Conferences are an unmatched source of fresh and virtually free content, according to Robin Lokerman, MCI’s President Asia Pacific and Americas “So start using it!”
STORY BY RAY SHAW
This is a technology column, so why discuss content? Simple – the “tech” behind content capture is now relatively cheap – a HD web-cam pointed at the lectern and a little “magic” like Adobe’s Captivate e-learning software and you too can put hours of boring lectures and slides onto the internet.
Wrong – stop right there!
At the recent Meetings and Events Australia conference I asked the audience if this approach really worked; were enough people participating virtually; had anyone managed to monetise it (even cover the costs); and was it worth the effort? The answer to all was a resounding “NO!” If you just capture the content and tart it up a little at best you are simply creating a short-term content repository that someone, sometime, may access – at worst you are creating a cure for insomnia.
This is not worth the cost or effort, especially as the speaker may already have provided a copy of their paper and slides in electronic copy to be published on the internet and available to all via search engines.
What is the right way?
According to Lokerman it is about the need for fundamental change in the way we view conferences. The conference should be seen as the vehicle to generate content and if you physically attend (face to face or F2F) you have the added benefit of networking and the “real experience” (a virtual beer is never as good as a real one). If you don’t attend you should have the ability to access content in a manner that suits you (now being erroneously labelled hybrid meetings but it’s much more than that).
Association conferences now have several different audiences – baby boomers (traditional delegates who via natural attrition are declining in numbers), Gen X (now mostly middle management and less compelled to attend conferences), Gen Y (aspiring MDs who don’t want to attend or pay for conferences), and major gender shifts (the typical audience is no longer professional males over 45 in middle to upper management). Each audience assimilates content in different ways. Gen Y want to be instant experts – a five minute search on Google gives them what they need. A boomer will listen to a speaker for hours.
Add to this the diminishing conference revenue issues due to travel restrictions and increased budget scrutiny (post GFC effects for sure) and the increasing acceptance of on-line education and certification and it becomes clear that traditional F2F conferences have a “sunset” clause.
Lokerman says that associations must create “real” hybrid events to protect revenue as well as maintain their status as prime content providers and thought leaders (referring to their reason for being).
“If Australian associations do not take up this challenge other providers will. It could be a commercial enterprise or even a kindred body from somewhere else in the world.”
The answer is complex & simple
First, stop thinking about content capture and start thinking what you can do with it. Sure you can capture that 30 minute presentation and put it on the web but you might as well give that away – it is not really worth that much. Better to look at the content and work out how to re-purpose it into e-learning and add considerable value.
Lokerman recommends that conferences now look at having two program committees – one to source “content” and put it into the conference program and a separ
ate one to look at that content and work out how to leverage it into e-learn
ing. Take the hot content (speaker) into a temporary “studio” at the conference (i.e. not ju
st a single camera), work with a panel of experts to add local flavour, build in Q&A s
essions and quizzes (better still make it that you have to answer the questions to see the next segment – engagement), and give a test score and certificate at the end.
That’s hot content which does sell and extend
its use to new markets including e-learning customers, training/seminar delegates, and to members.