We organised the first virtual conference in Estonia. The Environment Agency held a conference “Climate and water”. The event with over 500 attendees happened in collaboration with Videal and Worksup.
A format with such volume and duration has never happened in Estonia before. More than half a thousand attendees. 12 real-time speakers. And all the organizers were very pleased with the result.
It was the first time in Estonian event history where we converted a traditional conference format into a virtual conference. We did not only minimise human contact but made it completely touch-free, using only voice commands.
The opening speaker, director of the Environment Agency, Taimar Ala said that during a time of crisis it is important to work together. And that in the name of new, innovative and safe solutions to continue fulfilling set goals:
“The government declared state of emergency in the country. That along with guidelines that we are keeping an eye on and following strictly. In the middle of March we sent our workers collectively to work from home,” said Ala.
“Although it is an emergency we must ensure the effective operation of our services. The harvest of environmental data works, prognosis-analysis is functioning,” added Taimar Ala.
“We will not cancel promised events as we can adapt and do things in a safe way. We depend on everyone. On both how we manage the situation and also, what our environment’s future will look like,” spoke Ala.
Worksup and Videal joined in on the idea
Virtual conference organising app Worksup and conference equipment company Videal Productions OÜ joined in with the Environment Agency to help carry out technical solutions for the conference “Climate and water”.
A studio was set up in TalTech university’s Mektory where the moderator and video operator led the processes and a few speakers gave a speech. A big room enabled people to keep a distance of at least 2 meters between each other.
The experience shows that a conference conducted in a virtual room works even better than a regular format in aspects of the content. The speakers performed their presentations. At the same time, the listeners were able to ask questions, take part in public polling, communicate with each other. And all that using a web-app built by Worksup, regardless of where they were. Some of the presentations went live from a country home in the woods. Meanwhile, there were over half a thousand listeners from all across Estonia, as well as from other countries.
“The conference conducted in a new way pretty much proved that the solution works better than expected. The speeches and discussions were available to a bigger auditorium than planned,” stated Taimar Ala.
More active than usual participants
A virtual conference centre does not apply limits to attendees and compared to normal events. “Climate and Water” received a real public interest. A four-hour-long web-conference was watched from 550 devices – computers, cellphones, and tablets. It was interesting that there was no loss of interest among attendees throughout the event. Everyone who listened did it actively from start to finish.
People asked a total of 67 questions from the speakers, uploaded 32 photos to the gallery. Also, 79 people answered public polls. Meanwhile, Facebook live-stream collected over 5200 viewers.
The first virtual conference is rewatchable from the Environment Agency’s Facebook page.
Virtual conference as a new normality
The results of the first meteorological-themed virtual conference give great insight. Hence, Environment Agency will review the concepts of future events.
“Until the occurrence of the virtual conference “Climate and water”, we weren’t quite sure how successful the model will be. From the experience, I can say that we will conduct more virtual conferences in the future. And I suggest others try it as well – in the end, the content is the important part, not formal arrangements.” stated Ala.
The director of the Environment Agency is certain of a setback after the health crisis, though not being an expert. “Right now is a great time to rethink our nature and activities, be ready to enter a new phase and adapt to change” Taimar Ala explained. “My expectation is, that the economy will recover, but differently than before.”
The first full virtual conference with Worksup’s embedded live streaming feature in Estonia.
This virtual conference was the first in Estonia that used Worksup’s embedded live streaming feature.
“A lot of Web conferences and webinars have been organised, but usually it is just a live video broadcasted on some platform. During the climate conference, everything took place simultaneously and all in one place,” Randoja explained.
Randoja explained the app as such: “Worksup is a place for conducting virtual conferences. When you go to a traditional conference, you listen to speeches, ask questions and speak with other partakers. In the Worksup app, it is possible to do the same while being in a home office or anywhere else.”
Taking part in a virtual conference does not require downloading special apps. Nor does it need creating a username. It requires opening the correct web address and actively taking part.
“Like normal ones, the virtual conference depends on great preparation and cooperation between organisers,” claimed Randoja.
“The biggest challenge when running the virtual conference was fitting the technical planning into a small time frame,” explained Randoja the conditions in which work had to happen.
Endrik Randoja added that the technical partner Videal managed their job well. The main role of Worksup was to get attendees to one place.
A new experience for Videal’s team – technically
Videal, who managed the technical execution was also faced with a challenge as the team had never worked with this kind of format before.
“In our everyday work, we record various conferences and set up video streams. During high season we help at least one conference per day, sometimes even more. This time the broadcast had to take place in a situation where there were no bystanders. We practically produced a four-hour TV series in real-time,” said the board member Anton Jegorov from Videal.
Technically it meant that over a short period, opening graphs of the speakers were made. And also to lower risks, we made a pre-recording with the speakers who could not or did not want to show up in person. We also built a studio and did necessary tests and setups in one day.
Anton Jegorov said that the situation was new for both Videal’s team and the customer because it is rare to conduct such long shows.
New habits for Videal’s team – hygiene first
“Another challenge was hygiene and personal protection. None of us had ever been in a similar situation before and we all lack the necessary experience to fight the invisible enemy,” Jegorov explained.
“We got disinfectants and all the technical equipment and furniture had to be disinfected. Between presentations we also disinfected the speakerphone, clicker, and microphones,” added Videal’s board member.
They got hold of masks and gloves in a short time, and they were separated by a wall from the speakers and moderators. Using face masks and rubber gloves was a new experience for the broadcasting team.
“It took time to get used to it, but I believe we did everything right. Until now we have only received positive feedback. It shows that a web conference can be interesting and can be done so that it suits people” said Jegorov.
In conclusion, both the Environmental Agency, Worksup team, and Videal team encourage people to conduct press events, conferences, international events and seminars in a virtual setting.
Translated and modified from a Delfi article