2020 saw real and virtual worlds collide and many of us worked hard to recreate effective networking opportunities in the vastness of cyberspace… From back bedrooms to kitchen tables, global events were hosted and attended, including our REAP 2020 conference, which was our biggest yet.
It was also the first time we had all been in the same room for nine months! Here are some of our ‘note to self’ moments, and remember:
He knows if you’ve been bad or good….so be good for goodness sake!
1. Don’t even think about breathing or relaxing during an event livestream. It is mainly collective willpower and nervous energy that keeps the internet going and the livestream connected.
2. Bring on the sugar rush. Digital conferences in our view are best fuelled by a potent mix of chocolate buttons, dolly mixtures, jelly beans and fizzy sweets. Crisps are optional. A lunchtime Deliveroo is strongly advised (please don’t judge us – we have the rest of our lives to eat our fruit and vegetables).
3. Grit your teeth and risk being patronising. Ask people to check they can turn their mic and cameras on and off…. it is one less thing to worry about. Practice and practice the links and handovers with all your speakers.
4. Here’s one I made earlier. Some element of pre-record in the sessions saves your sanity. It is a heck of an editing job beforehand, but does allow valuable breathing space to psych yourself for the next live “bit.”
5. Potty training. Negotiate with colleagues about the order and priority of going to the loo. Everyone will need to go as a matter of extreme urgency once you have stopped live-streaming.
6. Prepare for deja vu. There will be times when you see a speaker in triplicate across different screens, with their words being delayed by 5 seconds on each screen. This will be disorientating and confusing and, frankly, who needs to see three versions of their Director / Chairman?
7. Even in cyberspace they can hear you scream. People will be more interested in a “behind the scenes” picture of your office environment than you expect.
8. Sounds carry. Even if you put “QUIET PLEASE, EVENT IN PROGRESS” notices on all your office windows, people will still stand outside having a loud chat. We suggest deploying some sort of passive aggressive action to get them to go away.
9. January Blues. Digital conferences do, indeed, provide great new opportunities for expanding your scope and impact… but they are also jolly hard work to deliver well. Don’t under-estimate how shattered you will feel when it is all over.
10. Cold turkey. In real-life, the time taken to dismantle exhibition stands, collect badges and pack up papers, plus bidding farewell to delegates provides an important segue into the post-conference mindset. Without that transition, the aftermath of running an event in the cyber world can feel disappointingly flat, so do call your colleagues after for a de-brief and get that G&T (or equivalent) at the ready!
Going digital this year has been by no means an easy task; everything on this list represents a challenge that’s been researched, tested, and overcome. That being said, we’re incredibly proud of the work of the Agri-TechE team this year, as well as the effort from all our members in adapting to this new way of working, approaching new opportunities with an open mind, and engaging with the network digitally. From lab to living room, tractor cab to computer, they collectively have shown the resilience of agriculture and the willingness to adopt technology to keep learning and keep innovating.
No doubt we’ll have more notes to add for 2021 – but in the meantime, enjoy the festive season and celebrate a job well done!