Issue #32

Welcome to theΒ newsletter! I hope everyone is well as it has been trying times this last month.

I hope you are enjoying these as much as I am writing them! πŸ˜„ I try to be: (1) brief (2) ad free and (3) target to organizers, speakers, and/or attendees.

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Thank you! πŸ™πŸ»

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Today’s Topic: Pros And Cons about influx of virtual events.

Pros And Cons of More Virtual Events πŸ“Ί

Thanks to world conditions, almost every in-person event… from meetups to conferences and conventions have been cancelled or postponed. Many have decided to have a virtual conference. More events have appeared on the virtual scene as a result of world conditions (“how to be more productive from home”, “how to navigate your business in these conditions”. etc.)

As attendees, the more virtual events means more choices – more content (and it’s usually low cost or free because it’s virtual).

As an organizer I can appreciate providing a way for people not able to physically attend your conference a way to “attend” (WordCamp Miami has had a live stream in some form for at least the past six years). But it does bring up some thoughts as an event organizer considering planning a virtual event.

But first, the pros.

As an organizer, a virtual event has big advantages over something in-personal regardless if it’s a small meetup or a large conference. The potential cost savings for starters (unless you got the meetup room donated, then perhaps this could be debatable). No travel time. No need to be concerned with “is that room going to be open?” and “is the wifi or the projector working?”.

Virtual events also allow you to have guest speakers from anywhere on the planet which can potentially positively effect diversity in terms of not just the speakers themselves but what topics you can cover. Online events typically require less volunteers or overall hours spent.

However because virtual events no matter what form they take (Zoom, YouTube Live, Crowdcast, Twitch, etc.) have a smaller opportunity curve – that means a lot more are popping up. And if you are thinking about organizing a virtual event in a space that now is a bit more crowded than it used to be. In fact, some have decided not to move their in-person WordCamps to virtual for this reason (and likely because of others).

Here are a few things to think about if you are moving an event that WAS in-person to virtual or starting an online event in an increasing crowded virtual space:

  • If you are a meetup or a non-regional WordCamp, STILL FOCUS ON YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY. Now more than ever. Find those local speakers in your area because they will bring new faces and perspectives to your event. This will be easier for those areas that had a good focus on meetups in the first place, but this is possible to do regardless.
  • For regional WordCamps and larger conferences, it might be worth the while to expand the “who would make a good speaker” even further outside your particular community. Virtual events again provide an opportunity to bring in more potentially diverse speakers perhaps previously unlikely to attend your physical event (for either reasons of costs, travel, ability to enter your country, etc.)
  • I disagree with people that say nobody views a WordCamp or conference for the talks but only for the people. However one can’t ignore that a virtual conference removes a lot of “hallway track” or “bumping into someone” experiences. I’m seeing some experiments attempting to reproduce this now in some events with various degrees of success (from my point of view anyway). Brainstorm how to make events more interactive and fun. Encourage (and perhaps train) speakers to be more interactive (such as live simple online surveys, polls, or questions during or right after the talk). Being interactive IMO is a good way to make your event stand out more, versus then simply having a window in a browser showing a livestream. Moderation of course might factor into this along with the planning and volunteer effort as well.
  • Themed conferences could be better suited for virtual events. As the space gets more crowded you might want to think about specializing to a niche audience. You might not get as big of attendance numbers but the likelihood of impact would increase.

Organization of virtual events will continue to grow for some time to come in the future. Even if you plan on having an in-person event later in 2020, I personally believe for a variety of reasons (including economic and those fearing to be around other people for health reasons) you are going to need an improved online experience EVEN IF YOU END UP HAVING AN IN PERSON EVENT. I think conferences for the foreseeable future will have more people electing to view them online even if travel and social distancing restrictions are lifted.

What do you think?

Need Your Support!

As a favor to me, can you help give us the “popular vote” and support South Florida being a possible city for WordCamp US 2020? We have a website with reasons, testimonials, videos, and more.

We need you to go to that page and click the Twitter link at the bottom… if you have a testimonial or show of support SUBMIT that and we will add it to the site. Or tweet anything with hashtag #WCUSInSouthFlorida and #WCUS.

Thank you in advance and I hope to share more on this soon.

Misc. Stuff πŸ€·β€β™‚️

These tips were written and/or gathered by David Bisset, someone who’s been helping organizing conferences (such as WordCamp Miami, but others too) and meetups for over a decade. He’s still learning so share any of your tips and it might be included in a future newsletter.