Don’t cancel or postpone your conference, workshop, or training – go digital

Reda Sadki#DigitalScholar, Events

How we respond to the threat of a disaster is critical.

Organizations planning physical-world events have a choice:

  • You can cancel or postpone your event OR
  • You can go digital.

Why not go digital?

  • You think it cannot be done.
  • You do not know how to do it.
  • You believe the experience will be inferior.

It can be done. You can learn. You are likely to be surprised by how much you can achieve.

The Geneva Learning Foundation is inviting conference and other event organizers to a Special Event in which we will share how you can rapidly move or ‘pivot’ your events online.

What is The Geneva Learning Foundation?

The Geneva Learning Foundation is a Swiss non-profit with the mission to develop trial, and scale up new ways to lead change to tackle the challenges that threaten our societies.

We are purely digital. This means all of our operations and activities take place online.

  • Nearly every day, we organize and facilitate one or more digital events that convene hundreds or thousands of participants from all over the world.
  • We want to help other organizations by sharing our experience and know-how.

Why are we doing this?

  • We believe that the digital transformation can strengthen the resilience of our societies.
  • Cancelling or postponing a conference weakens ongoing work that may be significant or important.

Why attend this Special Event?

If you are planning a conference:

  • During this Special Event, we will share the critical success factors for digital events. You are likely to be surprised by what we have found makes the greatest difference.
  • Attendees will receive an invitation to join our #DigitalConference short course, in which you actually build a practical plan you can use to go digital.

If you are an event organizer, we know you may be already facing severe consequences.

  • If you have experience in providing services to design and run digital events, we invite you to share your services with participants.
  • If you have been primarily focused on physical-world events, we invite you to share how you are adapting.

Here is a case study.

We just organized a conference that was attended by more than 1,700 participants from 95 countries, including those hardest hit by COVID-19.

  • This conference ran in English 3-13 March and in French 16-30 March.
  • World-class presenters shared their expertise with practitioners.
  • Dialogue was constant – 24 hours a day, given participants spread across time zones.

We were awed by the number and diversity of participants and the quality of their contributions in this Pre-Course Conference.

How do we compare digital and physical? It is comparable?

In the past, our partner had organized three successive face-to-face events in Barcelona and Dar Es Salaam.

  • Each event was attended by around 80 people.
  • Each event was well-planned and executed.
  • Each time, 80 people went back to their countries with new knowledge and relationships.

After the third time, our partner was ready to go digital.

Previous conferences were limited to around 80 participants.

  • They required everyone to stop their work in order to travel.
  • This is the hidden opportunity cost of face-to-face conferences.
  • It often adds up to far more than the actual expenditure on the event itself.

What about the intangible serendipity of a conference?

We know the real value of a physical event resides in the impromptu meetings of minds and bodies on the conference floor.

  • Sharing a drink or a meal provides the occasion to establish or strengthen informal relationships.
  • Yes, there are dozens of digital tools that can match individuals and organizations, schedule ad hoc meets, and stir idea generation and serendipity.
  • Yet, it is undeniable that some aspects – and the ones that matter – are difficult to replicate.

Conversely, you may discover new ways of doing new things in a digital conference that can accelerate and multiply serendipity.

If you cancel or postpone, you will get nothing.

Is it expensive?

  • No. You can make an awesome event digital using only free tools.
  • You can also hire people and providers with the right combination of tools, talent, and vision.
  • The secret sauce is in the know-how required: not to use the tools, but to figure out how to both replicate and augment the experience you wish to create.

This is where organizations and service providers with experience can help.

Is it difficult or time-consuming?

No. If you already have an event scheduled, there is a simple method to:

  • Identify what is the value and significance provided by the event – including the intangible, serendipitous bits
  • Think through how to recreate and augment this value
  • Convert everything you planned into a digital format