Life during the time of the pandemic has seen many firsts for me, some of which I have covered previously in this blog. My first online conference is yet another.
I’ve been to, if that’s the right expression as I never really went anywhere, many webinars and online meetings but a conference is something else. This June would have been Dynamo North East’s seventh conference, which are usually held at one of the universities. COVID-19 of course, put paid to that and we took the brave decision to push it online instead. Happily the sponsors were willing to go ahead and so our efforts swung behind the new format.
BeaconHouse Events, who provide the support and organization of the conferences, researched the market and decided on Hopin as the tool to use. It claims to be ‘the first all-in-one event platform optimized for connecting. Organizers can achieve the same goals of their offline events by customizing their Hopin events to fit the requirements, whether it’s a 50-person recruiting event, a 500-person all-hands meeting, or a 50,000-person annual conference.’
The format of the tool is quite similar to others such as Zoom and Hangouts but allows a main stage with multiple side rooms to be operating at the same time. The organizers can switch access to these rooms on or off and delegates can choose which ones to attend, while chat can be used to pose questions. A mixture of recorded and live content can be seamlessly interwoven.
The main stage has a backroom as well where the speakers can prepare their thoughts, though I’m not aware of any riders being made available.
Hopin also has a couple of other nice features. Firstly there is an exhibition area, where you can visit supplier stands, just as you would in the real world. Secondly it has a networking function. This was the bit that I thought would be the hardest to replicate online but rather than allowing you to meet up with people you know, you could do this anyway through the chat function, by entering the networking section you were placed in a queue. The next available person would appear and you were given a short time to chat in a sort of speed dating kind of way. After that you went back into the queue.
I really liked this functionality and wished I had had more time to try it out further.
Dynamo 20 was a fantastic success, with the most people we have ever had at a conference. Thanks to the behind the scenes efforts and those of all the speakers the format worked exceptionally well, especially for a first time.
With #CyberFest coming up in September I am going to have to give this option some serious thought.