We talked to five courageous event organizers about hosting virtual events for the first time due to cancellations forced by COVID-19 and social distancing recommendations across all live-event experiences. The panelists included a wide range of event types and sizes from a tech event with 10,000+ attendees to a photography conference with hobbyists and professionals alike.
Many event organizers are adapting quickly, taking risks and learning hard lessons as pioneers in pivoting their live events. We asked them to share stories, challenges and surprises they were up against in the planning and execution of their events. They talked about the best virtual event conference platforms, how they restructured their teams and the most crucial steps they took to pull off engaging and successful virtual conferences.
During the panel we were able to take live questions from attendees and focus on concerns in the current climate of virtual events. Whether you’ve attended a virtual conference, hosted one or are still considering both, these real-life stories and experiences will give you insight into what to focus on and how to create an environment that fosters engagement and connection during virtual events.
Chris Smith, founder of Out of Chicago
Chris Smith is the founder and director of Out of Chicago, the largest annual midwest photography conference and they also host destination events throughout the year when it’s safe. They organized their first virtual event this spring.
Virtual Event: https://www.outofchicago.com/live/
Essie Lenchner, Operations Manager of Organizing 2.0
Organizing 2.0 is a volunteer run event that provides training opportunities for online organizers working for unions and social justice activists. You can check out recorded sessions from their event this past April.
Virtual Event: https://www.organizing20.org/
Cost: Sliding scale ($35 – $250)
Kali Burdette, Event Manager of 2020 OCP Virtual Summit
Kali led the transition to a virtual summit for the OCP (Open Compute Project) Global Summit when it was cancelled due to COVID-19. The Virtual Summit had over 250 sessions, 300+ speakers, an expo hall with over 60 virtual booths, and 10,000+ attendees after they made the pivot in just 2 months.
Virtual Event: https://www.opencompute.org/summit/virtual-summit
Lithie Dubois, Program Ops for Penguicon
Penguicon is a convention that combines the Linux and Foss open source software communities and science fiction fandom. They were able to deliver the exciting and unique sessions they had already been organizing in the virtual space when the traditional conference was canceled.
Virtual Event: https://2020.penguicon.org/2020/04/virtual-penguicon/
Nancy Adams, Program Assistant of Library Publishing Forum
Nancy provides event planning support for the Library Publishing Coalition’s (LPC) annual Library Publishing Forum. The Forum transitioned from an in-person event with about 200 attendees to a free online event with over 500 participants.
Virtual Event: https://librarypublishing.org/library-publishing-forum/