The communication agency 360Crossmedia organized this year's annual ATEL conference, with an original approach: identical speakers, identical themes, two different experiences. One of the conferences had content which was dedicated to Internet users and the other one had content aimed at the 40 people physically present. Analysis.
The problem to be solved
Last year, the annual ATEL conference brought together 250 people. After a first conference in 2020 in 100% virtual mode, the association's committee was faced with a dilemma: whether to stay in full virtual mode and risk disappointing loyal partners, or taking the risk of running a physical event. The solution they came up with in August was original: on the one hand, to record the presentations of the speakers in a virtual studio in order to deliver a conference which was adapted for streaming on the internet; on the other hand, to invite 40 treasurers from carefully selected companies – having been left no option by the limits because of the public health crisis - to attend a physical presentation, in an extremely secure environment from a Covid19 aspect: 20 seats set up in a circle of 2 rows, with 2 metres of social distancing in all areas, latex gloves for the organizers and obligatory use of the mask during the networking sessions.
"This type of format is likely to become widespread because Covid19 has created much larger digital audiences, and has turned networking into a luxury product. "
Advantages and disadvantages
One of the great lessons learned from this experience is that a speaker who has been comfortable on stage for years can now find himself less at ease in a room in front of a camera. Another lesson is that it is much easier for Internet users to watch a program specifically made for a digital format, as opposed to the stream of a physical format conference. Both experiences started at the same time. And immediately, the advantages and disadvantages of each were obvious! The online conference was perfectly timed, whereas the physical conference accumulated a series of small delays. Emotionally, the 40 guests and speakers were very happy: most of them were attending their first such event since March. Many confessed that they had been worried about coming, but were reassured by the strict rules. The networking was of particularly high quality. Ultimately, the content was not identical, because whereas recording in the studio allows the speaker to follow a precise script, a live presentation has a main theme, but leaves a large part to improvisation and interaction with the audience.
The best format
Everyone is a winner with this new approach. It makes it possible to start holding physical events again, while minimizing the risk of the dreaded phone call to tell all participants that they need to quarantine. On the other hand, recording in the studio allows speakers to considerably improve their presentation by working on their public speaking skills and their content, and through adding special effects during editing. Several speakers admitted that they really appreciated being able to "rehearse" their presentation in the studio before delivering it on stage in front of their audience. Content created specifically for the Internet can also reach a much larger audience than a physical event. In short, this type of format is likely to become more widespread because Covid19 has created much larger digital audiences, and has turned networking into a luxury product. The next challenge is to offer Internet users a convincing networking experience.
Digital conferences: analysis of the concept of "parallel e-conferences"