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30th Jun, 2020 ―― 5 min reads

secret/sauce: Post-mortem

Jasenko Hadzic
CEO @ Tame

2 hours ago our event was set to finish.

What ended up happening was that it finished almost 3,5 hours ago.

 

If you’re one of the attendees, you’re probably thinking: I’m so glad that it wasn’t me that had to fix all the issues.

 

And you should be. It was insanely hectic and stressful.

 

What started as a phenomenal lined up with over 2 months of intensive event planning by our amazing colleague Laura, which accumulated over 17 sessions, 3 tracks and 25 amazing speakers that she ended booking, ended up being a fiasco of 5 sessions in total.

 

Incredibly exciting content we were excited about sharing.

 

The fear in the moment. The stress. The thoughts:

  • “Should we cancel the event?”
  • “Should we remove the Live Chat”?
  • “OMG this is so embarrassing!”
  • “Is this the end?”
  • “This toooootaaallly sucks. What are people thinking?”
  • …..

 

What’s the positive thing to come out of this?

  1. People understand. A lot of speakers & attendees understood the stress that we went through as Event Managers themselves. It’s not the end of the world
  2. It happened to us. The people behind a virtual conference platform and not you.

 

We were in the exact shoes like many of our customers on the day. We felt the nerves, the stress, the embarrassment and the desire just to say: Let’s quit.

 

We did end up salvaging the event and hosting a live session at the end where we were honest about how it was being behind the scenes and what ultimately was the mistakes we experienced.

 

Good learnings are already coming out of this. It’s healthy for us. Stressful, but in somewhat way stressful as what we’re taking our own medicine.

 

Here’s the 4 major practical learnings that we had to learn the hard way from todays secret/sauce virtual conference.

1. Always have pre-recorded Sessions as a Plan B when doing live stream

 

Just like with our case, issues appeared during several virtual tracks, which meant that some speakers were live and some weren’t.

Yes it does create extra work from the speaker, but its a really important fallback to have in case any unexpected errors arise.

 

What ended up happening at the sessions that didn’t manage to go live?

Attendees ended up waiting, waiting and waiting.

 

What could have been done to prevent it?

If we had all the speakers pre-record their session, then we could have reacted better and faster.

 

Learning: Get all speakers to create pre-recorded sessions as a fallback. Risk of live production is high. It might not work for everybody as all events have different timespans, budgets, resources etc, but if you have the option, do it.

 

 

2. Decide the exact time of when your Plan B kicks in

 

At our event, we didn’t really have an exact time of when we switched to Plan B. It was when we all felt that all options were exhausted that we switched to Plan B. The problem with that is time. Valuable time that your attendees or speakers don’t have the patience of waiting for.

 

So for us we ended up giving the glitches some room to breathe as we weren’t quite clear if it was some of the speakers or if it was the links and then that ended up taking time away from the overall event and not really giving the best event experience.

 

What ended up happening at the sessions that didn’t manage to go live?

Attendees ended up again waiting, waiting and waiting.

 

What could have been done to prevent it?

If we would have agreed on a fallback to kick-in 3 minutes in, then we could have made the call much faster to minimise the production risk on the day of the event.

 

Learning: Have an action plan of what Plan B is and when it kicks in exactly. You need to agree on this beforehand, else you’ll be discussing what you should/shouldn’t do. You dont have time to think in these moment. You need to spend as much of it on acting.

 

 

3. Inform all your stakeholders about Plan B, especially your speakers.

We didn’t communicate our Plan B to our speakers and this definitely created confusion and email communication back and forth. This could have definitely been avoided and we could have spent a lot more time on briefing them on our Plan B.

 

Learning: Have an action plan of what Plan B is and when it kicks in exactly. You need to agree on this beforehand, else you’ll be discussing or you should/shouldn’t “just give it more time”, where 1 minute quickly becomes 10 minutes and then you’re whole programme is pushed.

 

 

4. Communicate proactively, frequently openly and in the Live Chat + pr Email. No matter what.

No matter how painful it is or how many errors appear, always keep communicating with your attendees throughout the event. Both in the Live Chat + pr. Email.

When the glitch happened we sent an email to all attendees and from our side we had two people mange the Live Chats.

 

What could have been better?

We could have definitely communicated things more openly, frequently and proactively to the attendees in case that an error happened.

 

Learning: Have an action plan and clear communication templates for email & chats ready of what you communicate, where you communicate and how often you do it until the mistake or error has been fixed. Coordinating them and creating them on the spot is going to take important time way from keeping your attendees informed

 

 

Conclusion:

Virtual events are sensitive. Incredibly sensitive to mistakes and your wiggle room is incredibly small when mistakes happen.

 

1. You can’t adjust as easily to mistakes or delays as with in-person events

The more adjustments the exponentially more chats, emails and notifications you have to send, which will confuse and detract attendees from engaging.

 

2. You can’t inform your attendees as easily

You have to over communicate through various media to hope that they see it and catch it, as you don’t have any guarantees that people will see your messages.

 

Be prepared for worst case much more than you would be at in-person events.

Then at least, you want go through the same stress and coordination that we ended up going through.