How OpenWater Makes Planning Your Annual Meeting Easier

How OpenWater Makes Planning Your Annual Meeting Easier

The annual meeting is coming around again.  Whether you’ve recently been handed the reigns or you’ve been running it for years, there’s a good chance you’ve got a wishlist of gee-if-only’s that would make the whole process easier.

I imagine the character asides you see in documentary-style films and TV shows (any fans of “The Office” out there?).  While being interviewed by the camera, members of your leadership team might confide things like:

  • “I wish there was less…back-and-forth, you know? We get a lot of incomplete forms, and presenters need to make changes, and there’s just so much to collect.”
  • “I can’t even keep track of all these disjointed email conversations.  I feel like I spend half my day sorting them into folders. But my inbox keeps exploding.  It’s a warzone in there!”
  • “So there’s the login for the AMS, the one for Mailchimp, then another for Salesforce…oh, and PayPal of course—that’s where we do registration fees.  I keep all these password stickies pasted around my monitor so I can switch accounts quickly.”
  • “Oh, that’s our agenda whiteboard.  The old one. Trust me; you don’t even want to see the flip side.”

We built OpenWater to provide pinpoint solutions to these (and many more) common frustrations of the annual meeting planning process. There are many nuanced layers of planning an annual meeting.  The last thing you need is to add the confusion of a disjointed workflow or cobbled together technology kit. OpenWater is all about simplicity

Here are a few of the ways that OpenWater’s all-in-one submission management system makes annual meeting planning easier:

Table of Contents

OpenWater is Your Annual Meeting Receptionist

Every organization or major event needs someone to meet you at the front door (or however you get in touch).  But a receptionist isn’t just a welcome committee. It’s the reception desk’s job to review lists, ask questions, record info, hand over required forms, and perhaps even collect (and store) baggage.

OpenWater is the one-stop front gate that makes sure everyone’s “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed before they even walk through the front door.  Then, it catalogs all the collected or required items, reporting them out to wherever they’re needed.  

Planning your meeting is much easier when everything you need is collected upfront, all at the same time, all in the same uniform format.  You dictate the rules of the front desk in the fully customizable form builder, and OpenWater handles the rest.  Use our system to collect:

  • Member registrations
  • Submission fees
  • Speaker abstracts or proposals
  • Detailed contact information
  • Dietary preferences
  • Open-ended responses

OpenWater features over a dozen custom form field types that you can use to create the ideal registration or submission form for your annual meeting.  You only need to build out your robust, personalized form once to make all submissions uniform, complete, and trackable.  

Remember the hypothetical gripe about incomplete forms and continuous back-and-forth?  OpenWater solves for these kinds of complications by:

  • Using One, Familiar Front Door: The custom form (and any extra OpenWater widgets you’re using) all integrate seamlessly with your existing website and brand aesthetic.  It’s easy to control submissions and spread the word when it always requires the same hyperlink to your annual meeting website page.
  • Double-Checking For You: OpenWater can validate that all fields are answered according to your expectations (e.g., by word count, or that an email address is valid), and flag issues before users are allowed to submit.  You can even set eligibility rules to prevent ineligible submissions from being passed on to your reviewers (or to reject them and explain the reason to the user in a pop up)—no more worrying about what you’ll actually receive in the body of each email.
  • Storing Media and Document Uploads: Like a baggage check, the OpenWater system can collect hi-res images, video abstracts, and other files right out of the gate, so you don’t have to chase down presenters after the fact.  OpenWater catalogs and stores these files on the cloud so that you don’t have to deal with a mess of incoming email attachments or incompatible formats.  Set which file formats the system will take, and which it will decline, according to your preference.
  • Sending All Info Wherever It Needs to Go: If your form is gathering contact info, OpenWater can feed it to your AMS (or any other database) via APIs.  Fees head through a payment gateway directly into your account. Collected abstracts can be fed straight into a custom, streamlined review process right within the OpenWater system (if you’re using our review module).

All of this means less paperwork and less record-keeping for you and your team.  OpenWater saves time by eliminating extra annual meeting planning steps. You can finally do away with a disjointed, multi-touch collection process that takes a series of follow-ups to clarify info or hunt down missing materials.

It’s a Hub for Communication

Our over-reliance on traditional email as a communication method is causing all sorts of inefficiency at work.  U.S. white-collar workers self-report that they spend 3.2 hours each day checking work-related emails (and 6.3 hours overall, according to a survey by Adobe).  McKinsey found that workers spent almost 20% of their week searching for information.  In the deluge of decentralized information that is the modern inbox, this should come as no surprise.

Planning an annual meeting is hard enough without the endless follow-ups and sorting or digging through emails for relevant threads.  OpenWater quiets the noise in your correspondences by segmenting annual meeting communication apart from the flooded catch-all inbox. It gives your leadership team, members, presenters, and reviewers a convenient, unified hub for communication—one place that everyone can stay in touch, centralized, and simple.  

Since it’s an integrated email system, the messages are accessible however you need them—in or out of OpenWater.  Also, the system offers robust automation and user filtering options to save you time by taking care of follow-up messages for you.

Automate and Segment Your Annual Meeting Messages 

Use OpenWater’s built-in messaging feature for annual meeting planning necessities like:

  • Auto-confirmations or thank you messages to registrants and presenters
  • One-on-one chats with users or members who have questions
  • Automated reminders to only the reviewers who are falling behind
  • Customized emails to specific subgroups about guidelines or deadlines
  • Mass alerts or updates about last-minute changes

These conveniences are great in a vacuum, but many of our clients wonder about the work it would take to rebuild all of their contact lists inside the OpenWater system.  Fortunately, that isn’t necessary. OpenWater has integrations that let it import email lists from your marketing software, AMS, or any other contact list database.  

