I just returned from the Gazelles/Fortune Small Business Sales and Marketing Summit, where I was providing webcasting services for participants who were not able to physically attend. Gazelles is an executive education and coaching firm located in Ashburn, Virgina just around the corner from us. Gazelles (and the participating speakers) made an insightful decision in offering parts of this great conference via streaming video… with some risk. The risk, of course, is that by offering up the most popular speakers as a webcast for a couple hundred bucks, physical attendance would decline, which would cost thousands. Even in the face of a troubled economy, attendance was close to what it’s been in past years. Attendees got the benefit of interacting with their teams and other attendees and also received a solid 14 hours of good education. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the conference was in New Orleans at the Canal street Marriott; smack between the water, the French Quarter, and the Garden district. It’s a great city to visit if you like culture, food, and history. Webcast attendees only got about 3.5 hours of great education, but at a much lower price and in the comfort and quiet of their own offices.
Gazelles also cleverly offset the risk of loosing attendees by using the webcast to bring in more physical attendees. How? They offered to companies that brought at least three execs to the conference unlimited access to the webcast and the post-webcast archive. For companies this meant that for the cost of sending three executives to the conference; about 3K, the entire company could share in some of the meatiest parts of the conference. They can also, themselves, re-watch the webcast and reference parts of it for others members of the team to pay close attention to.
Another key to the successful formula of the Gazelles webcasts is that individual webcasts are also part of an overall series of three webcasts with a pricing structure that benefits companies who purchase the entire series; which by doing so gives them unlimited access to the archive by anyone in the company that wants to or who they may compel to participate… purchasing the series is a win, win, win. We’ve had numerous reports of companies filling conference rooms and watching together. In fact, one client, The Scooter Store filled their corporate auditorium with most of their 200 employees to watch Pat Lencioni talk about teaming.
Webcasts can easily go global. Gazelles has a strong overseas clientele which can be more difficult to reach. To date, we’ve seen participation on Gazelles’ webcasts with users in Australia, Dubai, India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Poland and other points all throughout Europe. Especially for companies like McDermott, Will and Emory who has offices in several different countries, having the same educational opportunities is something that can bring their dispersed teams closer. For Gazelles it’s indispensable that they are able to offer their overseas clients this education experience. Webcasts give Gazelles a reason and a means to stay connected with companies in different parts of the world and lets those leaders know that they are important and included.
It can’t be discounted that Gazelles has access to some of the most prominent business thought leaders of our time. We’ve had the remarkable experience of webcasting Pat Lencioni, Seth Godin, Guy Parsons, Chet Holmes and David Meerman Scott. We’re looking forward to webcasting Dr. Victoria Medvec next month and Keith Ferrazzi in May. It’s really incredible that for less than $1000 companies are able to get 5-6 hours of quality education for their entire team.
For Gazelles, which earns a profit from providing quality education to the executive teams of fast growth companies, the model is working. Speakers who are providing the education are also doing well by teaming with Gazelles and this is very important for the model to work. Just like any professional group, they network and talk to each other. If one of them reports that it wasn’t profitable being on the webcast, then others will not be interested. The Gazelles speakers have been able to deliver their information to an interested without leaving their home or office and still retain a handsome fee. We webcasted from Seth Godin’s living room; at one point he got up to let his dog out while he was still talking; reality TV meets executive education.
Ecropolis plays an important part in the equation also. We provide the on-site technology and services to film the speaker and stream him or her live to the audience over a global CDN. PowerPoint slide presentation is almost always an important part of Gazelles’ speaker’s presentations and we’ve developed our own simple technology for advancing the slides live as the speaker is presenting in a side-by-side format. Our platform/interface also provides moderated chat, which has even been used for the audience to send questions to the speaker. Post-event: within 10 hours we’re able to post an edited, fully-functional archive in time for users on the other side of the world to view. For on-demand versions, we’re also able to translate the synchronized slide/video presentation into the most popular video streaming formats: Windows Media and Flash. Ecropolis also provides all of the user registration service from the gazelles.tv website.
Webcasting provides an amazing opportunity for all types of organizations even if the model isn’t one of direct returns like the Gazelles pay-per-view model. Product and service evangelizing is an example where profits may be indirect. Fund-raising and membership drives for non-profits and associations is another example. It takes some creative thought to determine how a webcast might fit with your organization and maybe even some experimentation. It is a new world for sure. Many companies sailing ahead and taking advantage of the new opportunities available for them to efficiently and effectively communicate their messages to their customers and potential customers alike.