stigmaI find it intriguing that when I have conversations with people about how they offer their educational conference materials to attendees, they always assume that I’m there to push printed materials. This makes complete sense since I work for a company with the word “press” in the name and most assume I’m an advocate for printed materials for personal and professional benefit. They often forget thatOmnipress isn’t just a printer, and that we’ve evolved with the market and offer online conference materials and mobile apps as well; but, I digress.

The real and singular reason that I’m truly an advocate for organizations to continue offering printed materials at their events is quite simple. Attendees want options! The bottom line is that the annual event is the number one source of non-dues revenue for a lot of associations nationwide, and that’s because they attract large numbers of attendees. So if attendees (a.k.a. your second largest source of revenue) want options of how and where they can access educational conference materials, why wouldn’t more associations continue to offer some sort of printed materials?

Here are three statements I hear all too often, and why the stigma surrounding them is just not true.

“The cost of printing materials is too high.”

Printing conference materials can be something that needs to be carefully planned out in the budget. That is absolutely true! However, one thing I think meeting planners don’t consider is the value they will lose without providing their educational materials in print. Is the cost of printing your conference materials a larger detriment to your conference than the potential drop in attendance would be in years to come, because attendees were unable to truly grasp the value your conference brings?

Is the cost of printing your conference materials a larger detriment to your conference than the potential drop in attendance in years to come because attendees were unable to truly grasp the value your conference brings?

“Everyone is Going Digital.”

In our Millennials & Print study, we showed that, even in terms of younger membership, an overwhelming 86% agreed with the statement, “The world is more connected than ever, but I think there’s still a place for printed materials.” This truly demonstrates the point that even though we are of course becoming more digital and sophisticated in ways we present material, your cash cow (attendees) still see an importance of having materials in a printed version.

“Printed materials are too cumbersome to carry around at conferences.”

Carrying conference programs or proceedings around at a conference may be cumbersome. However, there are a few applications most meeting planners might not think of. First, there are printing best practices and design best practices that can cut down on page count and overall size of these materials. Second, have you ever considered sending a printed conference preview or maybe a conference follow-up? The preview can include speaker outlines so attendees can come prepared to listen and learn, instead of hearing the information for the first time and reacting then. Or, send a printed conference follow-up recapping the sessions and some of the most memorable occurrences. What a way to help your attendees remember your annual conference! Enable them to learn before and after the conference and you’ll be amazed of how much your conference’s perceived value skyrockets!

Bottom Line: Attendees do NOT only want materials offered in new, shiny digital formats. Attendees want options. They want the option to consume their conference materials however, and whenever they’d like. I can sit here and talk until I’m blue in the face about how studies have shown that learners absorb educational materials better when it’s presented in printed format, but the essence of the argument is that attendees keep your association’s reserves up, so why not keep them happy?

Idea for Association Executives to Take Away from This Article:

It’s simple! Reach out to your attendees and membership and ask them via a quick survey of how they prefer to receive educational materials. You’ll quickly find that offering options is best for your entire membership, rather than deciding for them, and in turn alienating a certain segment who may decide not to attend because of it.