#Weeknotes 35 (17 Sept)— Making remote events work
This week I had the pleasure of delivering a talk with my colleague Amy at the annual Service design in Gov (SDinGov) conference and talking about research sensitive topics with people in vulnerable situations. A webinar we’ve also done back in July. See my weeknotes for a summary of the talk.
Due to the uncertainties of the COVID19 pandemic, the conference was held remotely. While I do miss the physical aspect of conferences and the far greater engagement with fellow practitioners of the field, there are aspects of the remote setup that seem to work well also.
The team at SDinGov did a great job in creating a virtual space that mimics the space of a physical venue. During the live event, one can navigate to different virtual spaces of the conference to interact and explore with a single click on a beautifully illustrated map.
Most of the talks happen over in the Auditorium, right in the centre of the map, where one can view all the live talks happening at the time and get a program overview. They could’ve ended it there but why stop there when they make the virtual event more engaging?
Other than the sensible auditorium and welcome desk, they’ve also added a garden where people can go to unwind with emergency cat videos on loop and mini medication and soundtracks; a retro wall where people can leave thoughts and feelings in real-time on an interactive online whiteboard, a chatter space where people can engage in conversations as the sessions are happening and exchange ideas, a library with practical books that will help attendees broaden their knowledge and craft, and even an area where one can get meals and snack inspirations in the absence a physical food hall. These are all delightful ways to make the live event more engaging and interactive.
Ultimately I would still prefer attending physical conferences as some things just can’t be replaced nor replicated, like the buzzing atmosphere of a live event, the rush to sessions and bumping into new friends and old, having impromptu conversations with others that spark new ideas and ways of working, etc. But in lieu of that option, this way of running remote conferences and events work quite well. It’s nice to see how people think outside the box to create engagement in remote settings.