Washington Institute for Near East Policy video stillby Jeff Rubin

On January 31, our organization will host an event featuring leaders of U.S. industry, the military and medical research who will discuss the benefits of Israeli innovations to the United States in the areas of hard and soft security. No matter the turnout, chances are more people will watch this event on video than will attend the program in person.

Today, online video provides an easy and affordable way to expand your organization’s audience at a time when many of the world’s most powerful people can scarcely afford time away from the office or home – and when the person you may most wish to engage may be thousands of miles away.

Live broadcast of events expands the direct participation of your audience and heightens the immediate impact of the program. Making the video available on-demand through YouTube after the event allows for long-term audience growth, issue impact, and social-media sharing. On-demand presentation can range from the full video of an event posted for archival purposes, to short highlights designed for bite-sized sharing on social platforms.

Creating online videos is surprisingly inexpensive and low tech. Several services are available to stream a live broadcast of your program at no charge. For a relatively low monthly rate, streaming providers offer ad-free video and customizable interfaces and video players. These services understand that the end-user may not be computer savvy so they are easy to use, even for technological novices. Hardware requirements include a video-compatible computer, video camera, optional lights and a microphone. It’s likely that you already have this equipment on hand, but the total start-up cost would be $5,000 or less.

After the event, YouTube provides free tools for editing your video as well as a platform for displaying it on the web. As YouTube and Skype have become increasingly ubiquitous, more and more people understand how to use video editing software, and audiences accept the credibility of videos that previously did not meet network standards. In other words, you already have people on staff who can edit the video, and your audiences will be forgiving if it doesn’t look like it was produced by Steven Spielberg and broadcast on 60 Minutes.

Since our organization has begun putting video content online, we have seen our audience grow around the world. Government officials in Washington and abroad view our events from their computers whenever it is convenient and relevant to their work. Online videos have been used by the press for direct quotes for their stories. We have even received positive feedback from military personnel stationed outside of Washington, D.C.

Video has become an important part of our communications mix. We leverage our social media channels to build audience in advance of an event, and we use our videos to provide content for our online and social media presence afterwards.

Video has also provided an additional way for our supporters to engage with our work. Located across the United States – and across the gauntlet that is our horrible local traffic – many trustees have been unable to travel to downtown Washington, D.C., for a short program. Now video gives them unprecedented access to the events they help make possible.

Online video cannot and should not replace the power of personal, face-to-face meetings to inspire action, to foster debate, and to build community. But it is a valuable tool that can advance an organization in a way that is within the reach of most professionals.

Jeff Rubin is communications director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. To view the January 31, 12 p.m. (ET) program “ASSET TEST: New Strategic and Economic Dimensions of U.S.-Israeli Relations” click here.