Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What’s Your Association’s ROI for Resources Allocated to Conventions/Meetings?

Whether a big annual meeting or local seminars, most associations devote a major portion of their budgets and staff time to conferences.

My question: Is the association getting the full benefits of the budgets invested in meetings?

In my experience, most of the time and resources are devoted to planning and executing the conference. Maximizing the value of the content generated at the conference seems to be an after-thought for most organizations.

Most conferences are a gold mine of content (information, knowledge, education or whatever you call it). But, most of that content is shared only with those members who attend the event. Many conferences feature one or more “highly paid” speakers. And most of us fail to get the full value from our investment in these speakers.

All this means the association’s resources are wasted on a few rather than devoted to adding value to members and nonmembers and the industry or profession you serve.

Disclosure: I believe that associations create more value when the content of their conferences is not limited just to those attending. Providing live streaming and other means to share the content of your meeting expands the value of the event without distracting from those who register and attend. And, in my experience, in promoting “what they missed,” helps encourage attendance at the next event.

To increase the value of your conference’s content, someone on your staff needs to be responsible for developing and implementing a content marketing and management strategy. Since the strategy involves pre-conference, during conference and post-conference, your meetings team probably doesn’t have time to focus on these efforts.

If you don’t put someone in charge, it won’t get done and you will waste the full value of the resources you are devoting to the event.

A conference content management and marketing plan involves three stages on top of your conference promotion and registration strategies:

Before the Event
1) Speaker agreements
  • Include provisions of speaker’s responsibility to provide pre-conference blog about his/her topic; be willing to do interviews (video and written) during the meeting; be willing to have his presentation video and audio taped; be willing to have you post the PowerPoint or pdf file of their presentation on your SlideShare site.
  • Include provision that speaker will include the speaker’s Twitter handle and the conference’s Twitter hashtag on all slides.
2) Social media
  • Establish the conference’s social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Set them up and include links to your organization’s website.
  • Create the conference’s Twitter hashtag and promote it before and during the event.
3) Pre-conference connections
  • Encourage members to Tweet (with your Twitter hashtag) before the event and help create a sense of community among attendees.
At the Event
1) Tweets
  • Consider having a staffer or volunteer be your event’s dedicated tweeter.
  • Encourage attendees to use the Twitter hashtag on their tweets.
  • Encourage speakers to include several “tweetable” comments (sound bites) during the presentation.
  • Encourage the use of Tweets for Q&A sessions. Your “dedicated tweeter” can share the tweeted questions with speakers.
2) Livestreaming and/or videos
  • Consider livestreaming several speakers/sessions. I’ve heard some say this discourages attendance but in reality, it promotes the next year’s conference. Be sure you have great sound to go with the livestreaming. 
  • Be sure to videotape all sessions. Post these on your event’s YouTube channel and/or association’s website. 
3) Speaker interviews
  • Schedule speaker interviews after their talk.
  • Consider holding the interviews in a dedicated room (see #4).
4) Blogger lounge (in addition to a media room)
  • Have a room dedicated for bloggers (as well as news media) attending your event.
  • Encourage attendees who are blogging (and/or Tweeting) to use this room.
After the Event
Use these post-conference content efforts as the first blast of promoting next year’s event:
  1. Your dedicated tweeter should do a post-conference summary of the key Tweets at the conference ... post these to your event’s website.
  2. Create a “mashup” of presentations & videos and post to your event’s SlideShare channel.
  3. Provide the video mashup to attendees and encourage them to share with their colleagues and friends.
In addition to my own experience, ideas for this post relied on these five blogs:
I’d love to hear what you and/or your association is doing to maximize the value of the content shared at your conference or meeting. Please post in the comments section of this blog. Thanks.

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