Conference to content

Earlier this week, I referred to a post by Jason Stoffer that offered three ways to make online education, particularly massively open online courses (MOOCs), a mainstream tool. His suggestions included finding ways to "replicate the campus environment", supporting both in-person meetings and online collaboration.

Interestingly, some trade (business-to-business) and association publishers are trying to go the other way, extending conversations that start on an exhibition floor or at a conference into an ongoing media offering. As an example, Folio: recently profiled mHealth News, a web site that "covers the use of mobile technology in healthcare".

The site extends a fast-growing conference, mHealth Summit, that is hosted annually by the media division of the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMMS). According to Folio:, the meeting was seven times larger in 2012 than it was in 2009, drawing 4,000 participants and 300 exhibitors to its most recent event.

Mobile applications and healthcare systems make for a fast-moving segment, and it's easy to see how a persistent digital presence will amplify the event and extend its value for attendees. With a little bit of work, though, a much larger range of events would benefit from a more considered content extension.

The events I attend seldom have a content editor who looks at the conversations before, during and after a meeting to both discern and reflect trends. A number of the larger events offer recorded content, usually for purchase through a third party. That's monetization (no problem there), but it's not curation.

After an event ends, the post-mortems usually address the good (speakers we'd invite back), the bad (sessions that scored poorly) and the ugly … too often a set of food-related problems. Seldom do we ask questions like:

  • What did we learn at this meeting?
  • What surprised us?
  • What do these things mean for our industry?
  • How do we keep this conversation going?

When we do think about integrating events and media, we often default to monetization: "Let's cross-sell advertising opportunities to companies that are already exhibiting." There's nothing wrong with the cross-sell, but focusing on it sidesteps the audience, the ultimate reason any company wants to advertise.

The mHealth Summit grew quickly for lots of reasons, including being in the right space at the right time. It embraced a year-round, public content strategy only after it had expanded to its current size. Maybe "ready, fire, aim" is the nature of the beast these days.

Admittedly, I'm not an event specialist. Perhaps the idea of channeling a year-round conversation into a focused event that then informs the next year's content map is just plain crazy.

It does sound fun, though. We could even start by asking ourselves about the audience problems we are looking to solve.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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