You know you can’t pick your relatives, but did you know that you can pick your competition… and you should? Did you also know the best competition you can pick is your own organization? This may sound a little confusing. Let me explain. Read more »
There is a surprising dearth of quantifiable information on the growth of webcasting. Maybe that’s because the rate of growth has been so rapid? Wikipedia states, “The growth of webcast traffic has roughly doubled, year on year, since 1995 and is directly linked to broadband penetration.” This estimate sounds pretty conservative. From our perspective, the growth has been explosive.
The reasons for the popularity of webcasts seem fairly obvious. With organizations and individuals doing what they can to cut back on travel, the idea of bringing an event or course to the participants, rather than visa-versa, is an attractive one. And, with enormous improvements in streaming technology over the last ten years and the proliferation of broadband, laptops, audio players, and devices like the iPad, the audience doesn’t give up quality-of-experience to achieve the convenience of remote viewing. I see this as infrastructure catching up to a need. Quality content has been there for quite some time, delivered face-to-face, via publications—printed and electronic. With better infrastructure in place, and a delivery system that brings it all together, like InReach, professionals can easily avail themselves of continuing education the same way they get so much of their information these days—online and downloaded onto their iPod/Smartphone.
Our core business is not technology, although we’re becoming more reliant on it. Our business is continuing professional education within the health care space. We’ve been doing this for over thirty years, so we’ve watched the needs of our customers evolve over time. One of our major challenges is to make sure our educational content can be accessed in all of the ways that our customers want/need to access it. This is never more apparent than with the younger generations of professionals, who we call the technology generations. These professionals use online, download, internet as their default choice for learning. And webcasting is an extremely popular option for our audiences of medical professionals-- who count on continuing education, but have limited time available for attending in-person events. Webcasting just plain makes sense for them. So despite a lack of scientific research findings on the growth of webcasting in the professional CE market, I feel very confident in my assessment of growth as “explosive”. So much so, in fact, that it surprises me that there are still a significant number of providers of continuing professional education that avoid offering participants a webcasting option. I have actually heard my peers say that they are hesitant to provide a streaming version of a live event for fear that it may “cannibalize the in-person event.” We have found the opposite to be true. Not only do we maintain attendance at our live events, we significantly expand the audience for each event with remote real-time participants and after-event participants, who view the on-demand version of the program. Our experience over the last sixteen months illustrates the point. We have more than seven times the users and the number of webcast hours (time that our customers spend viewing webcasts) is more than ten times what it was in the spring of 2009. And this is for webcasting only. It doesn’t take our other online programs into consideration (and other online programs are growing as well).
As I mentioned, our goal is to give customers what they need, so we have to ensure that the overall webcast experience is a good one. Beyond the relevance and quality of the program content, there are dozens of things that contribute to the satisfaction of our webcasting (and other online) participants. They include everything from ease of finding the right program and the sign-up process, to easy access to the programs and the ability to earn credits and/or certification for their efforts. In a remote attendance situation, these are things that are handled by the technology underlying our program—which has become remarkably sophisticated (and translates into ease-of-use for the participant). In addition to the expansion of the delivery pipe, Broadband, the technology that makes the webcast a seamless and easy-to-manage experience for the audience has made a huge contribution to the growth that we’re seeing in webcasting attendance. This is because the audience can participate with ease—they don’t need to be technology gurus and they already have the tools they need.
That is our experience and my opinion, but I also found an interesting story about the value of accommodating an off-site audience in Event Marketer Magazine. It’s about Cisco’s foray into adding a remote audience to its annual flagship event—a big risk, or so they thought. The result was 5,000 remote attendees (10,000 at the live event), 55% of which were new attendees. An added bonus: 35% of remote attendees will now attend the annual event in-person, based on positive exposure to the event. These are impressive numbers and, according to the article, they have changed the way this successful company looks at remote audiences and will plan future events.
There are hundreds of examples, like the Cisco story, that point to the growth and mainstream adoption of webcasting. The bottom line is that we are seeing tremendous growth in our own CE business and we’re betting that the growth of webcasting in CE, and overall, will continue.
Mike Conner, President