outlook-smlBelieve it or not, 2015 is nearly in the rearview mirror, which means that every professional resource you read will be looking ahead to 2016. Earlier this month, Associations Now published “Early Meeting Predictions for 2016,” which also featured Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s “2016 Meetings and Events Forecast.” The predictions in the report speak to positive growth in the industry, but at a price for already-squeezed meeting planners.

Limited hotel inventory, increasing food and beverage costs and more concerns mean that you’re going to have to plan further out, sharpen your hotel negotiations and continue to get even more creative to meet your objectives.

What do hotel and F&B trends have to do with your conference content? Quite a lot, actually. You’ll be looking for ways to improve efficiency in other areas to free up your personal bandwidth for line items with higher price tags. Start with these three ideas to make managing conference content easier in 2016:

  1. Get ahead where you can. Each content project requires a different timeline. You will want to start shopping for an abstract management system 12-18 months before your conference and plan to open your site about 9 months before your conference. You’ll want to have your online content up and running 6 months out for promotion and searchability. Print, on the other hand, may only need 3-6 months lead time, or even less, if your printer is agile and understands the tight deadlines that associations face. Keep in mind that the more complex your content or your collection process is, the more lead time you’ll need.
  1. Consolidate your contracts and vendors. This tip can save you a lot of hassle! The fewer calls you have to make to follow up on your conference content, the smoother your planning will be. You may have an opportunity to consolidate your vendors. Ask if your abstract management provider can also handle your printed materials, online content and conference app.
  1. Make more and better use of technology. Speaking of apps, your attendees make extensive use of their mobile devices. Is your association represented with a conference app? Go beyond offering simply a “conference program behind glass.” Many apps can serve other purposes, as well. Give attendees the option to create personalized itineraries. Foster networking with a social timeline and communication tools like person-to-person messaging. Enhance engagement with live polling and push notifications. Watch how a truly great app can improve your conference.

IWCS took advantage of these ideas well before 2016 and were thrilled with the excitement a conference app brought to their annual meeting. Read their story!

Are you planning to implement any conference content improvements next year? Let us know in the comments!