Each May, hundreds of members of the Wireless Infrastructure Association meet for their annual conference, Connect (X). Held in a different city each year, their flagship event brings together the telecommunications industry for keynotes and breakouts, small group summits, plenty of networking events and a robust exhibitor hall.
This year, as May drew closer and COVID loomed over the event industry, Nancy Touhill, the Director of Meetings and Events, had to make a decision: what would become of their 2020 conference?
Deciding to pivot to a fully virtual experience, Nancy enlisted the help of the Image Audiovisuals team to pre-record their content which was uploaded to a virtual platform. We scheduled, recorded, edited, and created custom graphics for each session. In total, we worked with close to 100 speakers in keynote and panel formats providing technical coaching around audio, video and Zoom settings.
We spoke with Nancy on her experience going virtual.
ImageAV: How and when did you decide to go virtual? What was that process like?
Nancy Touhill: We were slated to be in Miami in May of 2020, and when it became more and more apparent that we would not be able to meet in person, we started working through cancellations and researching virtual platforms. We announced our switch to virtual and we had 5 weeks to fully execute the virtual event which was exciting and challenging all at the same time. We evaluated a number of platforms looking for functionality, customer service, price, and ease of use.
IAV: In your experience, what changed the most moving from a live to a virtual format?
NT: Oh gosh. Everything changed. We had to, very quickly, take all of the great aspects of our live event and figure out if we could apply them in a virtual setting. For example, how do attendees network, how do exhibitors get people to come to their booths, do we have live content or pre-recorded, do we charge a registration fee, what do our exhibit prices look like? It all changed so much and so quickly, but I think that the most jarring change was online networking vs. in person networking. We found that some of our attendees really worked the chat rooms and were great networkers, and we found that others were not quite as engaged.
IAV: Did you participate in any of the session recordings? If so, could you speak to the experience?
NT: I didn’t participate per se, but the ImageAV team did set up a livestream link for me so that I could watch each recording. It was extremely helpful, especially at first, to understand the process as well as be able to provide feedback to the team while the recordings were happening.
I’ll also note that one of the videos that was recorded for our conference was corrupted during the rendering process, and I noticed it less than 12 hours before our conference was to launch. The audio visual team went into the studio at 9:30 at night to re-render the file and uploaded it to our platform overnight. I trust them so much that I was able to get a few hours of sleep that night knowing that the video would be fixed and uploaded. To say that I was able to relax knowing the video was in their hands is a great testament to ImageAV’s quality of work, commitment to our success, and high standards.
IAV: What was some of the feedback you received for your first virtual event?
NT: The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and our attendees were grateful to have an outlet through which they could conduct business during a time when in-person business was not an option.
We also received excellent feedback from many speakers who said that they thoroughly enjoyed working with the ImageAV team. Speakers found the team to be professional, thorough, very helpful, and our speakers were painted in such a positive light. During a new era when video conferences happen all of the time, and technical difficulties are often experienced, the ImageAV team ensured that there were no issues.
IAV: What are your plans for your Association’s upcoming events?
NT: We are going to do a smaller-scale virtual event in the fall and fully intend to be in person in 2021. Of course, will consider virtual or hybrid formats in 2021 depending on where the country is with the pandemic and will continue to work with our trusted vendor partners to evaluate all options moving forward.