Educational Meeting Content: What Hundreds of Associations Are Doing
As a partner to hundreds of associations providing content collection and delivery solutions for educational events, we’ve got a pretty good pulse on things. This isn’t meant to be the perfect “what to expect list in 2011”, but when I asked our representatives what their clients were doing in 2010 and looking to overcome in 2011, this is what they told me.
- Conference materials on flash drives – Although CDs are less expensive, providing attendees with flash drives for educational content is on the rise. Here’s why: (a) you can lock the handouts and educational content to the drive which for medical groups is an important thing, (b) users can take notes directly on the drives, (c) many netbook computers don’t come with CD drives, (d) it’s something their sponsors find value in, and (e) wi-fi is not always reliable or available to access the handouts online.
- A better system for collecting files – A lot of organizations have had to cut staff over the past few years. This meant doing more with less people. When push comes to shove, there is less time to deal with inadequate online systems for collecting and managing abstracts, papers and reviewers. Organizations seem to want a very customizable system with someone on the other end of the phone who can be their right hand man. Hiring more staff wasn’t allowed, but finding a company who could do both (provide the system and helpful staff) was attractive to them.
- More engaging event web sites – The news must finally be sinking in. Boring, flat, one dimensional event web sites are out. Organizations need to attract more people and engage their attendees. Adding social sharing widgets, an online community and a design makeover are just a few things on their list in addition to better meetings and sessions.
- Post-conference content strategies – Associations collect and share a ton of knowledge at events, but for years have not been doing much with that content after the event other than dumping the PDFs in the corner of their web site. Creating knowledge centers, communities and a constant flow of educational content keeps attendees connected and brings awareness to their organizations. Being findable (to the search engines) seems to be more important than just allowing event attendees the ability to see the content has greater long-term value.
- Streaming event sessions to their members – The concept of “hybrid meetings” quickly surfaced to the top as a means for bringing the event to a remote audience. The big question is how to pull this off. Do you stream everything? What can you afford? Do you charge for the content? 2011 will be a year of figuring this out for many organizations. Many organizations record all their content, but haven’t figured out to make it valuable which leads back to point number four above.
- Outsourcing layout, design, etc. – It’s not the printing or online hosting that costs money, it’s the time of taking the content from the presenters and organizing it into something useful and engaging. And most associations don’t have that staff or knowledge to do this well. So many of our clients look for partners to help them with program layout and create fresh designs and user-friendly interfaces for their content.
- Providing choice of medium to attendees – By adding a few options to the registration form (e.g., [ ] receive the printed handouts – add $20), event organizers can give attendees what they want. They then provide the orders back to the company producing the materials to quickly turn it around. One hurdle to this approach is time to prepare the content (see #6 above) in the multiple formats.
- A desire for mobile access – Our clients realize that a majority of their meeting delegates carry iPhones, Droids or other smart phones. Accessing the event program and even the session materials and resources has value. We have some clients starting to add QR codes to their printed materials that links directly to specific content online.
Tell me what you think
- How are you managing your education event content?
- Are you maximizing it’s value?
- How does your “short on time and staff affect achieving your objectives?
- Does your audience appreciate it?
- What can you do effectively inhouse vs outsource?