Tell me if these questions sound familiar:

  1. If I live stream my conference, will people still come?
  2. Can I offer members more choices without building a whole new content library?

The answer to both questions is yes. Associations often resist repurposing their content, fearing prohibitive costs, lack of interest, or the dreaded boogie man that haunts every strategic discussion around taking annual meetings online: cannibalization.

I’ve encouraged many associations to challenge these concerns, because not only do they rarely manifest themselves, the benefits of a diverse educational offering far outweigh the risks. But don’t take my word for – listen to the experience of an association that live streams its conference, replays its webcasts and webinars, and sees a six-fold return on investment.

A couple weeks ago at the Community Brands user conference, Xperience 2018, I presented alongside Katie Grier of the North Carolina Association of Certified Public Accountants, and we talked about the tools and strategies NCACPA uses to repurpose its educational content and offer a diverse, engaging portfolio of learning opportunities to its members. I sat down with Katie to further explore the topic:

JF: Hi, Katie! Can you go over the various content formats through which NCACPA offers continuing professional education?

KG: Sure. We live-stream our annual conferences, replay recordings of in-person seminars, and offer live and recorded webinars. In total, we hold almost 2,000 programs annually.

JF: That’s an impressive schedule. Let’s start with live-streaming. How has NCACPA grown its offering of live-streamed content?

KG: We used to only stream a handful of sessions throughout the year, then last year we live-streamed about 30 programs and they performed amazingly! The niche topics attracted CPAs from across the state who couldn’t attend in person.

The response was so positive that this year, we’re streaming more conferences and recording every session, instead of just one general session, as we’d done previously. Live-streaming also gives our members flexibility to participate onsite for part of the conference and virtually for the rest, when they might otherwise have not engaged at all.

JF: Did NCACPA cannibalize its in-person audience?

KG: No. In fact, next year we’re expanding our conferences to include more sessions than any previous year.

Live-streaming also spares us from having to cancel programs with low attendance, because we know people will participate virtually or watch the rebroadcast. Last year, a hurricane prevented many attendees from attending one of our conferences, but with the videographer already onsite, we simply live-streamed the program, and the show was able to go on.

JF: Very cool. You mentioned rebroadcasts, and I understand this is a major part of NCACPA’s educational calendar. Tell me more.

KG: For each in-person seminar, we schedule at least four rebroadcasts. This gives our members flexibility to choose a convenient viewing time. Rebroadcasts are very affordable, easy to set up, and don’t require a staff member to monitor throughout the program. Plus, the learning management system’s support team is on hand to provide technical assistance if we need it.

JF: Four rebroadcasts for every program. Math isn’t my strong suit, but that’s a lot of events.

KG: We’ve grown a lot in the past few years. In 2013, we offered 110 webcasts and 50 webinars, most of which were rebroadcast. This year, we’re offering 390 webcasts and 1,100 webinars/rebroadcasts.

We also offer a “CPE Select” pass, new this year. It’s basically an “all you can eat” pass with unlimited access to almost all of the content.

JF: Tell us about the economics of this structure– is it scalable?

KG: Absolutely. For an average in-person seminar, we see a 10 percent marginal return on investment, and that’s great. However, for a live stream or rebroadcast, we see a 63 percent marginal return. These programs more than pay for themselves and the original live event.

JF: Let’s not forget about webinars – how does NCACPA use this medium?

KG: Our speakers love doing webinars, because they can do them right from their office, it doesn’t require much of their time, and it doesn’t even have to be live. Although live programs are preferred, we can record webinars in our learning management system (LMS) and replay them later to accommodate speakers’ schedules.

Speakers actually get excited about webinars. I’m constantly receiving emails from speakers saying, “I thought of this topic and recorded a webinar on it – can you sell this?” I don’t have to do anything except listen to it and list it on the catalog.

JF: It sounds like you’ve mastered all the major forms online education takes. Can you share some tips for associations looking to start repurposing their content?

KG: The first tip is to start small. Pick a speaker or vendor with whom you have a great relationship and explain the range of options you offer: They can live stream their program, present a live webinar, record a webinar, or answer questions on a rebroadcast. But, also be okay with them saying no. If one speaker from a particular vendor is reluctant to participate, check with the next speaker, and make sure they understand all of the options they have.

Next, analyze what worked. If a webcast performed well last year, convert it to an on-demand course or a rebroadcast. Create some case studies. Show your vendors and speakers how awesome this can be.

JF: Last question: if you went to Hogwarts, what house would belong to?

KG: Slytherin, one hundred percent.

About the Author

James Fisher is a Freestone Learning Management System Customer Success Manager at Community Brands.