Benefits of Digitizing In-Person Events and Conferences for Associations



In-person events, such as conferences and conventions, have long been the staple of associations’ non-dues revenue streams. In fact, as much as 41% consider it their most valuable source of ancillary earnings, according to Association Adviser. Organized properly, they can certainly help diversify revenue, create necessary brand recognition and member loyalty. However, in person events can also require massive time and resource investments, meticulous planning and execution as well as relentless advertising in order to be successful and profitable. A clever way to counter this drawback is to boost revenues from in-person events by selling merchandise, sponsorship packages, hotel rooms, etc. Nevertheless, the financial impact of these add-ons is singular and marginal at best. Meaning that the event cannot be recreated once completed. If ticket sales are less than expected, then the association may even end up in a deficit situation.

There is, however, a more effective and simple way to tackle the issue: ensuring that the event is additionally recorded and available online, on-demand. And that’s exactly what an organization we discuss below did; they were able to increase the conference revenue from $250,000 in 2017 to $300,000 in 2018. How did they get an additional $50,000? Keep reading to find out!

Making events virtual and allowing on-demand viewing lends the level of versatility and revenue increase that cannot be achieved with onsite-only events. It gives the members unabridged access to content, and provides more opportunities to monetize in person events. Once digitized, event sessions have many uses. For example, conference sessions can be sold as individual online presentations or grouped into thematic sections or sold as a package. Whatever you decide to do with the content, the key is to figure out what works best for your association.

A Case in Point: How an Association Added 20% to their Revenue by Recording a Single Conference Session and Offering it Online.

Let’s consider the following scenario. Imagine an organization, let’s call it Association of Professionals or AP for short. AP is an association with voluntary membership of roughly ten thousand, offering professional services and events, along with an annual conference. The conference is part revenue stream and also an effort to engage members and provide a venue for networking, sharing of ideas and knowledge as well as industry insights. And like many other associations, to entice members and bump up the attendance, AP offers professional development (PD) or continuing education (CE) credits as part of the conference. This type of incentive is especially pertinent to industries with mandatory continued education or training requirements.

Every year the AP board sits down to discuss the upcoming event and to review the previous ones for reference and improvement. This time around the procedure was no different, two of the past conferences—the 2017 and 2018—were compared and analyzed. There was just one caveat: some of the 2018 conference sessions had been recorded and available on-demand, so the revenues were no longer as similar as in the past. In fact, there was a significant change between the two events.

Consider this: only 1000 people or 10% of AP’s membership participated in both conferences. It was a two-day event with twenty sessions per day. The total revenue earned in the 2017 conference came up to $250,000 from all tickets sold. And the total for the 2018 conference rose to $300,000.

So, how did the introduction of recording and on-demand video affect the revenue numbers at the end of 2018? Well, AP was able to generate the additional revenue in a one-year period after the conference. It was achieved by recording just one! Session from the 2018 conference, and making the video available on demand for $50 through an online learning platform that is accessible through their website. In this case, only 1000 of AP’s 10,000 members bought the video. Imagine what could be achieved with more than one video and a good marketing strategy to go along with that. By the same token, simply repackaging and reusing, not even all, but some of your most popular sessions—the already generated and readily available content—your association could increase the revenue from events by a serious margin.

The Ins and Outs of Choosing the Right Approach for Your Conference and Event Recording Needs.

It is important to note that as a sort of a pilot project for AP, the process of picking the right technology and method was largely new and unknown. So, the organizers considered several options prior to agreeing to recording the 2018 event.

Just as in the year prior, they looked at numerous other ways of approaching this matter, including live video streaming. This has been a trend for quite some time. And to be fair, it’s not just a buzzword, there’s a myriad of applications to this fascinating technology, however challenges of implementing it are no less great. Trying to live stream even a single session, not to mention two or more simultaneously, requires meticulous preparation and serious technical capability and expertise. To put it simply: it’s an equivalent of running and broadcasting a live TV show for the duration of the event. The amount of planning that goes into that kind of production should not be underestimated.

Thus, having considered the pros and cons, AP decided to look elsewhere. On-demand videos was another option. It gave them the flexibility of post-production editing as well as full control over content to help avoid any potential issues associated with live events. Since this was a pilot project, hiring a professional videographer to help out with all the recording-related bits and pieces was a natural initial reaction. Having a professional in any setting can be a benefit, especially if it involves a learning curve. However, it should go without saying that hiring someone knowledgeable comes with additional expenses that must be factored into the budget.

Nevertheless, compared to a somewhat raw final product of recording videos yourself, today’s technology allows a lot. With tech capabilities of an average smartphone, video production easily falls into the Do It Yourself category. For example, Apple introduced support for high definition videos in its ubiquitous iPhones as far back as 2015. This is to say there’s really nothing holding you back from buying some sturdy tripods at a local or online store, and taking matters into your own hands—literally. At least that’s what AP’s event organizers ended up doing for their 2018 conference: Keeping cost under control and recording that session themselves!

The Sky’s the Limit for Revenue Increase from On-Demand Events and Conferences

There are several variables involved when offering video courses online, but luckily, the odds are all in your favor. If the lesser popular videos can remain online indefinitely, racking up views and generating revenue, imagine what a highly-demanded or mandatory PD/CE presentation could do. Indeed, it’s a gift that keeps on giving as your speakers and conference is constantly being promoted through the online sessions.

Remember that only 10% of AP’s members took part in the conference. This means a huge chunk of 9,000 people or 90% of AP’s audience and its potential revenue remained untapped. Some of those members might have not been interested in traveling and paying for food and accommodation, others might have not wished to take valuable time off work. Regardless of the reason, the opportunity costs – to use the economic term, of such inaction could be far too high, especially for associations with small non-dues revenue streams. Moreover, let’s not forget about the non-members. Having a quality mandatory lecture or highly sought-after event speaker at your conference could surely drive up traffic from outside of the member perimeter, which in turn would create more revenue as the non-member fees are usually higher. This also serves as a means to promote your events to both members and non-members.

Since scalability is truly limitless, such an investment can yield solid returns rain or shine. With potential returns like what we described with AP, the benefits of offering event and conference content online are boundless, and the sky’s truly the limit.


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