Taking It to the Web

Providing a live video stream from a conference or convention is an easy and cost-effective way to expand the audience, but it also raises questions: Will the Web broadcast capture attendees who would otherwise attend the live event? How should the virtual event be priced in comparison to on-site attendance to deter cannibalization?


For the National FFA Organization (founded as Future Farmers of America), having Web video cannibalize convention attendance was not a worry, says Bryan Kelley, senior sales and development manager. When the idea of webcasting sessions from FFA’s 2013 annual conference was being considered, the 2012 event had just attracted more than 56,000 attendees.

FFA was expecting an even larger crowd in 2013 because the convention was moving from Indianapolis to Louisville, Ky., where more space would be available and attendance would eventually reach 63,000. “We couldn’t realistically take on many more,” Kelley explains.

FFA had two goals for its first Web video convention broadcast in 2013. “Our main goal was to allow more people to participate,” Kelley says. “We also wanted to break even financially, but, if we didn’t, we had the money available.”

The FFA team spent a lot of time discussing how video participants should be charged before deciding on a $50 per-chapter fee. The cost to attend the live convention ranges from $45 to $65 per individual.

FFA’s 580,000 members, junior high and high school students, belong to 7,570 chapters, and 211 of those chapters participated in the 2013 online videocast, Kelley says. With an average of 12 students per chapter, approximately 2,500 members were reached.

The virtual event incorporated 15 exhibiting companies that were able to upload pre-recorded video content, PDF documents and/or PowerPoint presentations, as well as hold live chat sessions. In addition to a booth, one sponsor had its name and home page link continuously visible on the bottom of the screen.

Between the chapter, exhibitor and sponsor revenue, FFA was able to cover its costs for 2013, Kelley says.

All nine FFA convention general sessions were broadcast live on video, along with nine student workshops. Before each live stream was delivered, Orion Samuelson, a well-known agricultural broadcaster, provided an introduction.

To keep the video participants engaged, the platform incorporated “gamification” in the form of FFA trivia games that allowed chapters to compete against one another. The Web viewers were also able to chat with one another about the sessions being broadcast.

For 2014, FFA will do the Web broadcasting differently to enable even more members to participate.

The National FFA has an existing partnership with iHigh.com, an Internet TV network for youth organizations. iHigh will broadcast the 2014 convention online, making it free for members to view. “We will still be able to generate revenue through sponsorship and advertising, and it will allow us to open the convention up to more of the stakeholders who can’t attend,” Kelley says.

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