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Meetings and Magazines: Our Changing Venn Diagram

When I started as an editor in the meetings industry, my job and your job were worlds apart. Twenty years ago, a Venn diagram that illustrated the overlap between making magazines and orchestrating meetings and conferences would have revealed just a small (but critical) intersection. We both focused on delivering information and education to our respective audiences, but beyond that, the similarities faded. 

While planners were sourcing venues, negotiating rates, designing experiences, and coordinating details, magazine publishers were tracking down news and feature stories, writing and editing articles, working on layouts, and selling ad pages to produce, in our case, monthly magazines that were mailed out to readers across North America.

On the magazine side, things have evolved pretty drastically—the most obvious change is that you’re not reading this on paper. We’ve also broadened how we deliver content. Besides the magazine—now in digital and app form—we’ve had the website for many years, added daily newsletters, upped our roster of webinars, and even moved further into your territory, face-to-face meetings. In late November, we launched Risk360, a one-day event addressing meetings-related risk management topics (look for a report in our January issue). This new meeting is in addition to Pharma Forum, a conference for pharmaceutical and life-sciences meeting professionals that we’ve co-produced for more than a decade.

It’s clear we’re changing, but how about you? What used to be a sliver of overlap between your job and ours seems to be getting a whole lot larger. Are you delivering your meeting content through new channels, like webinars and social media? Do blogs play a role in your conference communications? Are your event websites becoming avenues to share news or insights, or perhaps serve as a platform for sharing video content to promote your events or to advance your thought leadership? Are you increasingly concerned about your audience’s information overload?

In MeetingsNet’s December magazine cover story on the American Society for Microbiology’s big annual event, Microbe, the organizers tapped a meeting-strategy expert to help develop educational content across their portfolio of meetings—a person “outside the field who can listen for ideas bubbling up from various sectors of the profession, and who can envision how some of those might translate into new meeting content, or perhaps even a new conference.” To me, that doesn’t sound too different than the role of a media brand’s content director!

Last month, SmithBucklin announced a new initiative called SmithBucklin Content to help groups improve their communications, including what they put in newsletters, magazines, and websites. Seeing that SmithBucklin focuses on association management as a whole, not just meeting management, this new development might not surprise you—but it further blurs the lines between our two businesses in interesting ways.

The larger overlap in today’s meeting professional/content director Venn diagram is a creative and evolving space. For that, I’m grateful. My colleagues at Informa, MeetingsNet’s parent company, tackle the information needs of industries ranging from natural foods to transportation, and from wealth management to agriculture. Few of those content directors, I suspect, have the chance to both educate their readers and to be educated by them. 

Thanks for reading, and keep up the terrific innovations in content delivery. We’ll be watching and learning.  

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