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The Isolation Conversation – Remote Communities

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Remote Communities:

We are thrilled to introduce our fourth episode, ‘The Isolation Conversation – Remote Communities’. Featuring Mark Stokes – Chief Technical Officer at Attollo Intranet, Matthew Weston – Managing Director at Vantage 365, Mark Jones – Founder at Collaboris & Collab365 and Adis Jugo – Managing Director at Nubelus

If you want to watch this episode click here & enjoy!

What lessons have you leant over the last week:

With the COVID-19 outbreak, our working worlds have changed even for those that are used to remote working. We asked our panel what lessons they have learnt this week whilst working in lockdown.

  • Running a global event called global con 2. First one ever I’ve run Google ad words for. Focusing on Microsoft Teams Conference, I spent lots of money on this before releasing it wasn’t the right keyword. Always test your phrases before you put ad spend behind them.
  • I found something new that I haven’t seen in SharePoint before.  
  • I managed to get a piece right on the guitar that I’ve been practising for two months.
  • Making some time for pet projects.

What’s changed for your events and your user groups?

  • Much of the user group interaction is based around social interactions. Having conversations where you can get to know people. It’s usually a chance to meet people that you haven’t met before. These are face-to-face but we’ve had to take these online and it’s been a big change.
  • Is it better to have a balance of both in-person events and online events? How do you nurture more intimate conversations and the same level of networking online?
  • We’ve looked at introducing virtual hang out/break out rooms. There would be 1 host and then four people discussing a chosen topic. However, it’s very hard to keep people engaged at these events. One of the problems can be distractions. Although we are in the conversations, there are emails and pop up notifications that take our attention away. One of the ways to combat this is giving away items in the session. Encouraging people to pay attention in order to get the giveaways. One reason for people appearing to be lurking on a session could be their nervous to get involved in the session.
  • We offer pre-recorded sessions for easy of flow, but it allows the speaker to come into the chat and use their expertise to converse with the attendees. The speakers also don’t have to worry about the session, they can focus on answering questions.

How has this situation changed larger events?

  • Collaboration summit is a community-initiated event. We sold out our face-to-face conference but then lockdown happened. We’ve had to move this as a physical event to another date later on in the year and hope that the lockdown is over by then. We had to move it in a way that wouldn’t financially implicate the business.
  • We have been amazed that attendees and sponsors are sticking with us moving forward.
  • People have also been very understanding of these situations. There is much more positivity for this than we had expected. As a sponsor, we have accepted that events are postponed, and we fully understand the reasoning behind it.
  • People could also be sticking with us as we are a community-based event rather than a normal large-scale event.

How has the change in events impacted schedules?

  • We haven’t noticed much of a change. We have already decided to only do 4 events for the year. We found that people wanted more than this so we had to create some different warm-up events prior to our main events. Although our schedule hasn’t changed, we find that we are including more reactive options.

I wonder what the perception is from individuals of moving an event?

It’s likely that people understand the complexity involved in changing and moving an in-person event. Do people understand the complications in moving a virtual event? There is a considerable amount of marketing and budget that goes into the online events and getting people to register as well as the availability of speakers to consider. Can it be a logistical nightmare to rearrange a virtual event too?

  • One of the hardest parts is onboarding people into the online event. You can make it as simple as possible but come the day of the event the support inbox is always so busy. We encourage people, once they have registered, to go and fill their own schedule up for the day. It ensures that they are used to the programme and can access it without any problems on the day.
  • It depends where you are on the lifecycle of your event as to how difficult it would be to move.

What challenges have you seen moving a user group from in-person to online?

  • We hold smaller-scale events for between 10-30 people. It’s not a huge issue for us to communicate that we are hosting an event online rather than face-to-face. We have met with many of these people anyway and have a rapport with them.
  • Venue hires have come with their own challenges but we are trying to resolve these.
  • We don’t have onboarding issues as we use Microsoft teams and users are familiar with this.

Have you had any feedback from attendees about video or quality of the events?

  • The feedback that we have had so far from the user groups have been fine. We have the occasional one person that doesn’t have a great internet connection. Especially now as people still want their video on for the social aspect and this can impact the speed of the connection.

How has it been adding virtual events into your event strategy?

