Case Study: Virtual Conference Production
Community Networks Aotearoa had planned to host an in-person conference in February of 2022. Unfortunately, the New Zealand government implemented covid restrictions that prevented any large groups from meeting in person. Thankfully, they thought ahead, and hired Caelan Huntress for a half day workshop to scope out a virtual conference as fallback plan.
Back in 2021, when there were no movement or gathering restrictions in the country, we talked through the potential challenges, options, and opportunities of a virtual conference. CNA was able to put together a comprehensive plan in case a lockdown happened - which it did.
Their annual conference of community organisations was typically very interactive. This annual event brought together leaders and stakeholders from across the country. The first day of the conference was scheduled to be a collaborative brainstorming session, where participants would suggest topics of conversation, and go into smaller groups to discuss those topics. Then they would share the learnings and insights with the larger group. Zoom was not suitable for this type of engagement.
Stellar Platforms used Bramble, an interactive virtual event platform, where users could meet, congregate, and interact. Bramble is a 2D metaverse that allows users to move their Avatar from place to place, choose where they want to interact, and who they want to interact with. Instead of tediously managing Breakout rooms, users were able to move from table to table, and enter and leave conversations they wanted they found interesting according to the law of two feet.
By using the different environments available to us through Bramble, we were able to silence all attendees except for the speaker while they were in the theatre. Users could navigate their avatars into a main hall or a rooftop, to find others who they could have interesting conversations with. This mimicked the hallway interactions that we are accustomed to have in live in-person conferences. There were games and Easter Eggs hidden throughout the Bramble map, incentivising uses to explore, and amplifying the curiosity.
Many of the attendees to this 2-day virtual conference were surprised at how much collaboration and connection they were able to achieve in a virtual setting. Feedback included:
- "This is the most fun I’ve had working from home so far."
- "If we have to be digital, this is totally the way we want to do it."
- "I've loved the conversations that I've been able to have around the tables with people and it has truly felt like I've been in a room with them."
- "I feel like I’ve actually had a conference."
- "There is nothing like being able to be in conversation with others."
- "Being able to move about interactively and still feel as though you're part of a conference has been the next best thing to actually being face-to-face with people."
In addition to producing the technical components of the conference, Caelan also served as the usher, helping to shepherd avatars from place to place. To record the event, we livestreamed to CNA's YouTube channel, so they have a video record of the 2-day experience. Here are some of the highlights:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYZ8SlzTJa8
"Caelan directed and produced our whole online conference using new technology. He was amazing, like a puppet master, making sure that everything went right, and everybody was in the right spot and nothing went wrong. It was just fantastic working with Stellar Platforms." - Ros Rice, Executive Director, Community Networks Aotearoa