A journey to commercial success with webcasting events
26 March 2018
Posted by: Katie Spackman
Paul Cook of Planet Planit talks to Wendy Holloway, Operations Manager for the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG) about how their webcasting strategy has developed over the past eight years. During this time, ISUOG has moved from simply recording their educational courses to delivering a successful and sustainable online content strategy.
ISUOG is the leading international society of professionals in ultrasound for obstetrics and gynecology. Beginning in 1991 with the first issue of the Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (UOG) Journal and the first World Congress, ISUOG has now grown to over 13,000 members in 127 countries. Members gain access to a broad range of educational resources for all training and professional levels.
ISUOGs long term vision is that every woman in the world has access to ultrasound, that every scan provider is competent and that the diagnosis of obstetric and gynecologic conditions is effective so that women’s health outcomes improve.
Their mission is to improve women’s health through the provision, advancement and dissemination of the highest quality education, standards and research information around ultrasound in obstetrics and gynecology.
With such a wide geographic spread of members, it’s no surprise that live streaming their educational courses has become an increasingly important part of their offer.
Paul Cook: Wendy, how did the first venture into live streaming your courses come about?
WH: “It was in 2010 that we first started working with Be There Global, to record some of our educational courses and we made the lectures available on demand afterwards. Our Board had decided that offering on demand online learning for ultrasound in obstetrics and gynecology was becoming important and these recordings would positively contribute to the creation of this valuable benefit for members.
In fact, it was in conversation with Martin at BeThere Global, while they were recording one of our courses, that he said something along the lines of "Do you know we could flick a switch and you could live stream this?" It was a new concept which created some nervous energy, but we decided to try it on a small level to see what happens. Well, we did and it turned out to be very successful. It captured a great deal of interest from our very widely dispersed international membership in particular. At the same time we were achieving the original goal that we'd set, which was to record the content, to offer our members comprehensive, innovative education programmes of the highest quality, as well as the option to earn continuing medical education (CME).
For want of a better description, the “flicking of a switch,” to try something new resulted in the creation of a range of new opportunities that have only improved what we have to offer to our members.
ISUOGs success in offering live streamed events, has resulted in its inclusion within our current five-year strategic plan. Live streaming forms a part of our event delivery plan and we have set goals for this against which we must report against KPIs. So, it's become a lot more formalised through that successful journey that we've taken. “
PC: How was this initiative received by your members?
WH: “We could see that the technology BeThere Global were using was working well, which was vital, because a good user experience was essential if this initiative was to grow legs and run. We have routinely evaluated all our face-to-face courses and we decided to separately evaluate the online audience experience and found that our members’ feedback was overwhelmingly positive; in some cases, we were getting higher satisfaction ratings from the online audience than the physical audience. “
PC: What was the approach you took to charging for people to access the webcasts?
WH: “There was a lot of debate in the early days about this, because other organisations delivering online events were offering this free of charge. Our decision to charge, was based on the fact that we wanted to offer something of value. We didn’t want to disrespect the audience that had paid to attend. Also, we required additional staff resource to not only train our faculty to respect and include a remote online audience, but our own staff needed to be available to moderate comments and questions. So whilst we may be simply “flicking a switch,” there were additional resource implications. Taking all this into consideration, we decided to price it very carefully.”
PC: Do you charge for every online event?
WH: “In theory yes, however in 2016 we delivered a live stream Zika Virus programme for free. Zika was a hot topic at that moment in time and key members of our medical community felt providing some education around this topic was important. They knew ISUOG had the ability to deliver a live stream event and with our relationship with BeThere Global, we were able to very quickly collaborate and run this much needed online event for free, in three different languages and in two time-zones. We had over 2,000 people participating. It was hugely successful.
Aside from the Zika example, we usually charge and the focus within our team has been to find the right price points rather than debate whether we should charge at all. As I said before, we routinely offer our live streaming as part of a physical event, for which people pay; so offering this online for free is not possible.
Even though we are charging, our online audience has been steadily growing and willingly pay… but only if the user experience is good of course! So, obviously, we must be able to depend on the technology, the company providing the streaming service, as well as good training and engagement from our own staff, otherwise there are going to be a lot of complaints!
PC: So it’s about not under-valuing the benefit of joining a live streamed event?
WH: Yes, that’s right - we don't want to undervalue one of our core products, which is our provision of high quality face-to-face education. But being an international society it’s important that we continue to improve our online offer for those that are either unable or prefer not to attend in person; it’s important we give them the opportunity to join the event remotely, and for this we charge a small fee.”
PC: You have been live streaming your education events for some years now; have you seen a negative impact on the number of physical attendees?
WH: “We have seen a decline, as I think many societies have, in people attending face-to-face events. I mean, for many this is a reality now. To align with our online strategy, depending on the subject of our course we generally select venues with limited physical space, because we know we are going to offer a live stream option as well. It is a balancing act and the aim is to try and “sell out” and achieve the maximum impact… however I’m not sure how you sell out the live stream as in theory the sky’s the limit! I always say if you provide good content people will pay to access it and what we are seeing is the evolution of how they are choosing to access it.
PC: How do you price your events?
WH: “Well first and foremost we never make our decisions with profit at the forefront; the aim is for live streaming to be a self-sustaining service we provide to both members and non-members. Of course if we make a surplus then that’s a bonus which gets reinvested.
How we price our events is quite simple; we have a member fee and a non-member fee.
When it comes to accessing the on demand recordings, all members get access. But normally we would only make the entire course available to those who have paid to attend either physically or via the live stream. This would be for a month or so following the event. Later we will release the lectures as separate items to the general membership, but not as an entire course. In this way we don’t devalue our courses.
PC: I understand that you run satellite or hub events in different parts of the world. Can you tell me how that works?
We're building a Basic Training product that is really tailored to the specific needs of trainees around the world. In some countries, they are desperate for this education, but either can’t access it or afford it individually.
So, we've created what we call satellite live stream events, where an organiser will sign up and pay us a basic fee, plus an amount per person attending. This means, all the participants, as well as having the benefit of attending the training somewhere local to them, can have access to our website and all the recorded content. The organiser finds the space themselves in whichever part of the world they are, in a local event venue perhaps, or in a hospital lecture theatre. And they can bring as many people as they can seat in the room and they all watch the live stream together.
We are running a Basic Training course this week in Rotterdam and have confirmed nine satellites … they are in places like Nigeria, Malawi, Sudan... the approach is working really well to disseminate this education where it is most needed.
But we make sure it’s all well controlled and we have a memorandum of understanding that we send to the local organisers to ensure that our brand and messaging remains consistent.
Depending on the event, the satellites can increase our attendance by hundreds of people, increasing our reach significantly. We currently only offer these live stream satellite opportunities for our Basic Training courses whilst our advanced speciality courses tend to be targeted toward individuals.
PC: How do you see things progressing for ISUOG with online events?
WH: More of the same. I think live streaming will play an increasingly important part in how we deliver our education. BeThere Global keep us informed about new technological developments and we always keep an eye out for new options. I like to think we have always led in this regard and would like to continue on this positive trajectory!