By Oliver Vadas
Finding a way to provide ongoing support for professional development and information distribution are important considerations for a growing number of corporate and association meeting planners. Making conference content available to an entire audience or association membership — not only to registered conference delegates — is the best way to fulfill that mission. The first phase of the education process is to explain the benefits of preserving conference contents.
The following article is intended to assist event planners in extending their knowledge of state-of-the-art content management technologies, and then to provide them with guidelines on how to educate their clients and stakeholders. The second goal is to disperse the common belief that content management is too costly. In fact, it costs significantly less than printed proceedings did when they were part of the delegate kit of almost every conference.
Attending a conference is an opportunity to interact with peers. Exchanging ideas with others has a significant benefit towards professional development. This benefit, however, is delivered in a more organized manner through the technical program.
Why should sessions be recorded? Not everyone can attend every presentation of interest. Even with best efforts by the organizers to avoid concurrent sessions with similar topics, many attendees may still have some difficult choices to make. Consequently, they end up missing sessions that they intended to participate in. And those who could not attend the conference at all are — but should not be — completely out of luck.
The solution is to record presentations and panel discussion, then make them available to the delegates as well as to those who could not attend.
While the primary measures of success for event organizers are often registration and staying within budget, they also want the conference to foster ongoing professional development. It is hard to dispute that recording and distributing the sessions is an effective tool to increase accessibility of the conference content after the event. However, event organizers believe there are some negative aspects of doing so, such as:
- If the content was made widely available, no one will register for the live event; and,
- It may be too costly to fit the budget
Let’s address the first issue by examining what major factors potential delegates need to consider before registering for an event, including traveling cost, relevance of the program, location, and networking opportunities. Rarely is their decision based on whether or not there will be printed proceedings or online postings of the presentations. There is no evidence that registration is affected (cost considerations are covered below).
A new way of preserving content
As hard-copy publications fade away, evolving new technologies have created opportunities and practical solutions to record and distribute, not only formal presentations, but also spontaneous discussions during panel sessions. Several surveys and user feedback indicate that organizers, delegates and those who could not attend are overwhelmingly in favour of recording the content. Clearly, the fact that less than 10 per cent of conferences are actually doing so is not for the lack of appreciation for its value, rather the misconception that it is a too complex and costly. Organizers need to be made aware that it is neither.
Recording presentations means simply tapping into the already existing audio-visual setup; only a few additional steps are required: Install recording software; and connect the AV computer system to the PA system (to obtain the audio) and the camera (to receive the video) and, voilà, ready to go. The presenter and his/her voice is merged with the digitally captured slides in sync with the talk. It doesn’t get much simpler.
Delivering the content
The separately recorded individual presentations are combined into a format that is essentially a multimedia version of traditional printed proceedings. The “Table of Contents” is replaced with a title list and the page numbers with buttons. Those buttons bring the selected presentation into the “Projection screen.” All multimedia players provide several viewing controls. In this application the “Pause” button is the most frequently used, because slides often contain so much information that viewers need time to fully analyze the data and take notes. A display of sponsor credits and a link to access the feedback form completes the event home page.
Printed proceedings (they were in the delegate kits of most conferences not too long ago) used to cost about $17 per delegate. In contrast, digital recording and electronic distribution of presentations costs are in the $2-$3-per-delegate range. (Important to note: Recorded conference sessions may even become a revenue source, when made available for a fee to those who did not register).
Those conference organizers who choose to record their events do so because they realize its value. The fact that association members are expecting, or often demanding, it provides the added incentive. The reason why it is still not more universal is twofold:
- Event organizers are afraid that it will interfere with the flow of the program. They need to be informed that, tried and tested technologies make it simple and transparent;
- They are also concerned with cost. When clearly demonstrated how minimal an effect it has on the overall budget — while delivering tangible benefits — they will listen. Based on the primary objectives of the event, point out how, for their specific event, recording will increase the benefits and how it can fit the budget.
About the author
Novel Digital Publishing has been providing content management services for over 25 years. While in most cases they work directly with event organizers, they also deliver their services through partnerships with other service providers. Oliver Vadas — as project coordinator and editor — is responsible for both the on-site and post-production activities. For more information visit www.ic.ca, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 905-339-3486.