This post is the first of several related to a Muzik & Muzik presentation at the Professional Conference and Meetings Association’s (PCMA’s) 2015 Convening Leaders conference that took place in Chicago, January 11–14, 2015.
Titled, “Amplify and Extend the Impact of your Conference Content,” the interactive session focused on a 7-step process (AMPLIFY) for maximizing the digital education assets captured at live conferences and events. AMPLIFY is for anyone who has direct responsibility – or a collaborative partnership with the education team – for content selection, presentation, capture, repurposing, and/or eLearning.
- Leverage your live and recorded event content to maximum benefit
- Articulate the role of the meeting professional in connecting organizational goals with the content curation and collection processes
- Identify others within your organization with whom you can partner
Background — What’s the problem???
Most associations today have formal strategic plans. While many complain that the process that staff, executives, and board typically go through is extensive, EXPENSIVE, and often theoretical, the non-profit fashion of looking to the business world for guidance has created a fairly well-known collective understanding of basic strategic planning among those in the association world.
One of my favorite definitions of strategic planning was coined in a post by an anonymous author at Method Frameworks:
Strategic planning is the process of devising a plan of both offensive and defensive actions intended to maintain and build competitive advantage over the competition through strategic and organizational innovation.
Although published nearly 5 years ago, I appreciate how the quote honors the militaristic roots of competitive strategy and the duality of offense and defensive. It also captures the forward momentum and focused attention to innovation that we are all seeking when we undertake a strategic planning process.
But unfortunately, strategic plans are often simply time consuming, navel-gazing exercises that create anxiety-provoking timelines for staff and reporting that does little to actually advance the mission of an organization. They are frequently more about operational efficiency than they are about actual strategy. The Harvard Business Reviewestimates that traditional planning yields a return on investment (ROI) of less than 34%. And research conducted by Balanced Scorecard founders Kaplan and Nolan suggests that 90% of organizations fail to successfully implement their strategic goals.
Nearly all of us have done it. It’s cathartic, motivating, fun, and empowering. And then we wordsmith our plans to death and enshrine them in binders on shelves in our conference rooms.
Where they collect dust and become irrelevant.
But before you think we at M&M are down on strategic planning, please know that the contrary is true. Strategic planning, when undertaken meaningfully and authentically, can provide an incredible framework and roadmap for organizational success. A solid, mindful strategic plan contains within it all of the tools a staff and executive team need to focus their efforts toward a single, compelling package of tactics that are truly a supporting scaffold for the rest of an organization’s work.
There are kajillions of consultants, sages, and researchers out in the world ready to hold your organization’s hand on your quest for strategic prowess and ultimate competitive advantage.
But how does that apply to content and why does the meetings professional care?
Well, the answer is that often times, we are endlessly collecting content at our conferences and events for some ambiguous future use. Remember “sponsored” services offering audiotaping of sessions and the 6′ tables we set up to sell cassette tapes and, later, cassette tape collections? If we were smart, we were sure to contract to receive archival sets of all the sessions captured on tape at our conferences. And then we did this on CD-ROM. And, now these collections sit on a shelf in our organization libraries.
Today’s meetings generate even greater volumes of content, with potential for uses truly unimaginable back in the cassette days. But…
We often use the almighty criteria of “BUDGET” as our one and only guide to deciding what to capture. We can afford to record the content in five, ten, or all 23 meeting rooms. By the time we are identifying in which rooms to place equipment for recording, our program committees have scheduled all of the sessions and assigned them into rooms based on their own criteria (things like potential audience appeal, topic distribution, etc.. come to mind). So, at best, somebody (usually the rare person who has time at the moment) combs through the existing schedule and makes a stab at selecting where to record.
Another way rooms to record get chosen is technical capacity. Where is the network strongest? Where is interference least? What block of rooms is closest to the staff or AV headquarters? In the end, the un-AMPLIFied result is a hodge-podge of session recordings on a wide variety of topics, few of which are actually connected to the immediate educational goals of the presenting organization. Presenters of these sessions may or may not have been prepared to be recorded, and may or may not have conducted their sessions in a manner that lends itself to repurposing.
Further, the technical way in which your sessions are recorded may not be strategic. The technical capacity of facilities, AV teams, and hardware/software has improved tremendously since digital recording began to mainstream in the mid- to late-2000s. As those technical advances have progressed over time, many of us did it because we could, not because we knew really why or what we would do with the results. Many times, we were asked by various association team members in Membership and/or Marketing (for example) to record different sessions for “the future.” The idea, of course, was that an ambiguous “someone” would get a wonderful idea in “the future” and figure out how to use these sessions.
One obstacle I’ve run into personally is finding that our session recordings could no longer be edited. Our service provider had run them through a post-production software product that eliminated the raw files. On the plus side, these files were optimized and took up much less digital space than the raw files. Unfortunately, this also meant that the files had to be used as-is, and could not be effectively excerpted for future use. Because nobody knew really how or why the recordings would be used at the time they were captured and processed, no one was able to give our provider parameters or better guidance. And we were left with what we had. Which was not really very useful except as used in their entirety.
Insert sad-face emoticon here. Meh.
Other typical obstacles include things like a lack of in-house time and/or expertise to manage, catalog, and edit session recordings. Sometimes the content recorded is no longer (or never was) relevant to current organizational efforts and/or products. Sometimes, the relevance of the topic itself ends before the session content is actually posted and/or repurposed.
For whatever the reason, your content still sits, now captured on terabyte hard drives, on shelves next to the cassette tapes of yesteryear.
Why? Because chances are, your approach is neither strategic nor aligned.
Here’s where AMPLIFY can help
This session will outline and provide opportunity to discuss seven straight-forward ways we’ve identified that meeting professionals can embrace this challenge, support their associations’ educational goals, AND take a leadership role in driving strategic content curation and collection at their events:
- ALIGN: Tie one or more session tracks with your org’s strategic plan and enlist your marketing and communication teams in promoting the aligned content before AND after the event.
- MOTIVATE: Get your presenters involved in the solution. Invite them to write related guest blog posts before and after your event. They can be the best promotional voice you have and elevate strategic topics in the minds of your members.
- Be PROACTIVE: Involve your org’s education director to match your call for proposals with your org’s education goals. By asking for specifically-oriented content from the get-go, you are already curating and filtering!
- Prepare to LEVERAGE: Ensure that you collect raw digital files as well as the post-production composite. This will allow your org to repurpose content and manipulate files for use in future promotions. (Psst…Not doing this is one of the primary reasons that digital content stagnates!)
- INFORM: Inform your program committee’s session selection process by providing them with learner-focused data from pre-conference surveys, immediate post-conference surveys, and follow-up post-conference surveys.
- FOCUS: Target collection efforts to sessions that are closely related to existing educational products and offerings. When sessions can be bundled with related journal articles, certifications, badges, webinars, books, and more, they are more likely to be valued by your members. Down the road, this paves the way for our favorite word…”monetization”!
- Think YEAR-ROUND: Educate presenters about how to make their presentation content relevant and evergreen. Also give them tips and/or training about how presenting for the long-haul is different from presenting “just live.”
What do you think? What’s your experience been with recording and capturing content in your association? Please feel free to comment below, and sign up to follow future posts to the blog series over the next few days that dig into each of the 7-steps in depth!