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Summary

CUNA Mutual Group replaced its annual in-person educational and networking CUNA conferences with a virtual conference delivered via the ON24 platform. The organization has successfully replicated the original live event while achieving greater attendance and cost savings of more than $750,000 per year. By transitioning to a virtual conference format, CUNA Mutual has also saved the credit union system some $1.5 million annually when compared to a live event.

CUNA Mutual Group

Situation

Transforming a Traditional Event into a Virtual Conference

Founded in 1935, CUNA Mutual Group has been instrumental in providing products and services for credit unions, including lending solutions, employee benefits and marketing programs – all designed to drive the bottom line for its customers. CUNA Mutual Group demonstrates its commitment in a variety of ways, but among the most important is through educational programs for its target customers, credit union executives.

Previously CUNA Mutual Group hosted annual in-person educational and networking CUNA conferences, called the Discovery Conference. It became the must-attend event for credit unions and related businesses. Although hundreds of executives would typically attend each year, the economic downturn meant that business travel budgets were slashed and smaller credit unions couldn’t afford to have key employees out of the office. Due in part to a deteriorating economy, the number of participants in the Discovery Conference declined, and the live event – while well-regarded – was becoming cost-prohibitive and reaching fewer credit unions.

Solution

The Online Discovery Conference

In 2009, CUNA Mutual Group responded to this shifting dynamic and replaced the Discovery Conference with a series of webinars, delivered by a rudimentary online conferencing tool. CUNA Mutual found that the webinars were well attended, but the online delivery platform lacked a number of critical features, including stable video streaming and automated registration. By 2010, CUNA Mutual had proven the online event concept, but the technical shortcomings of their webcasting platform had become critical.As a result, CUNA Mutual elected to recast the event entirely in an ON24 virtual environment. Leveraging the ON24 platform, CUNA Mutual developed a fully branded user conference that includes an auditorium for keynote addresses, an expo center with virtual trade show booths and a networking lounge where attendees can join scheduled chats, post to message boards and exchange information with other attendees, as well as a resource center where presentations and other content can be downloaded. Today, the Online Discovery Conference is a key thought leadership and educational event for the entire credit union industry.

Results

Higher Attendance, Greater Engagement and Cost Savings

Three years into this conversion, the Online Discovery Conference has solidified its position as a top industry event.

The latest version of the Online Discovery Conference posted impressive numbers, including:

  • 1,953 registrations
  • More than 1,000 attendees
  • 93% reduction in per-attendee cost for CUNA Mutual, compared to live conferences
  • Overall satisfaction rates exceeding 90%

In addition, the Online Discovery Conference delivers educational content and networking at absolutely no cost to the attendees. Compared to the traditional face-to-face Discovery event, this amounts to a $1.5 million savings for the credit union system. For CUNA Mutual, per-attendee costs declined by a staggering 93% compared to the last face-to-face conference. CUNA Mutual has also noted that while previous face-to-face conferences had Board members and volunteers accounting for more than 20% of the audience, the Online Discovery Conference is almost entirely filled by credit union CEOs and operational leaders, CUNA Mutual’s target audience – while trade show exhibitors have commented that the online event enables them to more easily make executive connections. Audience feedback has included praise for the convenience of attending CUNA Mutual’s virtual event, as well as the quality of the educational content and productive interactions between all parties.