November 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio November 2000 Current Issue
November 2000 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:




How to transfer meeting content from paper handouts to electronic files

Given all of the hype about e-commerce, it is interesting to note that the most frequent use of the Internet is for the purchase of reading matter. A survey by CommerceNet/Nielsen Media Research shows more than 9.2 million users bought books and information off the Internet in 1999 2 million more than the second highest category, CDs and videos. This shows the initial purpose behind the Web sharing information is still its main use.

As the dispersal of information is also the main goal of meetings, much of what goes on in the conference room can be converted to digital form and offered to attendees for downloading into Palm Pilots, eBooks and other portable devices. While most planners will not code the documents themselves, knowing the language of e-publishing can help you see that the job is done correctly.

The easy route when deciding what material to publish is to put the text of all abstracts, handouts and speeches on your Web site. But with a little work, you can greatly enhance the value of the documents themselves.

Take the scenario of a session where the handouts refer to published materials as well as Web sites. By converting the handout from a file such as a Word document into an e-publishing format (probably a PDF file, which can be read with Acrobat Reader, or an HTML file, which can be read in your browser), you make it transportable I could download it to my Rocket eBook, for example. You also can embed links so a reader can click to related documents or Web sites.

Remember, you might be dealing with copyrighted materials and need to take steps to protect the author. For more information on these rights, visit the World Intellectual Property Organization (

The next step is to build an interactive library that can expand the scope of the session. It can take on a life of its own by permitting people to submit research documents or to share their experiences.

Often, a speaker doesn’t get to every point on the agenda. When making speaker materials available for download, your only constraint is disk space; it doesn’t matter how much is e-published, as long as it is relevant.

However, e-publishing is also great for offering brevity: quick synopses or a small document that concisely presents another view or experience.

A move is underway to set standards for e-publishing files. Meanwhile, the most widely used formats are PDF or HTML. The advantage, at this point, goes to PDF. This format captures the exact look of a printed page. The downside is the files are larger and take longer to download.

HTML files are smaller and a little more flexible, but it is harder to retain the look of the original document.

Several tools are available for e-publishing. Some are full publishing systems, while others are conversion programs. One product, E-ditor Pro (available from; $99.95), includes security features to prevent unauthorized distribution or printing.

To publish materials for a Palm Pilot or Handspring Visor, use a free utility called iSilo ( to convert the documents.

Once you create e-libraries and people start downloading documents and making contributions, you might want to establish a fee-based subscription service that lets users outside your "usual" sphere of attendees have access to these e-publications.

For more information, go to Places for Publishers (

Bob Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak software.

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