Of course all the technology is for nothing if you do not have a strong team around you and ensuring that you take care in making sure everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to be doing and where they should be and at what time.
Perhaps the biggest challenge we had of all was making sure that we did all we can to ensure that people knew what they needed to do. After all, we where a core team of 4 and we couldn’t be everywhere at once.
Placing trust in the community as volunteers was essential to the success of delivering the conference experience.
To put on a live event of this scale we needed a lot of volunteers. We where running up to 5 sessions every hour for 3 days around the clock. 230 sessions in 55 x 1 hour blocks back to back.
Having a producer in every session was important to us. We enlisted the help of 36 community volunteers to produce each session. To make things as easy for them and us as possible we divided each timezone into shifts of 3 hour blocks.
Where possible, a producer would volunteer for at least one 3-hour shift based around their commitments elsewhere. During that 3 hour shift they would be assigned back to back events. It was important that sessions where kept to 45-minutes to allow the producer to move to the next session.
In practice, this worked very well, Speakers where excellent in keeping on time and allowed for each session to wrap up. The benefit of Teams Live Events meant that if there was any lingering dialogue between speaker and attendee, this could be done in the breakout meeting without the Producer involved. Had the sessions been Teams meetings, this could have easily over-run as people can digress away from planned content delivery based on interruptions etc.
Such was the reliance on the session success was the Producer, it was important that we simply didn’t just say “thanks, here is the meeting invite, get on with it”. We invested time with each Producer to ensure that they felt comfortable with the Technology and the process around it that we had designed.
We ran training sessions and provided test events for them to practice if they felt they needed to before the event.
Training materials along with the Producers where added to a private channel in the team so that they could communicate directly with us and access the information they needed.
Part of the training we produced a “Producer Manual”. This manual contained everything they needed to know to complete their work including screenshot guides and different procedures to follow depending on the scenarios we had anticipated.
Here is the manual we created for them
Once the Producers felt comfortable with their tasks we set about the task of scheduling them. With Teams Live Events you have to add the specific account to the invite and select the role of that person.
As with Speakers, Producers where Guest users and not mail enabled. So we had to create manual ics files for each producer.
For this we used an Excel to ICS file converter. For a small fee we could create Excel sheets for each producer from our master agenda and by dropping them into a folder automatically created the ICS file with all the events scheduled for a producer in one ICS file.
This was easy for the Producer to add all their events to their calendar at once. We also stored these in the private channel for their convenience.
Planning for Failure
As with anyone, volunteers or otherwise we had to plan for contingency. If someone couldn’t make it we had to be in a position to ensure that the session could progress without being affected.
To plan for this we had a small list of people happy to place themselves on a standby list that we could call on short notice. We also ensured that we ourselves weren’t over committed on producing sessions so that at least one of us could drop in quickly if something happened with just a few minutes to go.
Tip: If you need to drop into a session where you have 5-minutes notice and it is a Teams Live Event, instead of trying to update the meeting invite with your account and assigning roles, have a machine logged in to Teams with the account you used to schedule the event and join using that.
Technology failure was also a big risk, we were doing it all live, if the technology failed what would we do? We assessed this and in the end we could only protect our content from technology failure if the failure related specifically to Teams Live Events. In the case where a Teams Live Event failed mid session, or failed to start, the Producer and Speaker where told that the fallback would be the breakout meeting we had created for that session in advance. Although we would miss the opportunity to record the session at least the live audience will still be able to watch it.
Speakers also needed to feel as though they knew what to expect. Even though we where a Teams event and people where talking about Teams, some had apprehension about presenting in a Teams Live Event. Some hadn’t done it before.
To those who have, the experience to the Speaker is the same as a Teams Meeting Experience with a couple of subtle differences. To relax the Speakers we also ran training sessions and demos of what to expect.
We had anticipated this and one of the main reasons why we where so adamant that every session needed a producer. Speaking at an event, even for experienced speakers can feel nerve wrecking. Adding in a complex multi-step process for them to run the event themselves is adding to their stress and nerves. Having someone there to support them settles them and they just need to concentrate on two things. Unmuting themselves and speaking.
In a similar fashion to Producers we had a private channel for Speakers to download resources and calendar files as well as direct chat to us and between them.
In Hindsight, we would have unified the Producers and Speakers into the same team.
We also produced a speaker manual for them to follow that had all the instructions and how-tos documented.
ICS Power Play
Remember, people join online events like meetings. They expect to have their session in their calendar so that they remember. However, everyone ignores the 30, 15 and 5 minute reminders until their Outlook reminder says NOW.
Giving the Speakers and Producers ICS files that had the start time of their session as the start time of their calendar invite would mean that there was a good chance that Speakers and Producers would rock up to their session at the time the session should actually go-live. If this happened it would mean that the agenda would quickly run behind time and have catastrophic consequences to following sessions, especially if Producers are producing back to back sessions.
So, we ensured that the ICS files sent to the Speaker where set to 30 minutes before their go-live time with a 15-minute reminder. This meant that for a Speaker with a 10am session, they would get a 15-minute reminder at 9:15am and told to join at 9:30am. This gave them 30-minutes to prepare themselves and get used to the UI and practice.
For Producers we set their ICS files to 15 minutes before the go-live time of the session. So they would get a reminder at 9:30am for a 10am session and required to join at 9:45am.
I cannot stress how important that decision was! This one decision made sure that out of 230 sessions, every speaker and every producer turned up on time and in the right meeting space and the agenda ran like clock work. We didn’t have a single delay or no-show.
Quite an achievement by everyone.
Thank you to Everyone
Commsverse could not have been as successful as it was without everyone who took part and played a role. I and my Team (Randy, Martin & Lesley) are incredibly grateful and proud of everyone for stepping up and making this possible.
A huge thank you to
Mary Beth Kirk
Erik van Arkel
Geert van Houdt
JF. Piot & C. Stokes
Laurence Lock Lee
Nuno Ãrias Silva
Thank you Everyone! It truly was an awesome show of the strength of the Microsoft Teams Community!
In our final Part 10 – we look at measuring analytics and some closing thoughts about the whole experience