What Makes for an Effective Online Conference Experience?

Like many organizations around the world impacted by COVID-19, OE Global has made the decision to move its annual conference to an online format. This, of course, is a very different experience.

We are curious to know what is most effective in an online conference for you as a participant? What creates for more engagement? What would make you devote time to join an online conference? What are your favorite online conferences?

The most effective online conference for me was feeling like my time was respected. I have attended online conferences where I felt like I wasted my time - the host was not organized, lots of technical issues, no visuals, no ‘handouts’, etc. I want my time to be valued.

There are many many things being written about moving conferences from in person to online; one of the more useful ones I have found is this 3 part series by Dominik Lukes from the U.K.

The parts covered include “Challenges”, “Strategies”, and “Platforms” (rightfully last). The first part on challenges is refreshing as it looks specifically about the “affordances” of in person conferences that work (belong together in time and space, and those ways those things influence our behaviors).

I tried to approach this guide from first principles, using the concept of affordances to analyze more deeply what are the things that happen at events that go beyond to what happens in sessions or exhibition stands.

What is shaping/influencing your ideas about conference events being online?

I don’t think that the effectiveness is any different from a F2F conference. We are just delivering it online vs F2F. “Effectiveness” still includes quality, relevant topics, and engaging speakers and presentations.

Personally, whether it is a conference, a training, or a webinar - I want to get something from it. I am excited about our event being converted to online. Without the pandemic, I’m not sure that we would have thought about conducting this event online; I think we will discover some unique experiences through this.

For me an effective online community experience involves a focused purpose and extensive peer to peer interaction. It engages me in distributed space but localized to the personal spaces of other participants. The more other participants share their spaces, questions, observations, and personal experiences about the topic or focused purpose the richer the overall experience.

For me an effective online community experience lasts over time. It is not a quick hit but rather savoured, thought about, and experienced over an extended period of time. It involves give and take, an exchange happens, gifts in the form of insights are given.

My most impactful online community experiences have resulted in not only new insights but new friendships.

My favourite online community experiences have engaged my senses or taken me somewhere outside in a new part of the world.

The thing missing in the online experience is being in the same space at the same time. Yes, there is some of that in the back channel chat, but it’s not quite the same as the accidental mingling and hallway passing at a venue.

What is possible with easy posting of cameras might get a the sensory or outside experience @paulstacey mentions. I did like the efforts of OER20 with the “social bingo” site (yes a SPLOT) where participants posted intros and were encouraged to click the “random” button to meet someone (cough, SPLOT).

https://oer20.socialbingo.oerconf.org/

As well as a #ThisIsMe prompt that was done via twitter

And that actually reminds me of the “View From Where I Sit” prompt a community college teacher I worked with did via text only BBS forums in the 1980s and 1990s

Plus curating blog posts about the conference.

We could make all of this something done within OEG Connect just with a good lead prompt and lots of encouragement/reminders to reply, rather than more sites and a social media platform that not all conference attendees may use.

There might also be some things we can do to encourage participants to check put each other’s profiles here and use the “like” buttons to send some boost signals or vote on different posts. I’d also like to see some organized things to have conference participants curate resources, ideas from across sessions (there is a wiki tool within discourse too or it could be an editable open document).

I’m interested in other things that can be done in addition to formal sessions to create that space sharing.

Love these @cogdog! this is such an inviting activity.