  • As our event has been postponed to October, we have decided to do a virtual event on the original event date, free of charge. We are filling up our speaker slots for this now with recognised professionals in the industry. What is important to us is that this is an online event for our current attendees and new people can attend also but we aren’t marketing to a broad audience. Preparations are going well for this, we want people to feel happy about this event. Hopefully, this is just a one-off and we won’t have to do this again.
  • We have put together funny videos to introduce the speakers to the audience. They are intended to add some humour in at these crazy times.
  • As a speaker, videos have always been difficult for me. I feel like it has to be perfect so if there is a tiny error, we have to go back and record it until it seems perfect. It feels like it’s clinically produced and that way, you can lose some characteristics of an individual and you end up with a standard introduction.

What do people want from networking?

  • I’ve asked my children if they would attend a large conference. They have said that they would attend for the travel but not for networking as they don’t like socialising. As this generation starts to come through into the workplace, alongside the growth of social anxiety, we could see the landscape of events change to suit their needs.
  • Our age group want to speak to likeminded people who enjoy talking to peers. Once lockdown is over, we can’t wait to network again. Individuals attend events to speak to their peers and not the speaker sometimes. In our future events, we have decided to get rid of the speaker rooms as speakers tend to stay there and the attendees don’t have a chance to speak with them.
  • Social contact is important, but I don’t know how this will look in the future. If we do see an interest in less interaction, how do you make an event interesting for the sponsors? They will want to show their product or experience. We often do a lot for our attendees in making sure they are happy but how do we reward our sponsors for being faithful friends to us.

Has GDPR implicated sponsors benefits at events?

One of the biggest attractions for organisations to sponsor events has always been around gathering details of individuals contact information to have a conversation with them after the event. With GDPR being introduced, this has now stopped. So what are the benefits for sponsors to continue to sponsor events?

  • There is so much discussion around GDPR but it boils down to the fact that people organising the event cannot send any of the data out. As a small company, we’ve always wanted to see the leads so we felt as though this has taken away value in sponsorship. We’ve tried to heighten the offer of brand awareness instead and placements of organisational logos.
  • I think that sponsors need to be educated on the true value of these events. We need to be able to add value to individuals and have meaningful conversations. For in-person vs online events, it may just mean that I would spend much less money sponsoring on an online event as I can’t have that much of an impact on a person online.

Is there a place for gamification at events?

To keep attendees engaged at events, many event organisers often create some exciting opportunity for attendees to get their hands on a gift or experience. As attendees engagement seems to decrease, could gamification keep them engaged enough to stay for the duration of an event and come back again?

  • We have now introduced gamification across our events. It also helps to create a more unique and relevant experience for the attendee.

How do we think that Microsoft will cope with their large-scale conferences?

  • They have cancelled their events until 2021. The main reason is because they weren’t selling any tickets to attendees or sponsors which doesn’t make it a viable business option for them. When businesses are eventually in a position to start paying for the tickets again, we could then be in a financial crisis and it would be unlikely that people will part with their money.
  • Microsoft has the luxury of announcing that they are taking their event online and just pay the costs to their venues that would be due but never used.
  • It’s unsure if they could take an event this large virtually due to the large number of people due to attend.
  • Will Microsoft even charge for the event? If they start charging for their event it’s unlikely that they would get 10,000 attendees.
  • Microsoft makes their content available shortly after the conference anyway so that’s how many people can stay connected without attending the event.
  • This is then linked to the value of an in-person event. If people won’t consider paying £5 for an online event with the same content but they would pay £2000 plus travel and accommodation expenses. This is the value of an in-person event.

What do we think is going to be the future for our communities?  

  • I think that this scenario will have a long-lasting impact on events. Every physical event that is booked will be more rigorously scrutinised with the question as to if the event will event go ahead due to yet unforeseen circumstances. All companies will have to think of ways to up their gain and remain relevant. I think making sessions much more interactive using tools such as VR to make them as like in-person events as possible.
  • Previously when I managed the user groups, I banned streaming afterwards to allow for fairness to the speakers. If we are going to have to stream afterwards as part of the proposition moving forward, we would need to invest in some equipment. It could be an unreasonable expectation for smaller user groups to do this.
  • I think that both in-person events and virtual events will largely remain separate but will take parts from each other moving forward.

What’s Next?

We are thrilled to introduce our fifth episode, ‘The Isolation Conversation – Remote Developers’ which will launch next week. Featuring Mark Stokes – Chief Technical Officer at Attollo Intranet, Vesa Juvonen – Principle Programme Manager at Microsoft, Wictor Wilén – Global Innovation Lead for Modern Workplace at Avanade, and Geetha Sivasailam – Collaboration and Customer App Developer at Artis Consulting

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us via email or call us on +44 (0)1952 288 365.

Remote Communities:

By Sam Dolan

Sam Dolan is a consultant for Attollo specialising in Intranets, SharePont & Microsoft 365.

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