3 tips on building a successful online conference

In September 2020 the Limelights team produced an action packed online conference for Syngenta, a global agriculture company helping to improve global food security by enabling millions of farmers to make better use of available resources.

Here’s what we learned 🎓

With three days of fun, fast-paced programming, 180 participants, and 20+ facilitators from around the world, it was the coolest assignment we’ve had this year. The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to go fully online, so we want to use this opportunity to produce more virtual events and help more companies reconnect with people, planet, and profit. Here’s what we learned in producing our first virtual event:

Develop a clear objective 📈

Syngenta has 2-3 projects they wanted to move forward this year, and they wanted to engage their people with the challenges connected to these projects. With this in mind, we gave Syngenta four critical success factors of what we wanted the conference to accomplish: it should be interactive, engaging, fun, and deliver results. To deliver results, we worked with our facilitators as well as various online collaborative tools to encourage participants to be action-oriented and solutions-driven. Timeboxing the whole conference to the minute also allowed for productive discussions and quick decision-making.

Hire external facilitators 👩‍💼

To create an interactive, engaging, and fun atmosphere, we hired top-notch professional facilitators to drive interaction and engagement and keep the sessions moving. We scouted facilitators from around the world and ended up with a total of 24 facilitators for the three-day conference. It was super exciting to work with an international team of facilitators – hailing from Malaysia to Kenya to Copenhagen. By creating a dynamic, fun vibe, the facilitators also kept the momentum and energy of the event. Combined with timeboxing and the right workshop tools – such as design sprints and specific design thinking techniques – we were able to minimize discussion and maximize results.

Use collaborative tools ⚙️

To create high engagement with participants, we used three important online tools:

👩🏻‍💻 Zoom, for breakout rooms and polling
✏️ Miro, for collaborating and working together (what is brainstorming without post-its?)
📩 Mentimeter, for real-time voting on ideas and initiatives

These tools created a feeling of being back at the office, working together on ideas and results. However, we would argue that things move much faster in a virtual setting. Instead of spending a whole day discussing a topic, participants would spend two hours discussing and deciding how to move forward.

* * *

Of course, we faced hiccups along the way – but these were all technical issues that we saw coming. It turns out the biggest challenge was not only tackling outdated technology but also outdated mindsets. This pandemic is showing us how important it is to be flexible, adaptable, and eager to improve our tech skills (so if you don’t know how to unmute yourself by now, we can’t help you!).

👉 Need help planning your next virtual event on a Do Good topic? Get in touch with us now!

👉 Curious to learn more about our 3-day conference for Syngenta? Check it out here!

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