Build credibility and brand loyalty with high quality content that meets your customers’ needs
As noted in Post #2, the 7 AMPLIFY elements aren’t actually chronological. Rather, they can be grouped topically for discussion and context. This is the second grouping we’ll address — “be Proactive” and “Inform” — which are all about engaging your program/education committees and helping them design, evaluate, and deliver content that people really want (and will PAY for).
Be PROACTIVE: Involve your organization’s education director and/or program committee chair to match your Call for Proposals with your organization’s education goals. By asking for specifically-oriented content from the get-go, you are already curating and filtering!
How to begin: This element of the 7 is not technical — rather, it’s about communication and attitude. Rather than waiting for the education director and/or program team to come to you, you are injecting big PROACTIVITY into your content development process by leading the process.
Different organizations have different ways of approaching content solicitation, session selection, and scheduling. For example, we’re on a conference program committee for an association right now that solicits proposals BEFORE the program committee even meets to determine the ideal content focus and session mix. In such a setting, there’s no way that prospective presenters can submit content that matches that committee’s intentions, except by chance. By being proactive and driving this focus on alignment, you are taking a leadership role in ensuring that your conference provides relevant, strategic content to your attendees and members.
Conversations to have: You may not have much sales work to do with this element as a theoretical concept, but you likely have lots of negotiating to do in order to sync up your discussion timelines with logistical timelines. Once you’ve managed to convene the right group of people (which your education director should be able to help you identify), you may have to facilitate quite a bit in order to get their decision-making to fit within the timeframes needed to edit your proposal solicitation database, publications, etc.. You may even have to adjust your logistical timelines to meet theirs. Since you aren’t needing to be focused on what the result of these dialogues is (just that there is a result!), you can put your energy toward project managing the conversation and ensuring that it happens in a timely way.
Result: By proactively helping your program/education committee to frame their content recruitment strategy in terms of your org’s strategic plan and/or educational mission, you are paving the way for them to: a.) have a stronger starting selection of presentation candidates from which to choose; b.) offer relevant, aligned, timely content at your conference that clearly matches your organization’s reason for being and thought leadership; c.) facilitate the messaging and campaign tactics that your MarCom group is charged with developing; and d.) leave your conference with content that has a longer-than-typical lifespan.
INFORM: Inform your program/education 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.
How to begin: This is one of the nerdy-fun parts of facilitating your content curation process! An old lesson from the advertising industry is that the best way to ensure that people are happy with a given product and/or will buy it is to be sure from the beginning that the given product is something they want and/or need. In order to have a meaningful conference you must know what it is your audience needs and wants from you. Then, provide it to the best of your ability. In contrast with “be Proactive,” “Informing” is a nitty-gritty part of your conference production process that asks you and your colleagues to thoughtfully craft surveys and evaluations that get at the heart of the goals, struggles, desired outcomes, required outcomes, and satisfaction of your learners.
Don’t make the mistake of only asking people what they liked or didn’t like.Go a step further!
1 or 2 months before the conference, ask registrants what they want to learn and how they will measure whether they’ve learned it. With your onsite surveys (if you have them embedded in an app or other digital tool), ask them to indicate whether sessions they attended were true to the description and whether they learned what they intended to. Follow your conference evaluation up three months later to find out whether and how they’ve put to use what they learned. Did they pass their certification exam? If they did, how much do they attribute to the sessions at your conference? Did they watch or share any conference recordings with their colleagues? Use them in research? (Learn more about measuring event ROI here.)
All of this information should be critical to your program committee as they build the program and select content for the following year. In addition, collect and provide them with topic-sorted room counts so that they can clearly see what was of interest. They can cross-reference this attendance data with satisfaction and learning-application data to truly identify the sessions that delivered.
All of this surveying communicates to your attendees that your organization is analytical in its approach to content curation and evaluation, and serves to build your credibility as a provider. You also can often identify topical trends in time to adjust your room assignments and/or add overflow feeds and recording strategies to the mix.
Also, don’t hesitate to compare your content plans with others in your marketplace.
An annual conference I used to produce in the educational technology space was truly alone in its field in terms of size and scope. At the same time, however, there were many smaller regional conferences for our audience all over the US, spread throughout the year. With such a large conference to manage, our Call for Participation closed a full 9 months prior. Which meant that between the time our committees were selecting sessions and determining the schedule, there were 5–6 major regional events whose programs allowed for new topics and trends to emerge.
One particularly pointed example I remember was when the trend of podcasting really caught fire sometime after our proposal deadline, and about 5 months prior to our conference. All (truly, all) of the regional conferences leading up to ours had many sessions and learning spaces devoted to this exciting new technology. Had we not remained flexible enough or paid enough attention to the trends and demand in our field, we would have shown up to our conference, touted as the premier worldwide event in educational technology, with major egg on our faces and no podcasts to be found on the program. Hold out some session spaces for new stuff and keep your eye on what others are doing.
Result: A long-time colleague and dear friend used to use quite a few rodeo metaphors to describe processes like I’m suggesting here. Corralling, wrangling, cat-herding…you get the picture. Getting all these people in the right place at the right time to discuss, deliberate, and strategize won’t be easy. But, it will be fulfilling and rewarding in terms of the amazing content you are able to put together for your attendees. While not all content you offer at your conference will be worth repurposing, never forget that in addition to selling any one participant on the value of attending your face-to-face, the relevance of your content is contributing heavily to brand credibility for your association, attracting exhibitors and sponsors, and developing your content library, digital assets, and publishable resources. Strategies like “be Proactive” and “Inform” are key places where the meetings professional of tomorrow can be leaders and facilitators.
What do you think? What’s your experience been with gathering diverse stakeholders to build content strategies? Were you successful or did you hit roadblocks? 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!