Digital is here to stay: the impact of ‘the new normal’ on meetings and events
When large parts of Europe went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events had to start to work very differently. Physical meetings went digital. Face-to-face discussions became screen-to-screen. The focus of conversations changed. In this post, Gina van der Linden reflects on this shift from physical to digital events, and shares her learnings from the past few months.
Adjusting to the new normal
Around the world, the COVID-19 crisis has catalysed huge changes in our personal and working lives. For many people, the past few months have been intense and most of us are all still adapting to this ‘new normal’.
At the Europeana Foundation, our work environment changed as staff began to work from home. Some might assume that, working for an organisation with a focus on digital, this meant that we simply moved our ‘desk’ from our office to our own homes. This was true for some, but posed a challenge for others, including me as Events Manager.
Until this year, our focus had been on organising physical events such as our annual conference. Personally, this was and is my passion. But 2020 has already proven to be very different. At the beginning of March we realised - like many institutions around the world - that we had to switch from physical to virtual meetings. As we worked to organise these, exchanging information with our peers across our network and sector was hugely valuable. Below, I share some of Europeana’s own learnings about this process.
First steps: trialling the Europeana Aggregators’ Forum
At Europeana we decided to move entirely from in-person events to online events for the rest of this year. That was of course easier said than done. We needed to rethink our way of working and move quickly to bring our Europeana Aggregators’ Forum meeting and a following Copyright Workshop online within a few weeks.
As a team we worked intensively to create an ‘online-proof’ programme. We ran tests, became familiar with new tools, and created clear roles and responsibilities for the team. We also designed an online programme and a workbook so people could find everything they needed in one place, and in advance of the events. We had already learned that having even a few online meetings in one day can be exhausting, so we wanted to make this as easy and as accessible as possible.
In the talks and workshops themselves, we decided to ‘flip the classroom.’ Instead of having live online presentations, we asked all speakers to record their presentation at home so that we could share those in advance with our participants to watch at their own convenience. In the programme, a dedicated time slot related to these videos was reserved for discussion and some Q&A.
We added as much detailed information to the workbook as possible so people would know in advance what to expect and could prepare themselves. We also shared a Google document beforehand so people could add any comments, thoughts or questions before the meeting.
70 people attended the Europeana Aggregators’ Forum and Copyright Workshop, most joining both days from start to finish. According to the positive feedback we received from participants in the days afterwards, it was a real success!
Of course not everything went smoothly, and we learned a lot during those sessions. For example we realised that we needed to create a flowchart with key rules and guidelines to run digital events - not only to make our lives easier, but to also benefit our network. This chart is being designed as we speak and will be available soon with some useful tips and tricks.
Get involved and learn more
We have organised a variety of online events since the Aggregators’ Forum, and are continually building on our learning. In the coming months we have planned more exciting webinars and workshops, which are all listed on Europeana Pro. We will also be publishing more posts sharing knowledge and learning around online events, so check Europeana Pro news for more!
Additionally, the Europeana Communicators Community, with the Europeana Foundation, is holding a webinar on Tuesday 7 July on ‘Running webinars: what we’ve learnt so far’ to share learning and facilitate discussion about holding events online - you can sign up for the webinar today.
And of course we hope to welcome you at our online annual conference in November. We are working on a programme for this, but please save the date, 11-13 November and register your interest so you will receive news first hand.