CDs Or USB Drives – What Should You Choose For Your Next Conference?

CDs Or USB Drives – What Should You Choose For Your Next Conference?


If you’re organizing a conference or large meeting with multiple educational sessions, most likely you’ll need to capture the presentations and handouts in some kind of booklet or proceedings. In some situations you can get away with putting everything online only but for many industries, including medical, engineering, financial and legal, where attendees are required to pay a substantial fee for the education program, meeting planners prefer to have something the attendees can take home with them.

So what is the best way to deliver the educational program? Paper is effective but over the years, meeting planners have come to prefer digital over paper, since proceedings in a digital format are less costly to produce and ship. In fact, in a recently conducted survey by CadmiumCD at the 2010 Alliance for Continuing Medical Education conference, >90% of education and meeting planners surveyed indicated they preferred digital formats over paper, so which is better, CD or USB?

3 Benefits of CD Proceedings

1. Inexpensive:

CD’s offer the lesser expensive option when compared to USB. Prices are dependent on quantity and packaging options but in general, prices for CDs can be on the order of 4-7X less than the same quantity in USB flash excursion formats. This cost difference can be meaningful, and depending on volumes, finding a sponsor to offset the higher cost of USB drives may be next to impossible. For example a preloaded USB excursion with corporate logo could cost ~$10/stick to produce while the CD would cost ~$2/CD. For a quantity of 5000 units, it can be a difference of $40,000! It might be easy to find a sponsor for $10,000 but asking somebody to kick in $50,000 for a name and some content on a proceedings stick may be difficult.

Clients trying to get the most from their budget will offer proceedings on a CD and online. They will send attendees a link prior to the event, alerting them to the online proceedings and directing them to download the presentations to their netbooks, laptops or smartphones prior to the event.

2. Many packaging options:

CD packaging options range from inexpensive clear plastic kick-out boxes, to 100% recycled cardboard sleeves to customized digipacks and everything in between. The packaging you choose is dependent your program and again budget. For example, one client that is tied to the Green building industry distributes their CDs in 100% recycled cardboard sleeves printed with soy-based ink. Another client prefers the kick-out box option because of their smaller event size it didn’t make sense to custom print sleeve holders. Another client prefers to use a custom-printed digipack to increase the perceived value of the content. Also, some clients prefer to handout customized notepads and place the CDs in sleeve holders on the backside of the front cover. The point is, the event planner has many choices and their proceedings provider will be able to help them find the right packaging solution.

3. Easier Storage:

While the packaging CDs come in varies, the CD itself is a standard size, consequently in organizations where record-keeping is important, once back at the office, content can be transferred to a hard excursion and the CD can be stored in a CD organizer or with the company librarian and easily retrieved for later use. Flash drives do not have a standard shape or size, consequently, cataloging them is not as easy.

3 benefits of USB flash excursion proceedings:

1. Smaller than CDs:

USB flash drives are smaller in physical size than CD’s, people can put them in their purses or pockets, making them highly transportable, however, this also increases the chances of misplacing the item. Event planners can minimize this problem by also adding a lanyard to the USB excursion or providing rare packaging for storage but this of course increases the cost already further above the CD.

2. Reusable:

USBs can have content additional to the stick after being preloaded, making them useful to the attendee for more than just the proceedings. For example, during the educational sessions, notes can be typed and downloaded to the USB excursion keeping the notes and presentations together, with CDs this is not possible. One way to combat the observe-taking issue with CDs is to have all presentations pre-downloaded on the hard excursion and then proceed with typing and saving notes directly to the hard excursion.

Also, if going with USB drives, it is recommended that you buy ones with at the minimum 2GB memory to maximize their value this is because the proceedings typically take up 0.5 GB, leaving the attendee with 1.5GB of space to use throughout the year, consequently improving the utility.

3. Versatile:

USB flash drives can be used on laptops, desktops and the much smaller netbooks. Netbooks typically do not have CD readers consequently they would not be able to read proceedings on a CD but they can read USB sticks, however, since most organizers put the content online, reading presentations on a netbook is not a problem. There are two ways to accomplish this:

1) Netbook readers can connect to the internet directly whereby attendees can download the most up-to-date proceedings to the hard excursion or

2) Attendees can download content to their smartphone and move the presentations to the Netbook via their connection cord.


Whether you choose to use CD or USB is dependent on your budget and how much you want the attendee to use the delivery method throughout the year. CDs are less expensive, have many packaging options and can be stored in a filing system. USBs are smaller, can be reused, and are very versatile when it comes to device readability. However, no matter what proceedings format you choose, working with the right vendor and communication with your attendees will be meaningful. Let participants know well in improvement of arriving at the conference how they will receive the proceedings so they can be prepared.

If you have any questions about which format or packaging is best for your next event, contact your proceedings provider.

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