Webcasts Continue To Grow In Effectiveness, Usage

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After years of development, webcasting has evolved from being "cool" to being an effective "tool."

The technology has to come into its own as a functional and reliable method of communication and education for financial institutions, according to officials with WesCorp and CIA Studios.

Webcasting is touted as an inexpensive way to hold conferences with participants scattered around the nation and as an on-demand method for training credit union personnel, especially with the added capability of live Q&A sessions between presenters and viewers. CIA Studios, recently purchased from Community America CU's CUSO One by the Rochdale Group, provides webcasting services to credit unions.

CIA Studios Executive VP-Technology and Studio Services Thomas Glatt, Jr. said a critical aspect of CIA Studios' webcasting method is relying on Windows as an operating system and Windows Media Player to broadcast a presentation on a desktop computer. As Windows is almost guaranteed to be included with any new computer, credit unions don't need to buy additional software to view webcasts and employees can participate from any computer in the building as long as they have an Internet connection.

"It's become a pretty reliable means of education," Glatt said.

Glatt noted that in the past, a credit union might send one or two people to a seminar or the traditional annual CU convention in San Diego, for instance. In addition to the travel-related costs, as the attendees returned home and reported what they had learned, some things are often lost in translation.

Western Corporate FCU (WesCorp) provides webcasts free to its member credit unions as part of it education program. The WesCorp website has a link for monthly webcasts on the front page, plus a link to the archive of previous sessions. Before starting webcasts, WesCorp held 10 on-location seminars each year that drew 200 people. With webcasts, WesCorp signed up 3,200 people in 2005 that resulted in nearly 7,000 views as people came back for more sessions. The corporate reported that its Quarterly Outlook & Market webcast segment, which features economic forecasts, has been gaining a lot of attention. WesCorp's Joseph Keller said a six-part series entitled "Assets & Liability" actually has a following among viewers.

"We get great reviews on our webcasts," Keller said. "People are going back to it."

Another new aspect of updated webcasts is the ability to store the presentations, which WesCorp does for six months for employees who couldn't view the original "show" on an appointed date. Employees can access the archives from any Internet-connected computer at any time. Webcasts located in the archives section include "Maximizing Margins," "SBA Lending Programs," "Risk Management," and "Discovering the Real Value of Public Relations," hosted in part by The Credit Union Journal's Editor, Frank J. Diekmann. Archived webcasts also allow CU staff to return to a presentation for further understanding or to train someone else.

Among other features, CIA Studio can also create web casts with content provided by a CU and use the credit union's logo to brand the presentation or create a webcast with participants in several locations. For example, a recent webcast featured WesCorp officials in California and government officials at the Fed in Washington D.C. on screen at the same time.

Glatt said credit unions with DSL connections will obviously have an easier time viewing a webcast, but those with a 56K connection could hear a webcast, albeit with a poor, accompanying image.

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