Conference recording and web-casting are ideal ways to add value to your event because they:
- Allow members/staff/customers/prospects who cannot attend in person to participate.
- Give physical attendees access to all the concurrent sessions.
- Extend the availability of the content beyond the few days of the conference itself
- Provide content that can be used to promote programs, sponsors and future events.
- Offer increased opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors to connect to your audience.
But for most organizers the real issues are will these activities reduce physical attendance and will they generate revenue. The fact is that the conference industry is probably past the tipping point with providing content on-line.
Let’s take a clue from the entertainment industry. In the 90’s the music industry was slow to adapt to on-line delivery and their profits were decimated by piracy. Yet Hollywood embraced on-line delivery and today more films will be watched online (legally) than purchased as physical products. According to IHS Screen Digest Americans watched 3.4 billion movies online in 2012, a considerably larger number than the 2.4 billion DVDs sold. In the meantime, the music industry has been playing catch up. Between 2000 and 2010 CD sales declined by 50% and last year digital music sales surpassed physical music sales making up 50.3% of all music sold. So its clear content owners ignore online delivery at their peril.
Bringing these learnings back to the conference world and combining it with our extensive experience of recording and streaming conferences across many different sectors, we recommend organizers deploy some or all of the following tactics if they want to profit from what are increasingly being called ‘hybrid events’.
- Provide members with live coverage of plenary/general sessions. But give remote viewers a voice; allow them to participate by submitting questions to the presenters or responding to polls. Events streamed live create interest in your organization, promote future events and expose your message to news media and social media. Depending on your objectives, you can limit access to members (or other specific group) and invited guests.
- Record all sessions to improve the value offer for physical attendees. A large conference or congress would normally require require attendees to choose between simultaneous sessions. They may be torn as to which to choose, or may decide to skip a session in favour of networking time. It’s a powerful offer to allow them to catch all the sessions that interest them later at preferential rates as a ‘thank you’ for being there.
- Create an on-line Conference TV channel that offers daily updates on activities at the conference. The schedule might include interviews with speakers and delegates, plenary/general session coverage, social media check-ins, promotions for upcoming activities and exhibit floor tours. All of this activity generates buzz and allows viewers to see what they are missing. Conference TV can be advertiser/sponsor supported and offered free of charge to maximise reach.
- Poll your audience on relevant issues and on the sessions they view / attend. This information can be invaluable to conference organizers. Find out what worked well and what did not. Discover insights into the views and practices of your members. Consider offering your exhibitors a poll as a paid upgrade.
Perhaps by now you are convinced that streaming elements of your conference on-line is a valuable exercise and is probably something you are going to have to do sooner or later anyway.
In my next blog I will look at some of the specific models that can be applied to generating revenue and also some of the techniques that can be applied to reduce or avoid piracy.