Work smarter, not harder: Leveraging association content

Picture this: All of the pre-planning for your organization’s largest annual conference of the year is safely behind you. The welcome reception, the golf outing, the award luncheon, the expo, the breakout sessions and the closing night celebration are all a distant memory. There are five minutes left until the closing keynote presentation concludes. You’re ready to collapse. Tell me: What’s the last thing on your mind?

Okay, I’ll say it: Curating, repackaging, repurposing and leveraging content. Am I right?

I’ve totally been there. Your toes are numb from standing for 72 hours straight. You’ve not slept in days. The most food you’ve eaten is a carrot stick from last night’s cocktail hour and half a dinner roll. Staff isn’t pulling their weight; several speakers have demanded last-minute technology; your florist shorted you a few centerpieces; and the band was high-maintenance (to say the least).

You want nothing more than to forget this conference ever happened. In fact, you’re working up the courage to confront a stack of BEOs (for your next conference) on Monday morning that require your immediate review and approval, not to mention what you’re going to do about the low attendance numbers for that event and the panelist who’s now canceled due to a scheduling conflict.

The point is this: A meeting professional’s job is never done. And it’s evident why post-program follow-up is low on the list of priorities. I mean, the sponsor, vendor and attendee revenue has already been collected and deposited, and—presumably—the organization has delivered an adequate participant experience. In other words, there’s no looking back. It’s time to focus all time, attention and resources on the next program—right?

Unfortunately, this is the vicious cycle causing us all to work harder, not smarter. Instead of quantity, the solution here is really all about quality. I know I’m not the first person to lobby for professional development experiences that extend beyond the confines of the program itself (either onsite or virtual). And while I could say just as many things about the pre-program experience, I think the real missed opportunity here comes after the program.

First, everyone who attended your program already engaged with your staff, your organization, your content and the other participants. Essentially, these attendees walk away with a tangible experience they can draw upon when they encounter the future marketing of products, programs or services that precipitate from this event. Assuming they had a good experience, they’ll be more likely to engage again; it’s like you have a vetted audience that’s eager to “pick up what you’re putting down” (to quote my sister).

Second, and this is really the kicker, the content already exists. You simply need to curate it, repackage it, repurpose it or leverage it in some meaningful way. And this can take any number of forms. For example:

  • Popular education sessions could be repeated in person or online;
  • Content previously presented in a 75-minute breakout session could be teased out into a half-day or full-day session;
  • Speaker-generated videos providing follow-up or points of clarification could be posted to the organization’s website;
  • An important topic could be formatted into a blog post, newsletter article or white paper;
  • Pictures from the event, as well as aggregated Facebook and Twitter posts, could be shared with members;
  • Online communities could be formed and moderated to continue conference discussions and create opportunities for further engagement and collaboration;
  • And the list goes on—limited only by your imagination.

The point is this: Tangible deliverables (such as those listed above) can and should be used to optimize existing engagement activities; create meaningful and relevant educational programs (long after the closing keynote session has ended); aid learners in connecting theory (presented at the conference) with practice (challenges they encounter on the job); and drive organizational recruitment and retention efforts by developing quality products and services that members value.

Again, the solution here isn’t about planning more programs, but rather maximizing the opportunities inherent in the ones you’re already planning (and can’t give up).

So, my question to you is this: How do you leverage content following your organization’s major annual conferences? What innovative products, programs or services would you like to develop following a signature program given adequate time and resources? What’s stopping you from hosting fewer educational programs each year and—instead—focusing more on strategic follow-up?

3 Responses to “Work smarter, not harder: Leveraging association content”

  1. 1 Marsha
    February 23, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Great post Aaron. It has me thinking about all of the ideas you listed as potential post programming. I think all too often, as you stated, we are so wilted (my word) from going full speed for six days strong that we forget about the resource treasures we’ve unearthed during the week. A month or so later, great ideas about what we could have done to follow up on the annual meeting are in full bloom!

    Thanks for reminding me to plan ahead this year (I still have seven months to prepare)!

  2. 2 Terry Coatta
    February 23, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I couldn’t agree more! Given the opportunities that social media creates for ongoing engagement, a conference should not be an isolated event, but simply a part in the life of the community that your organization supports. And a conference is a superb source of content that not only can be shared with those who were not able to attend, but can also serve as the focus for ongoing discussions. I think it makes sense to schedule the release of that content into your community over a period of time. I also very much appreciate your use of the word “curation” because I absolutely believe its not just a matter of taking the content and sticking it in some online repository, but trying to organize it, annotate it, and generally making it easier for people to find, and to understand how it will be of value to them. Doing some “social curation”, that is, getting members involved in the process of organizing, annotating, and discussing the content could also turn out to be very powerful.

  3. February 27, 2012 at 4:11 pm


    Thanks for your comments! I especially like your imagery about unearthing resource treasurers during your annual meeting. A couple of follow-on thoughts:

    1. Don’t wait for a full month to pass before starting the process of leveraging content. In my opinion, the more time that elapses, the more likely you are to lose your target audience when marketing follow-on programs, products or services.

    2. Theory presented at the conference could be tried and tested by participants as early as the next business day following your annual meeting (if not sooner). Again, waiting a full month for tips, tricks and resources to link this theory with action/practice will only frustrate and discourage members.

    3. You’re right to assume that leveraging content takes time – and substantial planning. Going in to your annual meeting, you, your leadership team, your conference planning committee, etc. should have a tentative game plan in place for capturing, curating and sharing content (both onsite in small snippets and more substantially post-meeting).

    4. Content should be repackaged and repurposed for three major reasons: (1) to support learners who attended the conference; (2) to educate members who didn’t attend the conference and (hopefully) to entice them to attend future offerings; and (3) to generate value when it comes to recruitment and retention efforts (note, here, that this may be a shared responsibility/opportunity with your organization’s membership department).


    I appreciate your thoughts, as well! Following are two of your ideas that I think deserve a second look:

    1. “A conference should not be an isolated event.” I agree 100 percent. Opportunities for effective member touch points begin long before the conference and continue long after. The trick is harnessing (and sharing) the content in such a way that keeps the experience fresh, valuable and manageable over the long-run (after all, each of us leads a tremendously busy life; we surely won’t add one more thing to our to-do list without a considerable return on investment).

    2. “Social curation… could also turn out to be very powerful.” I absolutely love the idea of engaging members, speakers and volunteer leaders in the actual organizing and annotating of content to make it most meaningful and accessible to the general membership. It also allows members the opportunity to participate in truly valuable volunteer capacities by writing/speaking for their professional association (not to mention the name/face recognition—and various other benefits—that come along with it) and helps redistribute the workload a bit more (giving staff time to focus on the next major program or event).

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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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