I’m obviously a huge fan of in-person events. Why else would I be in this business? I love meeting new people and have experienced the energy that comes from passionate discussion of timely topics. But as the coronavirus threat evolves, it is paramount that health comes first. Since the current recommendations are to avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing, that requires conference organizers to think creatively. While some have decided to postpone their events, others are exploring virtual meetings.
With an influx of these virtual conference on the horizon, there are a few things that we at Speaker Strategies have been thinking about.
Content Delivery: What are the various strategies conferences will use to replicate live sessions? How will they host panel discussions? We have heard a number of possible ideas from our conference manager friends. Some are considering live studios in cities around the world. Others are simply letting each speaker use their own computer via Zoom. Should it be recorded live? What session length is the sweet spot that keep audiences online? Should a programme be broken up over several days (or weeks) or stick to the regular agenda schedule?
Attendee Access: Will access to the sessions be restricted and available only to attendees? Only available to attendees for a limited time? Available anytime to those who pay for a passcode restricted link? Will making the content more widely available help live conferences increase attendance when they are back up and running in the physical world (note the popularity of TED).
Metrics: How will the events measure success? Should we expect similar attendance at virtual events that we see at live conferences? Will the organizers capture views, engagement, clicks?
Interactivity/Dialogue: One of the most valuable aspects of conference attendance is interactivity with other attendees and/or the speakers. How will the virtual events replicate networking? Beyond Q&A can the conference capture some of that magic online?
Much in our world seems to have been flipped on its head over the past month. While we cannot currently gather together in a room or conference hall, perhaps we can take solace in the fact that most of us still have the ability to interact and learn online.