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Jun 14, 2006
Case Study

How to Improve Webinar and Email Newsletter Results with Very Simple Video

SUMMARY: Online video was hip for B-to-B marketing about six years ago, but then everybody's budgets got a reality check. Now, newly affordable tech changes everything.

Plus, it's easy to use. You don't need to hire a videographer, ask for IT's help or go to an offsite studio.

Here's a Case Study on a tiny, tight-budgeted organization who've made their newsletters "must click" and their Webinars "must-view" by adding very-simple-video:
"Would you like to sit down and watch a five minute video of a presenter and accompanying PowerPoint slides or read 15 pages of text?" asks Dr Miles Turner, Executive Director Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA).

Dr Turner and his team spent their days traveling often hundreds of miles from member to member to give presentations and training sessions. The in-person approach was high-impact, but had drawbacks:

- Costs associated with road shows

- The inability of attendees to re-use the presentation *as it was given* to educate or pitch staff and board members.

Turner considered Webinars, as so many B-to-B marketers have done to address these problems, but "I've participated in them and found them to be boring."

He felt 45-60 minutes of audio with slides lacked an essential human connection and worried participants' attention would drift off while the Webinar played on their desktops. Adding video would be ideal but WASDA was a tiny organization with just three staff, including Dr Turner himself, and their budget was equally small.

Dr Turner kept his eye open for new technologies -- especially as easy video streaming tools launched online. So, three years ago when a sales rep for a do-it-yourself "video Webinar" firm came to call, Turner was ready.

He asked a local benefactor to donate the $35,000 in set-up fees for the system. To cover the $3,500 annual ongoing fees for technology and hosting, Turner decided to test charging members a small extra fee starting at $100 per smallest school district per year for video library access.

A staff member volunteered to be the videographer -- using a fairly small high-end video camera. It didn't require much more training than creating home videos would.

The final presentations combined Webinar and video formats seamlessly. (Link to sample screenshots below.) Viewers would see a small box at the left of their screen with the video image -- generally someone standing behind a podium or sitting at a desk. At the right, the speaker's PowerPoint slides came up on cue. The system also allowed polling, audience Q&A (via typing), etc. Plus, sessions could be archived into an online library.

Turner experimented with the system, using it for a variety of presentations, including:

#1. Lengthy presentations such as training and legal updates

Anything more than 15 minutes long was chopped into pieces so viewers could choose which section they wanted to watch instead of wading through an entire 60-minute or longer presentation. In addition, Turner's team attached PDF downloads to longer presentation featuring specific details and footnotes -- anything an attendee would find valuable for written reference or handouts.

#2. Email alerts

Turner brought the video camera to the State Capitol to film press conferences. This way the members could see the entire presentation and not just the one or two minute snippet that might appear on the evening news.

In addition, WASDA used the tool to generate news-related member evangelism. "Our lobbyist is filmed saying 'This is the bill that goes into debate today. We need you to call your legislator.'"

In both cases, the team posted the new video online and then emailed members an alert to go watch it.

#3. Regular email newsletter columns

Believing part of the strength of a membership organization is the human connection members feel with the organizer or leader, Turner began filming his column for the email newsletter *instead* of writing it. (Link to sample below.)

In the newsletter, which is distributed electronically in PDF format, his column page featured his color headshot plus a hotlink to see a quick video presentation. "I guarantee my members I won't talk more than five minutes. They can click to view my video column while they're at their desks eating lunch."

#4. Committee meetings

Wisconsin is a large enough state that committee members have a lot of driving to reach regular meetings. Turner's team decided to test making the meetings partially virtual, so that those members who couldn't drive all the way could still participate.

The video camera was set up in the corner of the room to provide a live feed, and a staff member (often Dr Turner himself) was detailed to watch for and relay incoming typed messages from virtual attendees. Votes were taken online by using the Webinar polling device.


"It's transformed our entire organization," Turner says. "It's probably the best thing that's happened to us in years."

Despite ever-tightening school budgets, WASDA's membership has been more than happy to support the initiative because they're saving money on travel and training. The extra dues equal roughly $60,000 per year, amply covering the cost of the technology.

Currently, WASDA's online video library gets just under 1,000 video views per month. That's impressive considering that the association has only 425 members.

Training presentations are highly popular, "Last month 200 people watched a training film on new rules in high school golf. Our school referees are being trained by the video system."

On average, about one-third of members click through to view Dr Turner's video column from the newsletter (remember, this hotlink is buried on page five of a PDF). After three years of video columns, he believes so strongly in their efficacy as compared to written-text columns, that when a national association newsletter asked him to write an article last month, he refused unless they'd accept it in video format.

"The only limit to this is your imagination!" he says happily.

However, he admits in-person meetings and events should never be replaced by video Webinars entirely. "I don't think anything will ever replace face-to-face meetings where people can compare notes, network and bond with each other for future needs."

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples -- screenshots of videos in action, plus WASDA's electronic newsletter with the hotlink to Dr Turner's video column:

Sonic Foundry Inc, the technology that WASDA uses to create and host their videos:

WASDA's online video library home:


See Also:

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