Webinars, a common vehicle for creating new event products and revenues, can be also a useful tool for picking up that last handful of attendees who, because of either budget or timing constraints, can’t make a face-to-face event. This can work particularly well with small in-person events that attendees may forego in favor of a larger, industry-wide event.

The Audit Bureau of Circulation runs three board meetings per year during which rule, guideline and policy changes are announced. Following each meeting, ABC has historically run face-to-face post-meeting "blitzes" in various markets to update magazine and newspaper publishers on those changes. Attendance at these meetings has been dropping, particularly from newspapers, due to budget constraints. Publishers were finding it hard to justify gas or airfare and hotel expenses for a $100 meeting, says Diane Rusnak, ABC’s senior manager of publisher relations. On the West Coast, for example, the magazine post-meeting blitz evaporated entirely, and newspaper attendance went from an average high of 30 down to 20, then four, and bottomed out at three.

This year, ABC introduced a Webinar version of the meeting. The price was bumped up to $149 per location, but each publisher could have a roomful of people attend. "The price is a little higher, but not much of an incremental cost, and we can give more people more access," says Rusnak.

ABC has done one Webinar so far and attendance averaged about 33 newspaper registrations per market and 29 magazine registrations. However, while Rusnak didn’t count heads beyond each registration for this first run-through, she’s certain some had conference room set-ups. "We went over our expectations on the newspaper side," says Rusnak. "The magazine side was a little bit less, but they were able to [afford to] send more [to the in-person blitzes] in the past."

Rusnak plans to max out the Webinars at three blitzes per year per division, for a total of six. Two lessons she’s learned so far: "Shorter is better;one hour or less. This is not meant to replace a daylong conference, it’s more informational," she says. And attendees needed guidance with the Q&A format, which was set up with two options;the phones were muted during the presentation with questions typed in via the online interface, or questions could be facilitated via phone at the end. "It’s really important to inform people that there are two opportunities for Q&A," she says.