Transforming a Traditional Event into a Virtual Event
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 an annual in-person educational and networking forum, 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.
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.
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.
“We value our partnership with ON24. The ON24 virtual event platform has enabled us to highlight our expertise, thought leadership and products and services through a unique channel that in and of itself showcases one of our brand pillars: innovation.”
— Christy LaMasney, Communications Strategist
Discovery Conference CUNA Mutual Group
How CUNA Mutual Group Measures Virtual Event Effectiveness
Objective: Redefine an established annual conference into a virtual thought leadership and education event, reducing costs and increasing attendee convenience.
Strategy: Working with ON24, CUNA Mutual Group created the Online Discovery Conference, which replicated their previous physical conferences while increasing the reach and accessibility of the annual event.
Results: Since 2010, the Online Discovery conferences have drawn greater attendance numbers and saved CUNA Mutual some $750,000 per year in costs. The most recent event attracted 1,953 registrations and 1,000 attendees while achieving a 90% overall satisfaction rate and saving CUNA Mutual 93% per attendee when compared to live events. Credit union executives praised the event for outstanding educational content, convenience and travel cost savings.