Chances are there’s a virtual, hybrid, or in-person conference—or even multiple events—on the horizon for your association. That’s great news for content managers.
Conferences are ideal sources of content that can be leveraged before, during, and after the event. Here are a few ways to maximize your association’s conference for content creation:
Before: Generate Buzz Without Alienating Readers
Content prior to the conference should generate interest in the event and answer the question, “Why should I attend?” It’s a tall order, but you have an opportunity to provide a deeper look into sessions, speakers, and other offerings that an agenda can’t always provide.
On the flip side, it’s important to realize not all readers can attend the conference for budgetary, scheduling, or other reasons. With that in mind, make an effort to ensure those unable to attend can still learn something from the content presented.
Consider these content types when planning for pre-conference content:
- Session previews: Interview speakers to preview their presentations. Ask why they’ve chosen the topic, its relevance to the industry and what attendees will learn. If you work with an editorial committee, ask which sessions are on their short list. Highlight those and note that the content presented was chosen by members, to establish peer-driven recommendations. Consider publishing previews in a traditional Q&A format or a video roundup.
- Keynote interviews: A conference’s keynote speaker is likely chosen because that person has a good story to share or insights to impart. Interview keynoters for a feature-style profile, or take a look at this example of a keynote-interview-turned-infographic—part promotion and part actionable resource. This infographic remains relevant for both attendees and non-attendees.
- Track-focused trend pieces: Your association’s conference likely has tracks or broad topics under which sessions fall. Write a trend piece related to a track and its relevance to the industry, quoting session presenters as subject matter experts (SMEs). This can pique interest in the event without alienating readers who may not be able to attend.
During: Be a Sponge
Attending a conference is a great opportunity to sit in on sessions and make note of hallway discussions that can fill your content pipeline for weeks—if not months—to come. Beyond attending the keynote or general sessions, consider these options:
- Attend specific educational sessions: Your notes can turn into future articles, or serve as a starting point for follow-up interviews with presenters or attendees.
- Mix and mingle with attendees: If your conference offers networking sessions, strike up conversations with attendees to help inform event recaps or future member spotlight articles. Ask if they have learned anything that surprised them or they plan to share back with their colleagues. This is a great way to highlight a conference’s educational value and persuade others to attend in the future.
- Follow-up with panelists: A panel discussion can be a dream scenario—it’s a real-time conversation with subject matter experts on a hot topic that’s important to your readers. Some panel discussions can be so engaging that questions or talking points remain, but timing is limited. In this case, conduct a follow-up interview that doubles as a roundtable article on the topic. Check out this article that followed up with conference panelists and addressed unanswered audience questions.
- Bonus tip: If you work with an editorial committee, find a time to meet in person with those who are attending. This can serve as a normal committee meeting or just an opportunity to connect faces to names and strengthen your working relationship.
After: Keep the Conversation Going
Once the conference buzz has settled, review your notes and start filling out your content calendar. A conference recap should follow in the days after the event, highlighting major themes or discussions, quotes from attendees, and, if possible, first-time attendee reactions. First-time attendees are a great source because they provide a fresh perspective and can potentially drum up interest among those who were unable to attend. Your recap should make people think, “I want to attend next year.”
Beyond a recap, start filling your content pipeline with ideas, topics, and conversations you observed while onsite. Follow-up with attendees you met and ask if they’ve been able to solve a business problem using information they learned at the conference. Remember, a conference is a moment in time that allows individuals to have meaningful conversations, but an association’s content can be a vehicle to keep that conversation going.
What If I Can’t Attend?
If your association is unable to send you to the conference, the ideas outlined above can still apply. Lean on your editorial committee to be your eyes and ears. Focus your next committee call on a brainstorm dedicated to ideas from the event. If staff members are able to attend, ask them to take photos or make note of individuals who could make for a good interview.
Association conferences provide a wealth of content and should be made the most of, whether in person or remotely. The ideas shared here are just a few examples of how content teams can contribute to these events. By making a game plan, getting creative, and forging relationships with attendees, you’ll be able to build a content pipeline that reflects the issues that matter most to the association.
Kristin Frankiewicz is in the Marketing and Communication Services unit at Smithbucklin.