250-Seater Event Goes From Physical to Virtual in Six days 26-Aug-2020 Edwards
Monday 17th August should have seen a 250-seater conservation stakeholder event, hosted by the Department of Conservation (DOC) and opened by the Minister of Conservation, take place at the Hyundai Marine Sports Centre, Auckland.
Unfortunately, a week out from the event, Auckland returned to Alert Level 3 and a physical event became an impossibility. But Julie Kidd, DOC’s Strategic Partnerships Advisor, is not the kind of person who lets a lockdown order stand in the way of what was set to be a stimulating and engaging day, “We had an array of speakers sharing learnings from our last long lockdown and the positive impact that had on nature in our rohe/region. I was determined to make it happen and I figured I had six days to do it in!”
Julie had no experience of organising an online event but Hannah, the Events Co-Ordinator at the Hyundai Marine Sports Centre recommended Edwards, “I called Edwards out of the blue and they immediately responded and came on board.”
Julie and Edwards' Jenny McMeekin worked together to transform the presenter-led, content-rich event from a face-to-face gathering to an engaging online experience.
Julie shares the key factors that contributed to the success of the streamed event.
Adjust the length of your event
“Edwards advised that sitting at home watching and or listening is different to being in a room with 200 or more people. We knew we needed to hold people’s attention and felt the original three hour programme was too long. We cut the total time back to two hours by reducing the speaker list. ”
Security is imperative
“It was paramount to mitigate any potential risk to our Minister as online livestream events can attract all sorts of people. Guided by the Edwards’ team, we opted to go with a third party platform where comments and questions could be moderated.”
And so is flexibility
“It was important to us that we host on the event on our website. It did mean compromise and the team at Edwards helped us assess pros and cons and worked within those parameters. We appreciated their flexible approach.”
Cater for all levels of experience
“Some of our speakers were used to online delivery thanks to the recent national lockdown, so took the online event delivery in their stride. For others, it was their first time. Edwards coached all our speakers, including our Minister and were incredibly professional and made it all seem very easy.”
Reconnect with your target audience
“As circumstances for the event had changed so much, we decided to go back out to all our original RSVP guests, including those who had declined. This gave people who may have not been able to attend because of other commitments an opportunity to reconnect to us and attend. We also contacted those attending sister events in Christchurch and Wellington to give them an opportunity to listen to the Minister’s keynote, as this was relevant across the country. Our numbers went from 250 to 450 as a result.”
Have technical support on hand throughout
“All of the technical side of things sat with Edwards with support from our inhouse digital team who managed the DOC website side of things. We knew it was really important to let the technical people ‘talk tech’. We couldn’t believe how smoothly it went. One speaker on a panel session couldn’t get their audio to work and Edwards just sorted them out. For attendees who had connectivity issues or simply were not available to join the livestream event, we recorded it and connected them to it later.”
Plan your transitions
“Because we had eight speakers and an MC, we felt we needed to transition from speaker to speaker in an interesting and engaging way. We played a series of short videos between speakers. This turned out to be a great idea as the video itself became an important part of the experience. Feedback from one attendee was that it had her in tears.”
“The platform we used enabled us to monitor traffic to the event. 700 unique IP addresses visited the website with 363 of those staying for the whole event. Forty percent of those were actively engaged, either liking or commenting on proceedings. We were thrilled with this response, but I think it would be good to capture more in-depth feedback. Because we hosted it on our website and it was open to all, we don’t have the contact details for all participants, so even though I am sending out a survey to those who RSVP’d we will probably not capture the whole picture. Edwards have advised that we can add a registration element, and this is something we may look at changing for future events.”
Finding an audio-visual partner that you can work with
“I established a really strong relationship with the team at Edwards right from the start. I had a single point of contact which I always value for the consistency and availability that brings. They gave us fantastic guidance and it was quick and clear. They were also honest, letting us know upfront how much it would cost, what the options were and the pros and cons of each variable. Plus, I could have my techies talk to their techies. We are lucky at DOC to have an experienced digital team and they could ‘talk tech’ with the guys from Edwards, leaving me to focus on logistics with the Edwards Account Manager.”
Go for it!
“This experience has opened up a whole new world of engagement for us. There is a huge number of people involved in conservation, 1200 community groups in Auckland alone constituting thousands of people. To bring everyone into one space is not always practical so an online livestream event has opened up new possibilities. We can focus on one topic, say for example urban trapping, and groups interested in that single topic can participate who otherwise might not be able to attend a physical event. There is also less cost and more resource-efficient planning. And you can ‘flex’ in a much more agile way. You can record the event so easily, and that too is beneficial for busy people. There is still most definitely a time and a place for physical events, but livestreaming is a resource-efficient way to share information on specialist subjects.”
Julie freely admits to being “stuck to my dining room table from Tuesday evening to Monday evening”, but she felt confident throughout the whole process, “I am an obsessive planner/completer and with our Minister involved nothing could go wrong. Edwards made sure I was fully informed and knew everything that was happening throughout. Admittedly I needed a few days to recover but I’d definitely do it again!”