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The Death Of The Conference Brochure

I’ve just received a conference brochure with my access pass for a large industry event next month. I was a little surprised to get an A4 glossy brochure of approximately 100 pages through the post as the print run must be significant. Generally we’re seeing a trend towards shorter print runs, fewer direct mail outs to attendees, less printed content overall, and of course more digital content. So it made me wonder whether the organisers would get much value from this mail out, or perhaps the rest of us are missing a trick?

Do Your Read The Conference Brochure?

Last time I went to a conference at Excel London I duly took the conference brochure offered to me as I walked in, glanced at the cover and then ditched it. That wasn’t because I knew exactly where I was going, what speaker I had to see, or how to find the nearest facilities. It was because I had already whipped out my mobile, opened the event app and was already following directions to my first meeting at an exhibitor’s stand.

Of course there is still a place for the conference brochure, especially for events where the target audience are not as receptive to using an app as my colleagues and I are – after all we work at a digital agency and like our tech. However, I’m not sure if anyone these days really has the time to get value out of the traditional conference brochure; either before, during or after the event.

In theory, receiving the conference brochure ahead of the event is an opportunity for delegates to identify talks they want to attend, exhibitor stands they wish to visit and familiarise themselves with the themes of the conference. However, in practice this information is much easier to deliver and consume online via the conference website or through targeted emails. Instead of leafing through a brochure, attendees can search online for relevant talks or workshops using specific criteria – such as the day or time they plan to attend, areas of interest, the type of session they wish to attend (speaker, masterclass etc.) – and they can also then book their space immediately, reducing the amount of friction points in the process for event organisers.

Targeted emails can also take over many of the jobs of the pre-event conference brochure. If the online registration process includes a drop menu of interests or ‘what you want to get out of the conference’, it is possible to deliver more personalised content to delegates’ inboxes, based on their preferences. Even generic email campaigns can help cut through the overwhelming amount of information contained in the traditional conference brochure; for example by highlighting a particular session that is almost full, providing attendees with an incentive to get themselves booked on.

Once your delegates have registered for specific sessions, it’s then possible to deliver even more relevant content to them such as other highlights on that day, or sponsor / partner information that relates to their booking preferences.

What Needs To Be In A Conference Brochure

I am 99% sure that the conference brochure I received in the post will not arrive with me at the venue next month. By that time it will either be buried under a mountain of paperwork or have met it’s demise in the recycling bin. So, what information contained in the conference brochure will I actually need at the event?

These are my 2 essentials:

  1. Floorplan with list of exhibitors,
  2. Programme of speakers and other sessions on the day.

However, this can be also delivered in the form of an event app with additional functionality such as an interactive floorplan; a responsive event schedule (so delegates can see what is coming next); personal event planner to remind attendees of meetings or sessions they’re booked; social media integration so that attendees can share event content throughout the day; opportunities to networking and connect with other delegates; product launches etc.

Without a doubt this is the future of the conference brochure as more and more people use their mobile devices for all kinds of business activities, and those recent newcomers to the workplace (aka The Millennials) are firmly attached to their smartphones.

Glossy conference brochures do fulfil another role. That is to provide partners and sponsors with platform to promote their brands; highlighting who is sponsoring key aspects of the event, and offering advertorial opportunities.

While your event sponsors may expect a high-profile presence in the conference brochure, there are other ways to deliver this exposure – both digitally and within the event itself. For more on attracting and promoting event sponsors, read this post.

I don’t think we’re quite ready to ditch the conference brochure just yet, if anything because many parties still expect one, but it’s time to look at providing more value (and getting value) out of responsive websites and apps.

These are already becoming the main event in terms of communicating the information contained in a traditional conference brochure; are cheaper and greener than print; and if the mountains of discarded brochures are anything to go by – what attendees increasingly want.

To talk about how you can use event websites and apps to engage your delegates, and deliver much more that a traditional conference brochure, contact our event team – 01252 717707 or

Rob Edmonds

Author Rob Edmonds

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