Documenting Your Annual Conference on Video: One Regional’s Experience

by Michelle Slingerland, Director of Communications at San Diego Grantmakers

In order to heed our members’ feedback that the 2010 San Diego Grantmakers (SDG) Annual Conference should be shorter than previous years, we decided that in addition to the morning and afternoon plenary sessions, we’d offer only one round  of breakout workshops from which attendees could choose.

But just in case there was a major outcry from members who wanted to learn about both transparency and evaluation, we thought that if we filmed all the workshops, then our members would be able to later watch the ones the ones they couldn’t attend.

What We Already Knew

SDG had experience making audio recordings of its programs available to members – experience that taught us that nobody listened to them.  And we’d also previously made the full-length Annual Conference plenary sessions available on our website.  Again, as stimulating as those sessions were live, not many people had the time or inclination to watch several hours of conference footage at their computers.

So we decided that the videos would be edited down to only the highlights of each session, ideally about five to seven minutes’ worth.


It was within our budget to have the plenary sessions professionally recorded and edited, and fortunately the venue, which is a social enterprise operated by a member, had its own production team that could work within our budget.  But to film the five workshops we needed five cameras, five camera operators, and at least one editor – and we needed them for next to nothing.

We bought one FlipCam, which we figured we’d also use at other SDG events (and have).  Several of our members generously loaned four other FlipCams.

A sign of the times, our nonprofit partners couldn’t help for free, so we tried reaching out to the film departments at three San Diego universities.  Two weeks before the conference, a student of the University of California San Diego Extensions’ Digital Arts Center volunteered to tape one workshop and edit all five; 10 days before the conference we got additional volunteers from a nonprofit masters program at the University of San Diego.

Our “professional volunteer” briefly trained the other volunteers on filming techniques.  They did a great job and were happy to do it in exchange for being able to attend the event for free.

After the conference, I reviewed the raw footage from all of the sessions and provided the two different editors timed selections of footage to include in the final versions.  Each of the seven sessions, ranging between an hour and an hour and a half in length, took at least two rounds of this time selection process.  My guess is that in total it was probably three days’ worth of my time.

Did They Watch?

About a month and a half after our Annual Conference, we sent an email to members with links to the final, edited conference videos (we’d told them on several occasions to “stay tuned”).  Of the 360 emails sent, we had an open rate of 27.5 percent and a click-through rate of 31.3 percent.  Comparatively, our email marketing provider states that its other “association” customers have average open and click-through rates of 18.5 percent and 11 percent, respectively.  So, I guess we had a pretty good response…?  Absent some additional qualitative and quantitative feedback, it’s hard to know for certain.

The most viewed link was the one to the Opening Plenary session, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was also the first link listed in the email.

Some Lessons Learned:

  • Getting an hour and a half of footage into a five to seven minute video that is still meaningful is next to impossible; our videos ended up ranging from about 10 to 18 minutes in length.
  • Having a professional videographer volunteer to edit the workshop footage made it look much more polished, but took about twice as long as expected because he did, after all, have paying jobs that took priority. FlipCam’s FlipShare editing software is pretty intuitive, but it’s limited.
  • When using FlipCams to film anything longer than an hour, I recommend using full-height tripods.  Also make sure you have the two-hour camera models (or at least two one hour-long ones)!
  • Sound quality was problematic in the larger workshops since speakers didn’t have microphones.
  • Dropbox and youSENDit were the online file sharing programs used to go back and forth during the editing process (both charged for sharing such large video files).
  • AnyVideoConverter was the free software I downloaded to make the final videos compatible with recommended YouTube and website specs and was pretty easy to use.

Worth Doing Again?

Yes.  We’ve now got some great commentary by great speakers well documented in an easy-to-reference format.  Of course the assistance from our members and volunteers (and fate?) helped immensely.  Hopefully having done it once will streamline the process a bit next year  – and I hope that sharing my experience will do the same for you!

Below are links to the videos of each session. Thank you to Michelle and San Diego Grantmakers for sharing their experience. If you’d like to contribute a guest post to this blog, contact Dan Brady.

Opening Plenary: A Time for Philanthropic Introspection

Closing Plenary: Broader Input, Higher Impact

Workshop: Public and Philanthropic Partnerships – Magnifying Impact

Workshop: Mirror, Mirror On the Wall…What Do Nonprofits See?

Workshop: The Changing Face of Philanthropy

Workshop: Transparency for All – Sharing Philanthropic Information

Workshop: An Evaluation Lens for Learning and Outcomes


3 responses to “Documenting Your Annual Conference on Video: One Regional’s Experience

  1. This was very helpful – thank you! I have saved this for further reading and I know it will help us determine how best to film our AM or any other event in the future.

  2. If any of you do have the time and inclination, may I suggest watching the Closing Plenary footage in which author James Suroweicki shares striking examples from his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, about how collective knowledge from many different people often leads to the best solutions.

  3. Pingback: New Site for San Diego Grantmakers | FORUM'S Forum

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