Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Ever have an experience that found you tethered to home while all your buds or peeps were off on a school trip or a semester-break vacation? Did you find that all your thoughts were focused on them; what they were doing and the kinds of activities they were experiencing? That’s how I felt last week during the 2012 GAC.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I couldn’t make it to DC this year for the GAC. Since I’ve attended the event a number of times in past years, I’m quite familiar with each day’s agenda, from the annual CUDE gathering at Michael Ray’s home the Saturday before the conference kicks off to the Embassy Reception, Wegner Dinner, Trailblazer Awards, and Hill visits, to name a few. Well, as you might guess, last week, all my thoughts were on my colleagues and friends in Washington, and everything I was missing!

As I followed the tweets, slide shows and the day-to-day reporting in the Journal, Times, News Now, and on CUinsight, I began to think about the way we use social media including the traditional news communication channels that served us for generations. Something was missing!

You know what I’m talking about. We could look at family photos and read letters from relatives all day long but nothing beats those old 8mm movies and VHS videos of family gatherings. We’re a people who have been conditioned to turn to TV as our primary source of information when major events are breaking. Let’s face it, we are conditioned to get information LIVE—as it is happening, not the next day from a newspaper or after the event has concluded. So you could imagine how I felt last week, keeping up with the numerous streams of communication that still left me feeling worlds apart from all the action.

So, what can be done about it?

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that someone will read this blog post and take it back to the committee for action, or forward it on to people who can. The pizzazz of Twitter is fading. Slide shows are good but they present the info after the fact and without names. While columns in the trades offer an accurate summary, they are word-based and lack the energy that comes with seeing and listening to an event as it unfolds.

In an era that finds both audio and video ruling the Internet, I found no one tapping that medium in a LIVE format. The only one I saw who came the closest to doing so was my friend, Mike Bridges at the League of Southeast Credit Unions. Take a look at the great job he did for his members. (LSCU Web-TV).

Mike shot, hosted and produced his video reports, and then posted them to the league’s website for access on the following day. Randy Smith shared them as well with his audiences via CUinsight.

However, as good as this effort is, it still falls short of seeing a daily LIVE roundup of all the activities those of us at home had to miss. With people like Mike Bridges and the many credit union techies already producing a wide assortment of LIVE webcast presentations for their members, we wouldn’t have to look far for experts skilled in producing this new “Credit Union Web-TV” service.

If what goes on at the GAC is vital to our movement and important enough to merit the attention and participation of all credit union aficionados, then the time has come for CUNA or someone else in the communications arena to give serious consideration to offering LIVE Web-TV coverage of such activities.

After all, why should the credit union system view itself any differently than the many others who are tapping video to further expand their audiences? The annual E-3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) offers LIVE Web-TV coverage of its conference (E-3 Web-TV). The same is true for the investment services company, Morningstar. It offered LIVE interviews with panelists participating in its 2011 ETF Invest Conference (Morningstar Web-TV). And let’s not forget the Big East Conference. They, too, offer LIVE Web-TV coverage, albeit more of the sporting variety.

And, here’s yet another; pushing the envelope directly to the mobility of my Blackberry. On Tuesday night of last week, I received a tweet with a link to LIVE video coverage as it was unfolding of Mitt Romney claiming victory in the Illinois Primary. All I had to do is click the link on my Blackberry and I would have been connected LIVE to Romney and his message, even though I was miles from my home in Temecula.

As you can see, what I’m proposing is nothing new. It does not have to cost an arm and a leg to produce. Charge a subscription fee if need be, to help offset production costs. Include commercials to attract sponsor support. As for attendance levels, I don’t see it diminishing attendance because the best form of networking will always be person to person. In fact, I’d be willing to bet it would help increase attendance by showing everyone what they’re missing.

Most important, LIVE Web-TV coverage would inject new energy into the credit union community, heightening conference agendas and enhancing the way our cooperative system educates and motivates its followers. It would give everyone the opportunity to participate and become engaged in the agenda.

I see it as a primary communications channel we can no longer ignore.


  1. If everyone can watch conference sessions from their desktops, they won't ever bother attending actual events. Conference organizers can't sell booths to vendors for $20K each if they have a virtual conference. It's about money. The fiscal reality is that you can't have a conference if you don't sell booths on the tradeshow floor. The only alternative is to charge attendees 5x what they are already paying.

    It's easy to misconstrue conferences as "knowledge sharing events," when in reality they are all about putting vendors in front of prospects. All the seminars and sessions? Those are the "bait" used to attract the prospects vendors seek.

    This isn't a reflection on GAC, or any other CU conference. This is the reality for all conference organizers. If someone had been able to fill the monetary hole left when conferences are held online, we'd be seeing a lot more of them.

  2. Please don't misunderstand my proposal. I am not advocating the webcast of an entire conference. What I am proposing is the webcast of a daily LIVE "roundup" which simply reports on the day's events by offering a few interviews with attendees and speakers, and shows some highlights of the various sessions and receptions.

    BTW, during my career I worked on a number of conferences at The Ritz Carlton Hotel and at a corporate credit union, and I have to say that many of them provided no opportunities to vendors.