Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2019

Are You Harnessing the Full Power of Your Content?

Every association wants to find ways to drive attendance to its annual conference — after all, what better way is there to attract new members than to expose them in person to all the great content and networking opportunities you can offer? In fact, new research from Omnipress, the “2019 State of the Conference Industry Report,” found that increasing attendance was by far the most-mentioned top goal for the 150 association professionals it polled, beating increasing revenue from sponsorships and exhibitors, expanding the conference’s scope, and attracting new audience(s).

Perhaps the focus was on growing attendance because, for almost half of respondents, the attendance needle hadn’t budged much in the past year; only 10 percent said they had seen a significant increase.

With 60 percent pinning the key value their conferences provide to knowledge and education — and an additional 35 percent citing networking as the key benefit — content is still the killer conference app. But it’s not as simple to provide as it once was.

Content Challenges and Opportunities
Over the previous years of the study, which has been performed annually since 2015, the most common challenge cited was the unenviable task of chasing down and reviewing presentations. This year’s study found “managing last-minute content changes” to be the most common challenge, though the content cat-herding chore remains the most challenging challenge for most.

One thing respondents reported as becoming less of a challenge is “offering a mix of formats to meet the needs of all members,” perhaps because this is something they’re beginning to do. While participants in earlier versions of the study predicted print would be on the wane, so far the majority are still offering a print option. But web-based and mobile-friendly materials are definitely still on the upswing, with more than two-thirds saying they were seeing more demand in these areas. Also in more demand now is content that is shorter, interactive, more dynamic and visually based. Respondents also are seeing more demand for the ability to comment on the content being provided.

However, while about half didn’t expect to change the number of formats they offer this year, a fifth said they planned to offer more formats, compared to just 6 percent who expected to pare down the ways in which they offer content.

The most commonly used methods of distributing content to attendees were via online/web-based digital materials, the conference app and printed materials, with a few offering USBs, DVDs and other offline digital formats.

Just 55 percent said they reuse their conference content. Of those, 42 percent said they used conference material to promote next year’s event, saying it helps to create a fear of missing out, or FOMO. About a quarter said they used recycled content to reinforce learning postconference, while about the same percentage said they used it to provide continuous content marketing for the organization.

Here are some other key takeaways from the study:

What they offer and how they get it: More than half of the respondents use a mix of invited and open-call methods to source educational content for their events, and 71 percent rely on a committee to select what goes on the agenda. Session presentations made up the vast bulk — 89 percent — of the type of content offered, followed by speaker bios, awards, posters, worksheets/handouts, abstracts, papers and supplemental videos.

Budget fluctuations: Fifty-nine percent expected their budgets to stay about the same this year, while 31 percent thought they’d see a modest bump up, and only 4 percent anticipated a modest decrease.

Generational strategies: Only 11 percent said they had already developed a strategy to address the needs of millennials, though another 42 percent said this was a work in progress. The generation coming up behind the millennials — Gen Z — still isn’t getting much attention, according to the study. Half of respondents said they had not yet started developing a strategy to address Gen Z needs, and just 29 percent said this was in progress.

Download the full report at the Omnipress website (free registration required). — Sue Pelletier

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About ConferenceDirect
ConferenceDirect is a global meetings solutions company offering site selection/contract negotiation, conference management, housing & registration services, mobile app technology and strategic meetings management solutions. It provides expertise to 2,500 corporations and associations through our 325 Associates globally. www.conferencedirect.com

About MeetingMentor
MeetingMentor, the leading publication for senior meeting planners, is circulated to the clients, prospects and sales associates of ConferenceDirect, which books more than 3.87 million room nights. www.meetingmentormag.com

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