Will Web Video Kill the Conference Star?

The following is an article reprinted with permission from the upcoming Summer 2008 edition of The WWR Letter: 

Will Web Video Kill the Conference Star?

By: Rob Rutkowski, Esquire

This morning, I watched a seminar given over the Web. Normally, when you attend a webinar, you get telephone audio feed and a PowerPoint that is it best unreliable. This was different. NAFCU sponsored the event, and the webinar began with video camera panning back off their logo and then focusing on the two speakers. A small video ran on the left of my screen while the PowerPoint was displayed on the right. This seminar went flawlessly. I didn’t even see it live, I saw part of a recording of it. Nonetheless, it was very impressive.

If a webinar can be given reliably via streaming video and the audience can see the speaker and the PowerPoint simultaneously, why would anyone ever go to a live seminar again? Webinars are cheaper than in-person seminars. There are no travel costs or food expenses and the time the employee spends away from the credit union is significantly less. Moreover, you can have as many people watching it on the computer as you have space in your conference room. You could even port it to an HDTV. For a credit union trying to cut costs, a good webinar is far superior to sending employees away for educational training. At its most basic level, the purpose of a seminar is for the dissemination of information to the attendees. If it can be done more cheaply, then it should be done more cheaply.

Webinars are still not perfect. Workshops suffer. It is hard to play learning games, get answers to hypotheticals and break people into groups via a webinar. Also, I mentioned this webinar opportunity to some other credit union folks and some were concerned that webinars don’t allow for networking. I have to agree with that. There is, by definition, no in-person contact beyond that of your co-workers. However, while networking might be rewarding to individuals, what is the return to the credit union?

I would submit to you that webinars will indeed greatly reduce the number of conferences for credit union employees and volunteers over time. The ones that survive will be more social events for educational sessions. People will want to attend these not for the educational sessions, but for the networking and camaraderie. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As webinar technology improves, the corresponding efficiency will be a benefit to everyone. You might think that I have a vested interest in the convention circuit as I give upwards of 40 presentations a year.  Honestly, I would rather do them all as webinars.

Robert Rutkowski is the Managing Partner of the Firm’s Credit Union department. Based in the Brooklyn Heights operations center, he can be reached at (216) 739-5004 or rrutkowski@weltman.com.

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