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Again this year, associations struggle with event content

In February, I wrote about Omnipress’ 2017 report on the state of the conference industry. That report found content is king for conferences.

While content remains important, the 2018 report found associations are facing new challenges in communicating and disseminating content as attendees’ expectations are constantly changing.

A top challenge continues to be attendance. Membership in associations remained flat in 2017, so for 2018, organizations focused on key areas to increase event attendance and hopefully increase memberships:

  • Encourage peer-to-peer engagement
  • Increase conference quality
  • Update technologies to increase engagement
  • Create more networking opportunities

This year saw more diverse delivery of content for events. Among delivery vehicles, online remained the most popular, with 89 percent of respondents indicating they distribute content online. For comparison, last year, 85 percent of those surveyed said they use print to deliver content, while this year, that number felt to 81 percent.

“Diversity is a word that comes to mind when looking at the responses to this year’s survey,” Omnipress says. “Whether it is the number of formats associations are using to deliver conference content, the variety of initiatives designed to increase attendee engagement or the wide-ranging expectations of today’s attendees, associations are managing an increasingly complex content portfolio before, during and after their events.”

The top challenge reported: managing the collection and review process. But the good news is the number of respondents that rate leveraging content after the conference as challenging fell from 50 percent last year to 37 percent in this year’s survey.

Some key takeaways from the 2018 report:

  • Different departments may have different goals for a conference.
  • The top goal for conferences is to increase attendance.
  • Only 62 percent of associations reuse content.
  • Organizations aren’t ready for future generations.

Survey participants said providing knowledge and education is the greatest value of hosting conferences, while networking came in second. Understanding that, Omnipress offers some tips.

To increase engagement with members using content, Omnipress suggests collecting submissions for content to promote events. Doing so offers new members and potential members the opportunity to highlight their work.

“The opportunity for member engagement extends beyond attending the conference,” Ominpress says. “Associations can provide options for members to participate in other meaningful ways by including an open call for their event. Soliciting presentations from within the association allows the organization to recognize the contributions that members are making in their industry and advance their careers.”

Analytics can help associations determine which method is preferred for content delivery, Ominpress says. Mobile apps and online libraries can be good indicators of engagement.

In addition, many people may not know how to repurpose an association’s event content. So, developing a content strategy highlighting what content is available, with suggestions for how to use it, could help. (Speaking as a communications professional, content that’s already been created is a goldmine for communications staff.)

Finally, engaging multiple generations has gotten more challenging for organizations, the 2018 report found. So, just like last year, Omnipress advises groups to recruit a millennial to document an event on Snapchat or asking a GenZer to write a blog.

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