The Pros and Cons of Recording an Event

Recording an event—or not—is often an automatic action. Maybe your association always records educational events and shares the recording with attendees or sells it later. Or you rarely do because of the expense. Or it depends on the event. 

It might be worth reconsidering these automatic decisions, which is why today we’re looking at the pros and cons of recording events from the attendee and association perspectives. 

The pros and cons of recording an event

The recording decision might not be so difficult when you consider the event’s ultimate goal. But a problem arises here too if an event has multiple goals, which they often do. One goal may conflict with another. 

So, what’s the most important outcome of the event—the outcome you feel comfortable talking about out loud? Is it the attendee experience, the non-attendee experience, or revenue? A recording might meet all those goals or might cause a conflict between two or more of them. 

Assign each event goal a weight. Then, go through these pros and cons to determine the best decision overall. 

Pros: the attendee perspective

Many of these pros are only benefits for attendees if they can access recordings later at no cost.

Make learning stickier. When attendees can review content again after the event, they can recall and apply what they’ve learned and replay complicated bits. This spaced, repetitive learning helps new information stick.

Earn CE credits. If your industry’s credentialing rules permit, convert recordings into interactive videos with intermittent quizzes. These short quizzes test the learner’s comprehension of new information and prove they actually watched the recording. Award CE credit to those who successfully pass the quizzes. Sell these recordings to people who did not originally attend the event. 

Get more value for their registration fee. Attendees don’t have to worry about making a tough choice between two, three, or six sessions. They can watch the sessions they missed.

Watch at their convenience. If a webinar is scheduled at an inconvenient time, the want-to-be attendee can watch it later when their schedule permits.

Enjoy the presence of peers. During a webinar, the chat box often consumes an attendee’s attention. While chatting with others, they completely miss segments of the presentation. Knowing a recording will be available later, they can focus on the discussion with their peers “in the room.”

Pros: the association perspective

Take care of your virtual audience. Many people can’t or won’t attend in-person events

•    Students, early-career professionals, unemployed professionals, and professionals whose employers do not support their professional development
•    Employees and owners of small businesses, self-employed professionals, and other people with heavy workloads
•    People from other countries
•    Parents and caregivers, typically women
•    People with disabilities or compromised immune systems
•    People with social anxiety or mental health issues

Yet many of these audience members have as strong a desire to learn as those who attend in person. Offer recordings to them at an affordable price. Make at least half of the recordings interactive so they can pass quizzes to earn CE credits. 

Schedule encore events. Play recordings with session presenters or facilitators present on screen, in the chat box, or in breakout rooms for an interactive experience. 

Expand your reach. Grow your audience by sharing a selection of recordings for free. Nurture member and attendee leads by giving them a taste of what you have to offer. Recording snippets are great for social media marketing too. Share branded clips with speakers and influencers who can help you spread awareness.

Give members a perk. You don’t want members to think you charge for every educational program on your site. Every year, give them a few relevant recordings as a membership benefit

Generate revenue. Sell recordings by the session or in a curated bundle. Raise the value of learning subscriptions by including recordings. 

Enhance learning content. Use short video clips in online courses. Add recordings to learning pathways as suggested resources. Make them part of digital badge programs.

Add value to sponsorships. Give sponsored educational content a longer life by sharing those recordings for free. Make sure the sponsor’s identity and generosity are obvious to viewers. 

Extend goodwill to speakers. If you can’t afford to fairly compensate speakers, allow them to use the recording (or clips) for marketing on their websites or social media.

recording an event with a video camera

Cons: the attendee perspective

Because of their purpose or character, some events are best left “off the record.” The experience shared by attendees overrides any reason the association might have to share the recording. 

Unsafe space. When a group or cohort gathers for a niche event, they might expect the freedom to discuss issues and situations candidly without worrying about people outside the room.

While researching this article, I came upon the Chatham House Rule from an independent policy institute in London:

“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

This rule—and the decision not to record—creates a trusted environment and encourages open dialogue. By keeping the event private and exclusive, you help to create a bonding experience. Attendees are sharing and learning this one time together. No one else will be part of it.

Stunted innovation. In a safe space, people are less likely to worry about outsiders judging them. They’re also less likely to self-censor, so ideas are more likely to flow.

Missed chance for exclusivity. Everyone likes to be part of something exclusive. Just like being in on a private joke—IYKYK. All cameras off, they get to share an experience together that no one else will ever see or hear.

Privacy concerns. Many people still aren’t comfortable being seen or heard on camera. They’re less likely to ask questions if they know they’re being recorded.

Easy opt-out. How many times have you registered for a webinar intending to watch the recording later? But you never do. The email with the link to the recording sits in your inbox forever. If the topic means that much, maybe it’s better to have no option but to attend and enjoy the live chat and new information right away.

Cons: the association perspective

Expense. Your association must pay for equipment, software, and staff time to record and edit videos yourself—or pay for a professional to do it.

No shows. Many people register for webinars and other online programs without plans to attend. They intend to watch the recording later. But how many actually watch it later? Meanwhile, sponsors get only half the audience they expected. 

Intellectual property and copyright issues. If you’re recording an event, you have to make sure each presenter doesn’t use copyrighted music and images in their presentation. 

Speaker rights. You must get releases from speakers to distribute recordings of their sessions. Some speakers may not want their session or intellectual property to be available to an unknown audience.

The decision to record is a case-by-case decision. For a conference, it might be a session-by-session decision.

The best decision considers what attendees expect and desire, what kind of event experience you want to provide, and how you’ve promoted the event. In some cases, recording would negatively affect the experience. But in other cases, a recording would allow other people to view the educational content they need. Review the pros and cons within the context of your event’s goals to make the right decision for your attendees and association.

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