Weeknotes for September 11, 2020

Some truths about running virtual events were very evident this week.

  • Know your goals
  • Focus on the participant experience
  • Test the tech in any way you think might be relevant
  • Rehearse if you have a team that needs to work together to deliver different pieces of a session

And a team that has lots of experience working together remotely will pay off. I’m always grateful for the time and experience I have working with Laurent Fernandez, Shaun Hazeldine and Heather Leson as part of the Solferino Academy at IFRC, and this week we were three among many many others as we ran the Climate:Red Summit. Likely the most complicated and biggest virtual event I have had a hand in delivering. It was incredibly stressful but also incredibly rewarding.

Notes about the tech setup: we relied on ‘live custom streaming’ to get our Zoom Rooms connected to YouTube which connected to Atrium, the platform put together by Open Lab, that functioned as the Summit Venue. I’ve always found documentation on Google stuff to be piss poor and using it as a foundation to be quite demanding. One thing we learned early in the week, if you are going to use YouTube to stream, YouTube Studio must be open and the “Go Live” page up and running. If that’s not open, you Get an inexplicable error message from where you expect to view your broadcast. We ended up making sure we were logged into YouTube Studio in three different locations for redundency.

At the start of the summit, we were the victims of our success and Atrium went down as thousands flocked to watch the opening. Thankfully, someone had decided to get Prince Charles to give us a video message, rather than a live one (he’d offered both). After forty-five minutes or so, we were live again, and we just hit play. We managed to get back on schedule relatively quickly.

On the second day, the thing that never happens to me, actually happened. I was hosting a “Zoom Only” webinar session (not on the Atrium site – but directly in zoom) with a couple of hundred people, my Internet died. Thankfully a restart of the router brought it back, and barely anyone noticed.

We were delighted to see changes in Zooms Language interpretation module removing national flags and also allowing you to add custom languages. We were thrilled that we could add ‘Arabic’ and not marginalise Arabic speakers by saying “turn on the Portuguese Channel”. We quickly learned that when you add a custom language to the module – the custom channel doesn’t work unless everyone has upgraded their client. Something that we figured out in testing right before a critical session started and meant we had to resort to using ‘Portuguese’ again for Arabic.

The summit ran for 36 hours straight, and we had lots of adventures during that time, but things mostly ran as meant. A news presenter from Al Jazeera moderated the closing session (they were a sponsor) and Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was on the Panel along with Sofia Hernandez, a 19-year-old activist who is an organiser of the Friday’s for the Future student protests. We had more Royalty with Abram Ul Haq, who is the chairman of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society and the country’s designated pop prince. We ended the whole summit with a performance from him, which was quite good.

Another Fab Lab

I am starting to get focused on the upcoming (Virtual) Session Design Lab on Sept 23rd and 24th. The success of these labs depend on the participants that attend, so I’ve been reaching out to colleagues to help spread the word.