March 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio March 2003 Current Issue
March 2003 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:


BY Bob Walters

By going electronic, groups can save significant dollars on printing costs

With increasing pressure to reduce costs and yet provide more services and value to attendees, many organizations are putting their conference proceedings on CD. The savings are easy to see, as CDs are less expensive to produce and ship than printed materials. They also can be provided to those who couldn’t make the trip, thus delivering educational value and promoting future events.

Before making the move, there are a host of factors to consider not the least of which is the receptivity of your attendees. The technology might not be readily embraced unless you properly prepare the materials and your audience.

If you are considering publishing on CD, several initial steps need to be taken.Survey attendees. This will give you a sense of how many will accept the CD and how many still prefer the printouts. The survey also lays the groundwork, preparing them for the change.

Set standards. Choose a format for the presentations the most popular is Adobe .pdf files, which attendees open using Acrobat Reader. You will have to purchase the creation program from Adobe ( in order to have proper licensing.

Format presenters’ files. Give speakers advance notice on the file formats you can accept, so they can use the proper tools in creating their presentations. Adobe .pdf is compatible with most file formats, so this won’t be too limiting. But you should establish some standards for example, a limit on the number of pages, guidelines on types of graphics and possibly even recommendations on fonts, font sizes and colors.

Get permission. To reproduce presentations, you will need to modify the authorization agreement with your presenters, including a statement that gives you the right to duplicate and distribute their materials electronically. If you are putting the files on your Web site, you need to specify that and get approval. Some presenters might permit you to reproduce on CD but not online, so be sure to address this specifically.

Make it searchable. To make the CD searchable by key words or topics, select an indexing tool and make sure you have distribution rights for the search engine the attendees will need to use. Searching .pdf files is limited to the document that is open at the time. Other tools, such as one from Libronix (, indexes every word on the CD and conducts searches across all documents (see Tech Files, December 2002). There is a cost involved in indexing this way, in addition to the license fee for the technology. Either someone on staff must be trained to use the tools, or you’ll have to contract out for the services.

Not everyone will prefer a CD, and some will insist on a printed version. Here are a few ways to handle the need for printouts.

Charge for printing. Indicate on the registration form that the proceedings will be provided on CD for free. Then note where printed copies can be obtained, and list a price that covers the cost. Offer printouts early. Make the materials for each session available as a downloadable .pdf file from a secure section of your Web site that only registered attendees can access.

Offer access on-site. In your cyber café, set up PCs with printers, and charge a nominal fee for attendees to print materials. Expect lines once the word gets out and probably lots of complaints unless you have enough PCs to handle the demand.

Give them paper. Regardless of how popular the CD is, be sure to provide notepads so attendees can jot down key points during sessions.

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

Back to Current Issue index
M&C Home Page
Current Issue | Events Calendar | Newsline | Incentive News | Meetings Market Report
Editorial Libraries | CVB Links | Reader Survey | Hot Dates | Contact M&C