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MP3 Players Help Meeting Attendees Store Information

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, August 2010 Ideabank

Summary: The American Association of Neurological Surgeons gave each of their 3,500 meeting attendees iPod Touch devices loaded with meeting content and give them reasons to use it all year long.

What's the great idea? Provide content-loaded iPod Touch devices to annual meeting attendees and then use them all year long.

Who's doing it? American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS)

What's involved? When neurosurgeons take part in continuing education, they receive a lot of documents. Carrying hundreds of pages around during a meeting can be a heavy burden, so AANS lightened the load by distributing iPod Touch devices already filled with content at its annual meeting. At no additional cost to attendees, AANS provided 3,500 iPods downloaded with a meeting-specific application, plus videos, podcasts, and documents relevant to the education offerings.

Executive Director Thomas Marshall and Deputy Executive Director Ron Engelbreit worked with Apple directly and were able to order the iPods at an educational discount. After an unsuccessful outsourcing of the content download, Engelbreit decided that AANS staff could load the devices on their own. Using some spare computers, Engelbreit, the AANS IT director, temporary employees, and staff spent two weeks—including late nights and weekends—configuring the devices.

"The list of things that we had to do to the device was quite large," says Engelbreit. "We needed to make sure that the device had the Philadelphia time zone … we changed the wallpaper to our logo. … We had to download our app … two apps for two vendors … and we had to download seven videos and seven podcasts. … And make sure that the battery was charged."

Before the conference began, the AANS website posted videos and how-tos on using the iPod. During the conference, a brief tutorial was offered as attendees received their devices at registration. Plus, younger members familiar with the technology volunteered to help troubleshoot with other attendees throughout the event.

What are people saying? "I was 99.9 percent certain the technology would work. … I think my fear was the thing I couldn't control: whether the members liked it or not," says Marshall. Most members, Marshall says, didn't know what an iPod Touch was, and only a third of them owned iPhones. "But happily, almost amazingly, it was overwhelmingly well received. We actually overplanned for the support and teaching that we had given them. We had too many assistants."

Engelbreit says AANS currently offers videos and podcasts every few weeks and will continue to distribute content throughout the year for its frequent weekend courses and educational offerings.

"We keep giving members a reason to get used to it," says Marshall, "whether they attended the annual meeting or not. That was there right from the beginning [of planning] in terms of not just using it for the next annual meeting but to incorporate electronic-device communication as a learning style in AANS offerings."

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  Lisa Junker , CAE , September 10, 2010
Kelly, thank you for your feedback on this article--I appreciate it. The iPods were provided as part of the registration fee for the meeting, which we tried to express in the article by saying that they were provided "at no additional cost to attendees." I apologize if that phrasing was not completely clear.

We did not include the registration fee for the meeting, just because we typically don't feel that that information is useful for comparison; different associations' meetings are so different in so many ways that comparing registration fees without a detailed breakdown of what they represent can be an apples to oranges scenario. If you would like more information on the AANS meeting, though, I'm happy to contact them and see if I can either answer questions or put you in touch with their staff directly for more detailed information.

I agree that this particular idea might not work for all associations. We do try to feature a wide variety of ideas in the Idea Bank column for that reason, to provide inspiration for the wide variety of associations our readers represent.

Thank you again for the feedback and for reading Associations Now. I hope you have a good weekend.
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  Kelly Gardner Headd , August 30, 2010
This article does not bode well for the rest of the reporting one will find in AssociationsNow. Fails to answer questions that I am sure lept into everyone's head as they read this: Did the attendees pay an extra fee for the iTouch? Was it included in the registration fee? How much is the registration fee? File this under cool, but unattainable for 99% of us. Boo and hiss to AssociationsNow for not addressing the obvious in this article.


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