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There's Good News for Conference Content, and a Warning, in New Report

By / Feb 7, 2019 (Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The latest version of Omnipress’ State of the Conference Industry Report finds that content continues to be a significant driver of value for associations. But with member demographics more diverse than ever, organizations are facing challenges in how they deliver it.

While “content is king” is one of the most overly used clichés in the marketing and communications space, a new report from Omnipress—2019 State of the Conference Industry [registration required]—proves the phrase is still relevant.

According to the 150 association professionals surveyed for the report, they know the high value attendees place on good content, so they’re working hard to deliver it in multiple formats that people say they want. But with attendee demographics more diverse than ever, some groups are struggling to meet everyone’s needs.

“With four generations attending conferences today, attendee preferences and expectations are more diverse and complex than ever. In response, meeting planners have continued to increase the number of ways in which they deliver conference materials to attendees,” said Jonny Popp, Omnipress general manager, in a press release.

Let’s dive into the report to see where associations are hitting the mark—and where there’s opportunity to increase their visibility and extend their value.

Where Associations Are Succeeding

Good news: The report shows that associations are succeeding in many aspects of content development. For instance, knowing that attendees want content in more formats than ever before, associations, on average, are providing 2.6 formats at their conferences. Some of the most common are session presentations (89 percent), posters (44 percent), and worksheets or handouts (37 percent). Much less common? Supplemental video, which is currently offered by 19 percent of respondents.

In addition, associations are responding as they see a shift in the formats that attendees prefer. For example, attendees are starting to favor education content that is short-form, visual, and interactive, which means that associations are slowly starting to get away from print-based content. According to the report, only 42 percent of respondents plan to use print in the future.

Where Associations Can Improve

While associations are doing a good job at switching up formats to meet attendee expectations, struggles exist in other areas. One involves repurposing conference content.

“There are still untapped opportunities to increase the conference footprint through content,” the report says.

The most popular way that respondents say they are reusing their content is to promote and market next year’s event. But it’s much less common for associations to use their content to reinforce learning after the conference wraps up or for ongoing content marketing campaigns. Boosting those efforts is not only likely to produce more dedicated attendees, but it will also appeal to younger members who are actively seeking opportunities to make connections and tap into professional development opportunities on more than an annual basis.

That’s why the report warns that associations should be doing a better job in preparing for a potential influx of young professionals at their conferences.

“We’ve asked associations each year whether they have a plan in place to address the needs of millennials, and now generation Z,” said Omnipress Director of Marketing Tracy Grzybowski in a press release. “Five years later, we have seen little to no movement in their level of generational preparedness.”

What improvements are you making to your conference content strategy? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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