Brought on to manage a 2,000 plus registrant, 3½ day face-to-face medical conference and tradeshow in October 2020. In mid-May 2020, due to COVID-19 the decision was made to transition to a 100% digital event.
Working with the client we switched gears, analyzing and recommending the virtual platform, maintaining steady flow of communication with attendees about the changes to venue and program, as well as contacting and confirming speakers’ pre-recording and rehearsal times.
Adapting an in-person event to a virtual event may seem like an easy switch, but it is an enormous challenge. Not least of which was realigning the sponsorship opportunities to fit into a virtual dynamic, programming the virtual exhibit, managing the process to populate the virtual platform, and provide support during live days. All of which needed to be accomplished in under five months.
An unseen dilemma of the pivot to virtual was added pressure on speaker management. With program timelines changed, reduced and ultimately compressed we had only 3½ weeks to set up and complete all speaker and moderator rehearsals and pre-recordings of the 137 unique sessions before going live!
In addition, to the vast amount of sessions, some sessions were pre-recorded while others were going to be live. Further, the scientific program committee instructed us that speakers could present in one of three formats: live with Q&A; Simu-live with Q&A; or Simu-live with text Q&A. Simu-live being a pre-recorded session that airs at a specific date and time, giving the illusion that it is taking place live.
This increased the number of potential recordings/rehearsals from 137 to over 400!
Adapting to the increased need of speaker management we scaled up our managers, and assigned each to specific sessions to manage the logistics. This ensured a singular contact point, and the building of trust between us and the speakers.
After the platform became accessible for speakers, and with tight deadlines, recording became a 12 hour a day event for three weeks. Our team worked overtime to complete the recordings by the deadline.
Team members attended recordings and rehearsals to facilitate introductions between speakers and video editors, and were on-hand to reconfirm session details. We managed both logistics and project management ensuring hardware and software were working optimally and that the speakers had pre-submitted their presentation in advance of their recording and/or rehearsal. All of these measures helped to alleviate concern or worry for the live day.
With presentation day bringing on jitters for “Live” sessions, a team member was assigned to on-board every speaker and liaise with the platform team, again ensuring both speaker and platform were ready to go.