When I mention customer relationship management systems, your internal knowledge and content management systems and practices, and your conferences and other events, I don't imagine that you immediately see these as an integrated, interlocking set of functions. But they are - or can be.

It's natural to see our events as separate from our internal content and information tracking mechanisms. I'm sure most of us are not used to thinking of our events as an integrated part of the overall body of knowledge that allows each of our associations to maintain its historical memory and act as a unified entity in our customer, or member, relationships. But if we stop to consider, the relationship between building a knowledge base, dealing effectively with members and other constituents, and developing meeting content and structure comes sharply into focus.

If we think of meetings as the delivery mechanism for large amounts of knowledge, as well as the mechanism for collecting information about our members' needs and behavior (after all, who attends our events, if not our most interested customers or potential customers?), the relationship between meetings and our management systems becomes much more apparent.

Evaluating What We Know To serve our various types of customers, we not only need to know a lot about their behavior and needs, we also have to be able to draw on the accumulated knowledge and expertise of our organization. And we need to know which parts of that accumulated knowledge are important for any individual. Even the steps for developing a conference constitute part of this accumulated knowledge base.

Here's a hypothetical example. If your meeting features a number of educational events and you draw 50 attendees to a particular session, it's reasonable to assume that the content of that session is important to the attendees. If that content can turn those attendees into buyers (or members, or whatever you're seeking), then collecting and analyzing information about that content and how successful it was in reaching customers is important. Unfortunately, in today's environment, we don't really have the mechanisms for collecting or analyzing that relationship information.

Let's extend the example. Say the meeting is produced by a multinational association, and the Frankfurt chapter wants to do an event similar to the one just produced by the San Jose chapter. Wouldn't the Frankfurt office want to know which sessions were successful, what content was delivered, who presented the sessions, who attended the sessions, and what kinds of member or supplier follow-up were made possible?

Competitive Advantage Understanding these relationships will prove increasingly important in a world of heightened competition and abundant information flow. If we start to see the content of our events and the behavior of our attendees as integral parts of our knowledge base, and we measure how the delivery of that knowledge influences member behavior, then we'll start to treat that event and attendee content as a valuable, sustainable, and reusable asset. As a result, we'll store, catalog, manage, and deploy it as we would any valued asset. In fact, some leading developers of automated systems for the events industry are bringing this approach to their products. For example, San Francisco-based Bluedot Software has built its most recent offerings around this model.

It's important to change our view of event content by understanding the tight integration of content, planning steps, and attendee behavior, and to start handling that content as the valuable asset that it is.