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Microsoft Teams as event platform – 101 Master

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We have held several conferences with Microsoft teams in the last few weeks. Now I share the experiences with you:


A virtual conference

A virtual conference is no less work than a classic conference. Many tasks are the same or very similar. You have to coordinate sponsors or build an agenda and inform the speakers.

From the experience of the last months and the Teamcommunitday, it shows that new challenges compensate for the loss of other tasks. A good conference from the cloud is more than just creating virtual rooms. The first question that arises is whether to create one room per track or per session and should it be a meeting, live event or a virtual 3D environment with VR/Mixed Reality? Basically I can say that a virtual conference is harder to organize and plan than a classic conference in physical rooms.

Conference tool Meetings vs. Live Events

We have chosen Microsoft teams, but of course you can also use Zoom, WebEx or Jitzi or just one of the other tools. However, I limit myself to Microsoft teams.

Let’s take a closer look at the possibilities. Here is an excerpt from our list in the planning phase:

 

Optimal: Microsoft teams with individual channels for the tracks and the meetings in the tracks.

well possible: individual teams meetings

Conference rather unsuitable: Live Events / Unless you want to use it as a classic training/

Why are live events rather unsuitable?

At live events the speaker is isolated from the participants. This may have been common practice for classic conferences 5-10 years ago, but not anymore. The participants want to get to know the speaker, ask questions or talk to him/her at the end of the session. Also the speakers speak into a dark hole at the live event, this is not useful, most of them live and arrange their session/pace according to the reactions of the participants.

Microsoft Teams Meeting

If possible you should use a classic meeting with a moderator. This person can take questions and can also take care of the lobby. There are very few trolls or people who disturb the meetings. The most disturbing are people who are not muted and most often people who attend with a smartphone and hold the call instead of just muting.

Conference – Setup

The structure is quite classical:

Tracks with sessions

Lounge/bar (at least 1 time to 3 times for different themes)

Sponsor area (separately or in the bar). It is the challenge to bring people to the sponsor. Because the sponsor is interested in contacts and customers and does not want to be “bored” online.
Speaker Lounge

Track or session?

There are the variants, whether you create a meeting per track (V1) or a meeting per track (V2).

Phone number

If you have the possibility to provide the meeting with a phone number, please do so. Often people want to watch the sound on the phone and the meeting on video, this also often compensates for bandwidth problems.

But please communicate clearly that it is essential that you participate in the meeting. It will not make sense to attend by telephone alone.

Recommended: Phone number

Recording or not

Another point of discussion is clearly the inclusion. Some of the participants want a recording so that they can watch the session again later, but just as many do not want a recording so that they can speak freely.

For those participants who really want to take something with them, it is the attentive participation and free to ask questions and also free to show themselves. We have tested it and made the experience in 25 sessions that when the recording is started, there are no more questions from the group of participants and nobody shows up anymore. As soon as the recording ended, questions came up and very often there was even a discussion.

Recording also means to provide all participants with a declaration of consent and the data protection rules and to follow it up.

The quality of a recording is only of limited use for a later listener, the quality is only really useful for a listener without any previous knowledge if it is professionally prepared. But then this would already have a quality like LinkedIn Learning. Even for experienced speakers with OBS, several cameras and very good preparation, this is difficult to achieve in one go.

Recommendation: no recording

Lobby or not?

Another question is whether or not to use the lobby for Microsoft Team Meetings. If you turn off the lobby, you don’t have to share the participants individually. However, the lobby prevents unwanted people from entering the meeting.

Community: without / but send the link only by email

Conference: with lobby

Anyone can present or just speakers?

Classical conference: only the speaker

Community: Everyone

Group picture

This can be presented later by teams or then by Photoshop and created accordingly.

Conference – Planning

per track 1 owner and helper
pre-announce and share
Advertising, publicity
More and more online conferences also means more competition on the same day and above all the participants can change much faster and also just have a quick look. This is not easily possible offline.

Challenge – distributing links

  • Trolls
  • Compliant with DSGVO
  • Strategic considerations

Note: Only to registered persons via BCC email.

Duration of sessions and session blocks in a row

During online conferences, the recording span and fatigue on the screen is a problem. Listeners lose attention after 8 minutes maximum and fatigue sets in after 40 minutes. Therefore variety and planning of 2-3 sessions at a time is important. This is made more difficult if you have to consider different time zones, then sessions must be presented or the recording shown at least twice.

Recording or live for presentation

A presentation is always better than a recording. The speaker can respond to the participants and can answer the questions.

Recommendation: no recording

Collect feedback

Of course you want to collect feedback. The best thing is to do a raffle among all of them, but the response is often very low. I assume a maximum of 10%.

Possibilities

Microsoft Forms
Polly (3rd party app)
possible other survey apps

Lottery at the end

For this you can use a form, an excel sheet or various small programs on the web. The participants can actively participate in this if they want to.

Important: Publication of meeting guidelines

  • Please be friendly and kind
  • Please come into the call only muted.
  • Mute mobile phones and never hold the call, because the microphone is open.
  • Please turn on the camera and use the background of the conference / blur effect if you want to.
  • Take your time for the meeting and rest
  • Prepare yourselves: Restart your computer, test the meeting beforehand and, if necessary, make up for installations and updates, charge your headset and keep a spare, use a second screen, find a comfortable place to sit

 

best practice

  • 1 session/room per track
  • Lobby
  • 2nd speaker/counsellor for questions and to let people into the room
  • 45 minutes session¬† / 10 Min Q&A / 5 switching
  • 2,5 h -> Breack 60-30 Minutes // or 3 Tracks and 4h break
  • Training for speakers
  • A Microsoft team for the conference with channels for the tracks (Attention: Privacy/Terms of use)