It’s been a month since SharePoint Saturday EMEA and I see more people have "taken the bait" and want to put together their own event. I know two, specifically that are scheduled: Live Online SharePoint Saturday Arabia, March 27th, and Live Online SharePoint Saturday India, April 24th.
In the spirit of helping the virtual SharePoint Community, I’ve put together a set of notes that might help future live online event co-ordinators run a smooth event.
1) Four live meeting channels. We had one for each ‘track’, and a general one where we could tell all registrants to meet at specific times, such as keynote, general announcements and conclusion.
2) Check w/ your Live Meeting provider to verify the maximum number of concurrent attendees. By default, a basic account only holds 250 participants. If there’s a possibility there will be more than that in a session, you’ll need to request an update to the platform.
3) Make it MANDATORY that your presenters meet for a 10 minute practice session one week before the event. We found presenters who thought they had the proper setup to present, only to learn their connection was not stable enough to participate. Without the practice session, we would not have known that.
4) Keep one or two empty time slots in the middle of the day for presenters who had trouble logging in, making a connection, machine crashing, etc. We had a presenter for a 9:00am session whose VM went down. We were able to move him to an empty afternoon slot, giving him enough time to get his system running.
5) Have at least one moderator, with presenter status, per channel to help with the presentations. These should be people who are comfortable with the Live Meeting environment,know how to upload slidedecks to the system, and able to help presenters with any problems they are having.
Toni, Isaac and I learned the hard way that the moderators should work in 4 hour blocks… no longer. It’s just to hard to keep your concentration longer than that, plus they will probably be logging in from home and will have to deal with personal issues, as well as moderate the presentation.
Moderators also keep track of the live chatroom to help the presenter answer questions from the participants. In most cases, the moderator will say something like, "There’s a question in the chatroom from Toni." This will help keep questions in the context of the present discussion.
6) Send your moderators a detailed list of the presentations the night before the event. This should include session name, presenter, time and brief description. They can then post that information at the beginning of each session, making it clear as to what channel people are in.
7) I’m not sure how you intend to use the live blogging platform. CoverItLive, the live blogging platform, does not have unmoderated comments, so it’s hard to have a real flow of discussion between the participants. I actually built an ajax enabled chatroom with multiple channels so that people could participate in the discussion with each other, as well as the presenter. There was one chatroom per channel, plus one "Green Room" chatroom for general discussion and announcements.
8) Ten minutes before the end of each presentation, go into each chatroom and post the schedule for the upcoming hour. That way, people can start thinking about which session they would like to attend next.
9) Create ‘Break Slides’. Have the moderators put up an "On Break" slide with the time the next session will start. This is especially important if you are going to have an hour long extended break, as we did for the 12:00 noon slot.
10) Announce login information in a public location. One of the best things I did was to put all of the login information in a blog post on EndUserSharePoint.com the morning of the event. I sent out an email from EventBrite the night before, pointing people to the post. Instead of having hundreds of emails telling me they had lost the login instructions, the blog post handled all of that support. I wouldn’t do it until the day of the event, since you will want people to register, not just login.
11) Configure the registration page on EventBrite to show the people who registered and what country they are from. This was exciting for people to see all of the activity from around the world and I think it drove higher registration numbers because people could confirm they were participating in a popular event.
The built-in email functionality of EventBrite is great. Update the registrations once a week through the bulk emailer. This type of acknowledgement serves two purposes: it gives you a chance to update them on new presentations, and it also gives them a reminder to spread the word for your event.
12) Have a keynote/intro session. A keynote gives you a chance to get everyone in one place, explain how the day is going to work and get people mentally prepared. In addition, if you have a well know presenter who people really want to see, they are more likely to login at the beginning of the day and then keep the sessions running.
13) Request that your presenter keep WebCam use to a minimum. It’s nice to have a talking head for the first few minutes of each session for introductions, but it takes up exponentially more bandwidth.
14) Record each session on the server but configure Live Meeting so that participants can record on their local drives. Verify recordings on the server are available for public access for 365 days after the event.
15) Michael Lotter rocks! Anytime we had issues in the weeks prior to the event, Michael was there to help. He’s done dozens of SharePoint Saturday’s, so he’s got more experience than anyone else.
I hope you find this check list useful. I’m sure Toni, Isaac and Michael will have their own take on it.
Please have a very successful event. I look forward to following your progress.