Until recently, the marketing value of conference proceedings seemed limited and mundane. Post-conference value might have been measured by citations in new journal papers, but otherwise those publications collected dust, not revenue.

With today's technologies and myriad channels for continuing exposure, however, marketers can take advantage of valuable collected content to reach new audiences and create new revenue streams.

Much like TV and movies where the bulk of revenue comes from syndication and derivative products, the same can happen with conference proceedings. As the organizer of the conference, you often have various rights to the content produced as a result. Take advantage of them!

You can repurpose that content in many new ways. The replacement of printed materials with digital represents a huge marketing opportunity as attendees access the materials before and during the conference, all while supporting sustainability by reducing paper waste.

Organizations, particularly those with significant legacy content from years of conference proceedings and scholarly journals, will benefit from a well-planned iterative approach to content conversion and repurposing.

Content You Already Have

Start by looking at what is produced for your conferences:

  • Do you receive papers in MS Word, PDFs, or hard copy?
  • Do your presenters develop their own slide presentations and handouts?
  • Do you record keynote presentations or offer them in a livestream format, with or without a transcript?
  • How much technical content consists of mathematical or scientific formulas and data intensive tables?
  • How much of the content is submitted prior to the event?
  • How much, if any, content is reused post-event?

That kind of thorough analysis of your existing content, coupled with a strategic approach to content reuse, is essential to developing a technical solution that automates as much of the process as possible and allows for production across a variety of channels.

Converting all this content from a wide variety of source formats to single structured format, such as XML (eXtensible Markup Language), can vary tremendously in complexity. It can be intimidating to attempt this on your own.

Working with a partner to thoroughly test and implement a conversion process with the right quality checks built in ensures that the resulting digitized content is ready for different publishing platforms.

Rapid Turnaround on Journal Articles and Technical Papers

Let's take SAE International as an example. It's a global association of more than 145,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial-vehicle industries.

The association holds an annual World Congress and Exhibition, where thousands of technical papers and journal articles are presented as part of the conference program. Leading up to the Word Congress, those technical papers and journal articles must be finalized and published for print and online in a very short time frame.

When SAE started to pursue a content conversion solution, it looked for a way to take content submitted from hundreds of members, most often Word documents and PDFs, and convert that content to a form that could be easily laid out and published.

The solution the SAE ended up implementing converted content to XML and then automatically transformed it into one of two Adobe InDesign templates. This process dramatically cut production time and costs, while increasing quality, with consistent, readable layouts and properly applied branding elements.

Within two years, SAE was able cut its production time producing 89% of its content within the rush six weeks prior to the event while still cutting direct production costs by more than 8%.

Opening Up a World of Possibilities

Whether you've been organizing conferences for a few months or a few decades, your organization is building a valuable repository of content waiting to be deployed in new ways for new audiences. Commercial event producers, corporate conference organizers and professional associations can all benefit from reusing conference content.

Approach this content like you would any other marketing asset and use it at every stage of your marketing strategy. You've identified audience segments and the potential they represent. Apply that segmentation to the kind of content generated for your conferences as the first step to analyzing your legacy (and future) content.

Not every article or presentation from every conference will have the same value or potential for reuse. But if you design the right structure for your content and your goals provide a consistent way to prioritize, convert, and manage the content so that the most valuable elements are readily identifiable, then you can deploy the most valuable content in new outputs whenever you need them.

Here are just a few hypothetical but very practical and achievable examples to consider:

  • Market the packaged proceedings to non-attendees.
  • Take the scientific formula (and accompanying explanations) from a technical paper and reuse them as visuals in an online tutorial for newcomers to the field.
  • Build highly engaging training by building gamification elements from modularized content into online training that can be delivered to other team members of attendees' organizations who do not attend the conference.
  • Compile and transform the transcripts of the keynotes for the last conference into an e-book to build subscriptions or a campaign to promote a future conference.
  • Create a collection e-book that reuses the best papers from the same field to create deeper inroads into specialized markets.
  • Use the abstracts from a set of related technical papers to create a series of blog posts to debate a crucial industry issue or trend.

Modular content allows you to transcend the limitations of a single medium.

Instead of relying on printed copies of proceedings, you can digitize them and extract various pieces to engage audiences in the medium and on the device they prefer. And that extends the shelf life of your conference while opening up new ways to generate revenue and increase market share.

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image of Mark Gross

Mark Gross is founder, CEO, and president of Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL), a provider of services, software, and conversion outsourcing to a broad range of industries.

LinkedIn: Mark Gross