“We learned to adapt and to be flexible with the timing of the recordings”
GCB FutureTalks #16 with Kristin Mirabal, formerly Director of Global Events for ACAMS
Kristin Mirabal, formerly director for global events for ACAMS, and her team recently organized the ACAMS24+ event. Within only five weeks they managed to set up a 24-hour online event with more than 70 speakers and attendees joining from around the world. In a conversation with Matthias Schultze, she shared her experiences with taking on this special project and how attendee engagement can be promoted in the future.
Matthias Schultze: Recently, you implemented the ACAMS24+ event – a 24-hour online event for anti-money laundering specialists from around the globe. Leading up to this event you worked with globally distributed teams and communities. How did the planning for this event differ from previous F2F events? What were the biggest challenges? And what were your key learnings from this event?
Kristin Mirabal: ACAMS is a global organization with events held throughout the year touching on topics of interest to the audience of the region in which the event is held. The ACAMS24+ virtual event offered the unique opportunity for the ACAMS thought leaders and subject matter experts from around the globe to collaborate and curate content that would be of interest to a broader community when normally their interests were more regionally focused.
Challenges included narrowing the topics and ensuring that we had global representation of our speaking faculty. Additionally, the scheduling of the sessions proved important so that we reached audiences during their optimal viewing times. Key learnings included allowing enough time for the recording of content – we certainly underestimated the effort required as well as the varying bandwidth/connectivity capabilities around the globe. We learned to adapt and to be flexible with the timing of the recordings as well as the platform used for the recordings (skype/zoom/teams).
As we continuously streamed for 24+ hours the "in-between" session times presented opportunities for us to cross promote our products and services as well as highlighting key sponsors. These 2-3 minute intervals proved just as important and expended almost as much resources as producing the 45-50 minutes session slots. Lastly our sponsors wanted more “face-time” so we allowed for select sponsored slots where we worked with the sponsors on curating and producing their content.
Matthias Schultze: Many virtual or hybrid event attendees have identified the lack of exchange and networking opportunities as one of the new formats’ key challenges. What measures did you take to enable the exchange between event attendees and how can virtual or hybrid events foster human exchange and networking in the future?
Kristin Mirabal: I agree, networking between attendees in a virtual format remains a challenge. We found that the chat feature allowed for interaction between attendees. We assigned staff to facilitate interaction but for the most part we were pleasantly surprised that it was the attendees that kept the conversation going during the event. One participant created a LinkedIn group (I wish we had thought to do so) where attendees could continue to discuss the content following the event. For future events I would recommend encouraging the live platform chat features along with the live Q&A where participants can vote-up the questions.
Additionally, we made sure that after each session (most were recorded) that there was a live Q&A portion with the panelists/speakers. This was conducted via audio only and not on video. As hybrid events return, organizers will need to find ways to allow for interaction between the in-person and virtual audiences. Conference apps, formats like the popular braindate platform can help to facilitate dialogue. Video chats embedded in event apps is the next step and I believe it is in development by several providers.
Matthias Schultze: As for any event, planners must ensure that both the appropriate technical infrastructure as well as the relevant expertise are in place. This is particularly true for an all-day online event. How did you develop this infrastructure and expertise? Did you rely on any external providers? And what precautions – from both a technical and a conceptual perspective – did you take to ensure that the event ran smoothly?
Kristin Mirabal: We have regularly delivered exceptional content for our F2F events and were confident in our ability to do the same for the virtual format. We did however lack in the technical expertise to coach our speakers in delivering on-camera on a virtual platform. For this expertise we relied on a production company.
In addition to the platform provider, we hired a professional production company to produce the recorded content. They ran the event like a 24-hour news channel, helping us with the session transitions and cues to some of the live from recorded content. We used a live translation service to not only accommodate those who were hearing impaired by providing closed captioning of all of the materials, we also provided the same in multiple languages. It was important that we were inclusive of our global audience across multiple languages.
I would recommend rehearsals with all the providers in place close to the event. We found these invaluable as they help us identify gaps in content as well as resources. We also wanted to make sure that the providers were comfortable working together and that the proper teams were in place. I cannot express the importance of these rehearsals.
Below is the link to an article that I wrote about the event on LinkedIn after PCMA did a profile for Convene. Happy to discuss further and answer any additional questions.