they *won’t* have a final program — I just don’t know what to expect because of their promotions about a paper *less* event.

Twitter: AvenueZ


August 15th, 2008Joan Eisenstodt says:

Beth-Sitting at IAD hoping my flight goes to SAN for ASAE .. and I GET IT! And more, we forget different learning styles and the need for taking notes .. on paper .. since some of us like to connect the speaker’s/trainer’s comments to our own. And “paperless” is also only a money and environmental saver for the meeting sponsor – the rest of us do print stuff out .. and often one-sided v. the two that the sponsors might do. THEN there are the educational offerings that we are s’posed to make interactive and w/o paper, we can’t do the exercises. And ‘sides .. what’s wrong w/ printing?

Twitter: joaneisenstodt


August 15th, 2008Chris Uschan says:

Joan, you hit it on the head (learning styles, etc)… Most conferences I attend (out of town) cost at least $1000 to $2000 (travel, reg fees, etc.). To me, spending another $7 to $15 is nothing if it increases my learning experience.

I like the on-site materials. I take them with me and read through all of them on the plane (when I am totally disconnected from life and have time). I love being able to jot down notes, flag great ideas, etc. That’s pretty tough to do when the materials are online and I’m on a plane.

I love the internet, but sometimes out of sight becomes out of mind. That physical book (or even the CD) that sits on my desk is a constant reminder (Hint from the marketing guy: Keeping your name/brand top of mind is huge!)

What’s next?

Are hotels going to make me bring my own towels and bedding?

Twitter: chrisuschan


September 10th, 2008Beth Z says:

Quick update — the ASAE conference DID, in fact, include a wonderful on-site program, which I dutifully and joyfully marked up in pen. There were no paper handouts, and today I went to the download site to pick up some I missed. They were awful! Doesn’t anyone tell these speakers that providing copies of their PowerPoint slides with stock photos and no words is absolutely not helpful? Man — where’s the beef? (Showing my age there. Sorry.)

Twitter: AvenueZ


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October 10th, 2011Paperless Meetings says:

There are now solutions for paperless meetings using tablet devices. I think regardless of the solution the idea itself is a powerful one as it creates a real possibility of harnessing the powerful technologies that are coming out and utilizing them for real green purposes!

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