How to move a conference with 1,000 participants to the net

Philipp Roth was doing social when the rest of us were still stalking each other on our Myspace profiles. As a blogger, consultant, network engineer, and for several years as a social team lead at Ray Sono. Twice a year, he organises the #AFBMC, one of the largest social media marketing conferences in Germany, together with Rising Media.

Philipp Roth, Senior Consultant I Teamlead

Reading duration: 5 minutes

Nine days before the start of the conference in Munich, the corona shock hit the country. Contact ban, shutdown, nothing could go on as usual. And yet the 1,000-person strong AllFacebook took place. Philipp tells us how to do something like that.

What was it like when you learned that the AllFacebook could not take place “IRL”?

That was tough. It was Monday. It was supposed to start on Wednesday of the following week. Everything was prepared. The catering was booked. A lot had already been adapted for corona. The conference was set up so that participants could socially distance and there was enough disinfectant for everyone. Of course, we had been keeping a close eye on the whole corona discussions. But then came the thumbs-down for any on-site happening.

And your team then had to organise for that. How did you do it?

Everyone immediately took over what they could do best. It would have been the 20th conference, so now everyone knows exactly what their role is. Moving such a big on-site event is a lot of effort. Organising a virtual event and keeping all participants up to date is even more effort. Usually we have around four to six months for to organise the technology, the schedule, the speakers, and the setup. In this case, we did all of this in about a week.

What experiences did you have with this?

Decisions must be made very quickly and definitively. If you choose digital conferencing software in such a short time, that’s what you have. And then you have to be happy with it. Decide, quickly reach a solution, continue. This attitude is how we reached our goal.

And then we felt how open and flexible people are about the remote world. Of course, we had to slim down the programme. Some speakers themselves were suddenly in crisis mode because of planning home offices and childcare. The same was true for the participants. Nevertheless, in the end we had two digital stages. Most of the speakers were holding a virtual talk for the first time and many of the participants were there live.

Conference start from home offices. How was that?

Exciting. We transformed our living rooms into small studios. Branding via simple posters and very low-tech setups. When you have good light, good sound, a stable network, and a minimally better camera than in a laptop, you’ve got the most important things. We were still very close to the beginning of the corona wave, so we could and had to do a bit of improvising. Every extra day would have let us make an even better setup, because we are such nerds.

I believe we will soon see a clear professionalisation of remote conferences. If you’re planning a remote format now and have more time, it can be really cool.

The biggest challenge was networking. The AllFacebook is like a small class reunion and there is always plenty of time and space just to talk to people. We could no longer set up this atmosphere so we tried to replace it. But a lot happened in chats. In addition, we had kind of a chat roulette for the breaks that randomly connected people with each other.

Can a remote conference replace the real-life one?

Yes, under some circumstances. I think that knowledge transfer works well remotely. I see exciting lectures from cool people and learn something I can use. And I think such formats will gain in importance and acceptance – now, during, and after corona. The personal contact and networking done this way is already of a different calibre.

Do you advise your Ray Sono customers differently after your experience with the first virtual AllFacebook?

Sure. Many customers now see that it’s unnecessary to send staff around the globe for every meeting or training seminar. This corresponds anyway to our pragmatic vision of digital work. With our Ray infrastructure, we can build on this and offer appropriate collaboration formats.

And it’s also good that everyone looks at their own ecosystem with a new perspective – what digital possibilities do I have with my products? Where is there more potential? Am I using my channels well? We have answers to these questions. And we’re happy to provide them.  

And now more specifically: What are your tips for my next remote conference?

Okay, let’s see...

Last but not least: If children walk through the picture, just think about this man.

Turning your world into a remote world? For personal tips and help, you can reach Philipp anytime. And of course, he can also support you with any other questions you might have about social media communication – or home-schooling in the office!

Turning your world into a remote world? For personal tips and help, you can reach Philipp anytime. And of course, he can also support you with any other questions you might have about social media communication – or home-schooling in the office!

Philipp Roth
Senior Consultant I Teamlead
Contact us here
About the AllFacebook Marketing Conference

The AllFacebook Marketing Conference is the largest social media marketing conference series in Germany. Twice a year, Philipp organises the #AFBMC with Rising Media (owner in Berlin and Munich. The conference brings together more than 1,000 digital experts, decision-makers, and managers from corporations, companies, and agencies to exchange knowledge.

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