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.