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Delivering a virtual conference in lockdown: APM’s Power of Projects Takeover

When lockdown started in March, Hilary Trahair, Events Manager, Association for Project Management realised very quickly that their summer conference would have to be cancelled.

Whilst a devastating blow, APM knew that they did not want to lose out on all the work that they had put in to the event, so they immediately started looking at virtual options. “We knew we had plenty of good content and the majority of speakers were still really keen to participate in a virtual space, which was very encouraging and gave us the impetus to go forward. The challenge then became how can we transform our successful conference format into a virtual one?” explained Hilary.

They soon realised that they could not just take the existing format and timetable and simply transfer it online.

For a start, there was far too much content for one day, as the event was really three conferences. Instead, they came up the idea of a virtual event that would take place every day from 12noon-2pm over a two week period, abandoning the term conference and renaming the event Power of Projects Takeover.

The extended timeframe meant they didn’t have to try squeeze all the content in one day and gave them the opportunity to create more engagement opportunities. For example, outside of the lunchtime content, they have launched APM’s brand-new community platform, APM Member Hub, which will allow delegates to continue the conversation, ask questions about the content that there was not time for, showcase APM products, such as qualifications and pick on areas of interest for future content, such as blogs. Having an extended timeframe also allows delegate more time to absorb the information being presented to them.

Delivering an excellent virtual delegate experience became the priority and the choice of the technology has been crucial to that process. APM had previously made the decision to use the event app InEvent during the physical conference to allow delegates to create their own agenda on the day, ask questions, take part in interactive polls, set up chats and network.

InEvent then developed their own web based virtual conference functionality and, as Hilary explains, APM chose their product. “InEvent allows delegates to choose the sessions they want to attend and the people they want to chat with. Networking is the one of the key reasons people attend a conference and we wanted to make our event as interactive as possible and more than a series of webinars. InEvent was the most flexible and best value product for us and they have been able to develop new features for us too. You do need to shop round though and do your research as all of these product have different pricing models and you need to very clear about your requirements.”

APM want to make the virtual experience as user friendly and interactive as possible alongside delivering valuable and insightful content.

Using the app, delegates will be able to:

  • View all the sessions in one place
  • Create their own agenda each day, giving them choice and control over the content they want to see
  • Register only once to access sessions for the whole event
  • See who is in the lobby to allow better networking opportunities and invite people to meetings
  • Use multi-devices to engage with the content
  • Download content and take part in polls and ask questions each day

Significantly, the majority of the content will still be live.

They have retained key speakers and delegates will be able to see the speaker talking as well as the content, explains Hilary: “Making the most of the live content is really important to us. We are encouraging speakers to stand up and move around as you would at a conference. Inevitably different people have different styles and levels of experience in delivering online events, so we have needed to coach some people, but everyone is open and enthusiastic to making the most of this event.”

A key difference from the physical conference is that there is no exhibition space to showcase sponsors. After some internal debate, APM has decided not to pursue sponsorship opportunities for this event recognising that it is not as clear cut what the sponsorship value is of a virtual event and sponsors are in a difficult place financially too. Instead they have used the opportunity to focus on more of their own content and use it as an opportunity to engage people in different ways to further their development. Hilary commented: “We have been lucky enough to make this event free which means we will be able to engage with even more people than we would normally, such as non-members and an international audience, an added benefit of a virtual event.”

APM is already thinking about how they can maximise the content of the virtual event afterwards, including offering members the benefit of being able to watch any sessions they may have missed after the event before releasing it into the public domain.

So far nearly 1,000 delegates have registered and APM welcomes anyone is who interested in projects to register for Power of Projects Takeover, which takes places from Monday 1 to Friday 12 June from 12:00pm. It is completely free of charge and open to anyone interested in projects, wherever they are in the world.