Because the platform is mobile-friendly, you can also access the in-system messaging whenever and wherever you need it.  OpenWater automates, integrates, and personalizes your correspondences in a platform that’s accessible on any device.

Download our guide now!

User Portals Cut Down on Messaging

Above all, OpenWater helps you communicate less than you had to in the past.  The automation options save time you’d usually spend tending to the back-and-forth, but so do our user portals for presenters and reviewers.

Presenters can log in themselves to make changes to their proposal or abstract after submission, without your help—and every self-help session is one less conversation for you to keep track of.  You can also put detailed instructions into the reviewer portal to aid the review team in their tasks without your intervention.

All Data Meets in the Middle

It’s frustrating enough to find a missing piece of paperwork on a messy, disorganized desk.  Things get even hairier when thousands of pieces of information are spread far and wide across your CRM, AMS, marketing software, Google drive, email platform, and abstract management system.

Planning an annual meeting takes data from all kinds of systems.  And the more there are, the less efficient the planning process becomes:

  • More than 80% of business leaders surveyed by IDC and Adobe agree that problems “arise because they have different internal systems/applications that don’t ‘talk’ to each other.” 
  • 43% of workers in the IDC study say they often have to copy/paste or rekey information.
  • Companies lose 20-30% in revenue every year from the inefficiencies such as siloed, poorly integrated business systems.

It’s much easier to plan when all the data is in one place.  This way, your staff doesn’t have to shift to-and-fro between disparate platforms or recreate contact lists and member databases.  OpenWater acts as a centerpiece for all submission and data management in your meeting planning process.

Seamless Integrations for Everything You Use

You might be using multiple databases to track registrants, members, and speakers, like an AMS, CRM, or custom SQL database for your association. OpenWater seamlessly integrates them all with:

  • APIs to Import Everything You Need: Our API suite hooks everything together. OpenWater can access all relevant pre-existing data through information lookups.
  • Bi-directional Synchronizations: Every change in OpenWater or the integrated system is reflected in both—no more rekeying fresh information
  • One Familiar Login Credential: Our single-sign-on APIs allow you to use one login and one system to access all the data you need.
  • End-to-End Software Integration: OpenWater connects with payment portals, membership databases, and live app schedules. You can use our system to handle registrations, fee collection, presenter submissions, reviewer lists, email blasts, session and agenda building, and easily feed in pre-existing data/lists or create reports on any of the info before, during, and after your annual meeting planning period.

Whether you’re using mainstream association membership software like Neforum, iMIS, and Personify, or a proprietary custom system, OpenWater can hook them all together with personalized API integrations.

Your Agenda Is Plug-and-Play

Agenda creation is a challenging puzzle for the annual meeting planning process.  Once the proposals have been reviewed and approved, it’s into the dark thicket of session building and schedule mapping.  In the past, this has meant whiteboards, spreadsheets, continuous cross-referencing, and plenty of ‘shoot, I thought we had it before you saw that conflict.’

Even once the schedule is designed, you’ve got to get it loaded into your website, emails, event apps, and more.  We’ve done everything we can with OpenWater to streamline this process and get your annual meeting agenda settled, quick and easy.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. OpenWater jumpstarts session creation by auto-populating sessions with related abstracts from earlier steps (collection and review).
  2. You can put an online gallery of sessions on your website for previewing.  It updates as you create them.
  3. It’s easy to delegate tasks to session chairs when you empower them to curate the abstracts list for their assigned session(s).  Have them manage sessions on predetermined topics, or let them create the sessions themselves by pulling approved abstracts from the system.
  4. Drag-and-drop sessions in an online, visual schedule builder.
  5. OpenWater automatically checks for conflicts (e.g., two sessions with the same chair in the same time slot) and flags them for you with an explanation of what’s wrong.  This takes human error out of the equation.
  6. Feed the finished schedule into event apps automatically with APIs for common app platforms like CoreApps. An annual meeting app is great for engagement, and OpenWater takes the legwork out of the setup process.
  7. Access your schedule anywhere, at any time, on any device, in case you have to make any last-minute changes.  These will update in real-time in the system, on your website, and in connected event apps.

So there you have it. No more sticky note checkerboards! OpenWater makes annual meeting agenda creation as simple as plug-and-play.

And Finally, the Footprint Is Reusable

Implementing a new technology platform, like OpenWater, always takes a bit of setup. But that upfront elbow grease will save you tons of time and headaches in the long run.

The best part? All the work you put into planning your first annual meeting through OpenWater keeps paying dividends.  Next year’s annual meeting will get up and running even faster because the program you’ve built out is a reusable template.  Why reinvent the wheel?

Save the custom program you’ve set up and then clone it for your next planning process.  There will be adjustments, expansions, and improvements each year, but the template is a baseline with 90% of your annual meeting workflow already in place—including the custom online forms, contact lists, bi-directional integrations, review process, and more.

It’s easy to compare data across the years you’ve used OpenWater to further tweak and improve your process in one, consistent system.  If you run multiple events, each one can have its own template ready to load up and get you on your way.

Your OpenWater program template is the footprint that leads you forward into your next annual meeting, time and again.Download our guide now!