Content capture has three major aspects to consider. One side is the cost for equipment, personnel, bandwidth and other elements needed to capture the action.
A second side is recording that content and selling it, either to attendees who want recordings or to other buyers who did not attend. Content recording, capture and sale is the business that brought Digitell into the association world.
Digitell and similar vendors typically sell a variety of conference packages that include recordings of all sessions, specific education or interest tracks, or individual sessions. Another possibility is to sell rebroadcasts of specific sessions or tracks.
Some associations sell “simu-live” broadcasts that have fixed beginning and ending times. Others sell on-demand access that gives viewers more flexibility. Meeting sponsors can even repackage sessions around different engagement points for certain audiences or offer a series of “Best of…” broadcasts to maintain audience engagement and enthusiasm once the actual event is over.
A third side of content capture is sponsorship.
PCMA is already testing sponsorship of its broadcasts. Just as vendors sponsor physical elements such as tote bags, vendors can sponsor the virtual elements that create a hybrid event. One of the association’s most successful programs was a virtual version of its ever-popular lunchtime product demo.
Three sponsors purchased 20-minute lunchtime segments available only to Convening Leaders online attendees. Attendees saw a 10-minute prerecorded product demo followed by 10 minutes of live Q&A. Moderator Mary Reynolds Kane, PCMA’s director of online marketing, used live questions from the virtual audience.
“The technology demos were a huge success,” Clark says. “Our sponsors were happy because they had an audience that was actively engaged with them. Our attendees were happy, as 93 percent of them said they would attend again. We were happy with the engagement on both ends of the demo and with the $5,000 sponsorship from each of the companies that participated. As many ways as there are to monetize a face-to-face event, there are even more ways to monetize a hybrid event.”
There is also the simple expedient of charge for virtual registration. Registration fees could be a viable revenue source for some event sponsors, but probably not for PCMA. Virtual attendance for PCMA events plummets when there are even nominal registration fees.
In 2013, the association charged virtual attendees for its annual Summer Education Conference. Hybrid registration fell from 279 in 2012 to 86 in 2013. With no registration fee for virtual attendees in 2014, online attendance soared to 440. The group saw a similar pattern charging for an Education Conference rebroadcast. The free event drew 82 attendees in 2013, but only 40 when a fee was charged in 2014.
“Different industries have different successes in different areas,” Clark says. “We didn’t do well charging for continuing education online, but medical associations have been very successful with the same model. The difference is that medical attendees need CME credits for licensure. Continuing education is not required in our industry.”
Marketing Runs the Show
One of the biggest changes resulting from moving into the hybrid world is internal. In most organizations, the physical meetings are part of the education department. But the virtual side of hybrid meetings are more a marketing function.
“Hybrid events are a marvelous opportunity to engage with larger audiences than you have ever attracted face-to-face,” Kush says. “The online extension of what you are doing with your physical event is a natural fit for marketing. Brand extension is very clearly a marketing function, not part of education.”
That division of labor calls for close cooperation between education and marketing departments. At PCMA, the education team makes the final selection of event sessions while marketing chooses which sessions to include in the online program.
“The real watchword for the future is ‘engagement,’” Kush says. “More and more event elements are being created to actively engage the audience online and all year. The days of planning an event, staging it and filing it away are coming to an end. Going hybrid is a very effective way to grow your audience, keep them engaged, keep them loyal and coming back for more.”