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?