Do the math. The
American Association for Cancer Research has approximately 26,000
members in 70 countries worldwide, and its last annual meeting,
held in Los Angeles in April, attracted 17,000 people. That means
at least 35 percent of the association’s membership wasn’t present
at the conference and therefore missed all of the education
sessions led by influential doctors and scientists. Then consider
the thousands of nonmember cancer researchers who didn’t attend and
that each attendee had to miss at least one session of interest
because of scheduling conflicts. The impact of the annual meeting
begins to look limited.
That’s why nearly 100 hours of AACR’s
annual meeting education sessions were recorded and posted online
this year so that anyone can watch the material, complete with
slide shows, for free.
“We consider it a service to our
members who attended the meeting, those who did not attend the
meeting and the cancer research community in general,” explains
Jeff Ruben, director of program development for AACR, based in
Philadelphia. The price tag for that service exceeded $100,000, and
Ruben says it was money well spent.
A growing number of associations are
coming to the same conclusion, that meeting content can be captured
and repackaged to serve a number of important objectives, including
fostering widespread education, generating additional revenue
streams, enhancing the brand of the association within its
industry, or attracting new members or meeting attendees.
“I would say if you’re an association
and not repurposing the educational content and putting it online,
you’re out of touch with the marketplace,” says John F. Nawn, vice
president of education for the Professional Convention Management
Association, based in Chicago.
The challenge for associations looking
to distribute their education sessions online is to figure out what
exactly they want to make available (all content or only
highlights), to whom (attendees, members, subscribers or the
general public) and how to pay for it (pay-per-view sessions,
subscription packages, increased registration or membership fees,
or corporate sponsorships). “There are as many different strategies
as there are associations,” says Ellen Moore, vice president of
education and program services for Chicago-based SmithBucklin.
“Everyone is grappling with this.”
Web ready: An audio
of this session at the AACR annual
meeting was synched with the presentation
slide show and packaged with photos
and other information.
Although associations have been selling
audio recordings of their meetings for years, recent advances in
technology have transformed the meaning of capturing a session.
“We’ve moved beyond an audio file being sufficient,” says Brent
Rogers, national director of digital services for AVW-TELAV Audio
Visual Solutions, a Freeman company based in Dallas.
The new standard for archiving meeting
content is to synchronize PowerPoint slides or other images used
during the live presentation with an audio recording of the
session, so online viewers see and hear roughly the same thing
attendees did in person. Many digital service providers go further,
allowing viewers to skip through the presentation from slide to
slide like chapters on a DVD and search session transcripts with
keywords in order to find all relevant material in a meeting
Additional options abound: Some
associations record sessions on video; others, who record only
audio, add photographs of speakers to show who’s talking; some even
allow viewers to type notes as they watch the session and e-mail
the text to themselves.
The content can be streamed on the web
or made available for download. Many associations, in addition to
online efforts, still offer data CDs of the meeting content for