Will the Congress Go On? – The Initial Situation
The original event dates had long been set and it was planned to start at the beginning of September 2020 at the FHNW School of Education. The online registration was already in full swing and the congress was getting closer when it became apparent that holding an on-site event would not be possible this time. However, the organizers didn’t want to cancel the event, but yet the team wasn’t really experienced with planning digital events either.
On the Way to the First Virtual Congress – The Solution
The first step was to find a platform that could make the content of the congress available and – very important – enable interactions and networking between participants. In addition to a mixture of livestreams and pre-recorded videos, the team also planned a virtual poster exhibition.
Connecting the Online Registration Tool and the Virtual Venue
Luckily, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland had already been using Converia since 2019 to organize the online registration of conference participants as well as the submission and review of scientific conference papers. This made the switch to the virtual space much easier in terms of organization, particularly since the first participants had already signed up at this point and shouldn’t have to do it again.
Their data was then transferred to the virtual platform without any additional effort. This process can turn out to be an unforeseen pitfall for many virtual conferences because organizers can’t always export registration data depending on the interface. Not every software for managing online registrations will be able to transfer the data so that participant information can be imported to a virtual conference platform. In the worst case, all the participants’ details have to be manually entered again and you would have to specify the access rights for each person yourself. If your conference has several hundred participants, this will cause a huge amount of extra work and costs you a lot of valuable time.
Access rights were particularly important for the Swiss congress. During the registration process, participants could choose whether they wanted to attend the entire congress or purchase individual day tickets. For day-ticket holders, the platform was only accessible during this day. It was not possible for them to participate in sessions that took place on any other day of the congress. Since Converia was used for the online registration, the options participants selected during the registration automatically transferred to the Virtual Venue so that the organizers do not have to manually enter data or define additional settings for each attendee.
More Congress Content for Participants
The original congress program was put together at a time when the team of organizers still assumed that the congress would be held as a regular in-person event. Still, all presentations and workshops could be moved to an online format and became part of the virtual congress schedule. However, there was one decisive change for the benefit of all participants. They were now able to access the entire program, because all presentations were recorded.
Despite having parallel sessions, participants could watch and rewatch every single one of them, even after the congress was officially over. This wouldn’t have been possible on site, as there would have been three presentations taking place simultaneously. Thanks to the online format, participants gained access to other parts of the schedule that they would otherwise have had to do without. This made it possible for them to engage more with the congress content. In addition, the presentation slides were available for download in the Virtual Venue.
Interaction & Networking
No conference is complete without social interaction and a space for people to meet. The virtual edition of the Swiss Congress on Gifted and Talented Education wanted to offer networking opportunities, too. Participants used the Virtual Venue’s chat feature that was part of each presentation and workshop to exchange ideas. Those who wanted to expand their network could also start a video meeting with other participants or simply message them. Upon logging in, people who shared similar research interests were suggested to a person on the homepage of the Virtual Venue. It was possible to filter the list of participants in order to find interesting new contacts. They could also get in touch with poster authors to discuss the work they presented in the poster exhibition.
Although the switch to the Virtual Venue meant venturing into new territory for the congress team, they didn’t want it to be overly complicated. Installation, setup and maintenance were therefore handled by the Converia team. This also included maintaining the content the organizers provided so that the Virtual Venue was ready to use with enough time left for testing.
There were livestreams on all three days and they were required to run smoothly, without any technical interruptions. Which is why the Converia support team kept an eye on what was happening at the conference and was able to intervene at any time if necessary. If something didn’t work as it’s supposed to, our standby support team took care of it and immediately responded to questions coming from the organizer.
Assistance for Participants
Prior to the congress, the team of organizers submersed itself in the Virtual Venue and its various features and was thus able to share valuable tips on how to use the platform and make the most out of the virtual congress with the 500 participants. This is recommended when most of the people attending the conference have never participated in a virtual event before and might not be familiar with the platform yet.
The official IBBF website contained a menu item that answered the most important questions about the Virtual Venue such as whether a separate login is required to enter the virtual platform or what the technical requirements are. Another subsection on the website explained how participants could move around in the Virtual Venue and what features they could use on the platform.
Are you thinking about hosting a virtual event soon? Contact us – we will be happy to offer advice and show you how our solution can support your event.