We were all set to attend our annual conference, the venue was booked, catering was secured, over 300 attendees from around the world had their itineraries; what could go wrong. The date was March 10 th and this distant SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2) was becoming more salient in Sweden.
What started as a draft interim guidelines for COVID-19 turned into the sudden realization that this in-person conference could not continue; we had to go agile and take incremental steps, fast, if we were going to pull this off. Pretty soon we're tasked with identifying software platforms that could support an online meeting with hundreds of attendees and the ability to support a handful of panelists presenting their slides. Next, we needed to re-purpose one of our meeting rooms to serve as a studio; lights, cameras, mics, backdrops, staging all needed to be put into position. Eventually everything was in place and the in-person conference was scaled back into a digital experience, to be followed up at some later date with the full in person event.
The digital conference became a huge success and we proved to ourselves that we could make this work. Interestingly, the last speaker (one of our employees and an expert in the field), was unable to present due to time constraints. We decided we needed to invite all the participants back for this presentation although we needed to understand what value we were providing. The digital conference made sense with several presentations, but a single 30-minute presentation - should we just send it out, does it make sense to bring back 300+ participants, or should we hold it for another digital conference? The decision was made to bring back the 300+ participants, however it would not be for just one 30-minute presentation, but rather this would kick off a weekly webinar series. Fast forward, we're now past the tenth weekly webinar and have expanded our community to levels we would not have thought possible during this ongoing crisis.
What were some of the things we learned?
- We needed to identify the situation and develop a vision of where we wanted to be
- We needed to communicate quickly what our intentions were
- We needed to execute with a singular focus to make this happen
And then we iterated, the new situation became an opportunity that enabled us to grow the vision