By Dave Lutz.
Over the past nine months, many industry experts have proclaimed that meetings and conferences are forever changed and hybrid is here to stay. While I agree in principle, I think the future is so much more than hybrid. Meetings of the future will be improved and monetized by embracing the tenets of strategic product management.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we should optimize the benefits of the best, most advanced, and relevant content from your annual conference by thinking beyond the three-day in-person or virtual meeting experience. By adopting the principles of product management, organizers can think more broadly about how captured session content can be repackaged or rebroadcast to deliver member value and/or new revenue.
5 Product Management Principles to Adopt
Conference content product management requires a good deal of business acumen. It’s most effective when developed collaboratively across different functions of the organization and by putting the customer at the center of all decisions. Here are five tips.
Target Your Audience’s Jobs, Pains, and Gains
This goes well beyond defining a target audience based on demographics or past spend. Conference attendees will invest in content that helps them solve their current problems or find opportunities to take leaps forward. Identify key audience segment roles and conduct qualitative research to understand their pressing priorities.
Create a Problem-Based Learning Experience Design (LXD)
Design a program that is organized by your target audience’s pressing priorities, not by their role or function. Vet content for relevance, quality, and the potential to inspire action.
Packaging and Product Development
No question, the next best thing to being there is to participate virtually in real-time, but you don’t need to broadcast every concurrent session. Instead, offer access to some of the best ones. Audio (much cheaper) or video record all sessions. If you designed the program with problem-based tracks, you have the framework to repackage four or five sessions into a series that can be marketed as a rebroadcast or on-demand product. In our experience, scheduled replays outperform on-demand views from an engagement and consumption perspective.
Enlist Education Champions
When you capture and rebroadcast or provide on-demand access to premium session content, sponsors can be seen by attendees as a champion for their education — way better value than a webinar. Sponsors are more willing than ever to invest in high-quality thought leadership opportunities.
Special Offers and Silo-Busting
It’s not uncommon for less than one-third of an association’s membership to attend the annual conference in person. Repackaged and repurposed premium content is easier to access and can spark renewals. Offer free access to an on-demand series for each member renewal in the next 60 days. Provide a discount code for another program for everyone who purchases an on-demand series.
Hybrid as a Bridge to Recovery
For some, the costs involved in taking all, or a portion, of your meeting hybrid can be prohibitive when considering expenses for video cameras, internet drops, lighting, streaming platform, and technical support. The revenue needed from virtual registrants and sponsorship to break even may be difficult to predict and generate in the early going.
Whether hybrid is self-funding or not, associations should strongly consider making portions of their annual conference available virtually through the end of 2022. Once business travel returns and attendees are comfortable being a part of mass gatherings, the future opportunity for hybrid should be re-evaluated.
About the Author: In 2006, Dave founded and began serving as Managing Director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting…a business improvement firm that helps conference and trade show organizers grow or transform their major face-to-face conferences. Prior to going down the consulting road, Dave was with Experient for 22 years where he served as President of both the Meeting Planning and Registration divisions. Dave is a frequent industry speaker and pens thought-provoking articles to help meeting owners and professionals’ progress. For over twelve years, he has authored a monthly column in PCMA’s Convene magazine on performance improvement for annual conferences and trade shows.