Go behind the scenes on what it takes to create an engaging virtual online event in the middle of a global pandemic – Binary Shift 2020.
Saying goodbye to live events in 2020
They say the best way to learn is to dive in and work it out as you go along. Well, that’s exactly what happened when the live events industry came to a crashing halt earlier this year and the government announced the first lock-down, subsequently restricting all mass gatherings and events Victoria wide.
As this was all unfolding work had already begun with one client’s event for their annual two-day live conference that was scheduled for late-August. In March, it was hoped that we could continue planning the event as planned as surely by August this would all blow over. But as the weeks passed it was becoming more apparent that that wouldn’t be the case. So, do we take the opportunity to try a new way of running the event that we were unfamiliar with or just cancel the event altogether?
Cancel or Continue?
To help in the decision process I create a risk management analysis, essential a pros and cons list, outlining all the possible scenarios that could possibly play out. This would help give the client, and their event advisory board, a better understanding of how to move forward with the event. Ideally, this should be done for every event anyway as it’s good to know before starting to organise what risks there are not just in an OH&S sense but also the financial viability, entering agreements with potential stakeholders and sponsorship, and a key communication strategy. Because who wants to be making those big decisions on the fly?
After weeks of back and forth on whether we risk proceeding with the original format or cancel, including hours of research on virtual events, it was decided that we would take the leap into the online world – but it couldn’t just be any online conference.
By this stage, the new term “zoom fatigue” was starting to circulate. Being one of the main ways for people communicating and socialising, for both work and play, we realised that come August our audience would not want to sit through a full day conference – which is when we realised that our original program wouldn’t work online. We knew that the event couldn’t be just another zoom meeting and worked tirelessly in achieving that. To ensure the event translate online we stripped the program right back to just 6hrs, including 1.5hrs of breaks throughout the day, with 9 speakers presenting for an average of 25mins, no PowerPoint presentations and a strong focus on audience engagement. It was about quality of quantity.