With our virtual user conference coming up in early June, we’re discovering how different the online format is as we get into the nitty-gritty of hosting the event.

Undoubtedly, you just can’t beat face-to-face interaction and the energy of a live group. We know a live conference is better; provided that enough people will actually be there. However, our survey indicated that most would’ve been unable to travel to either Victoria or Seattle this year due to travel restrictions.

After deciding the show must go on, it became apparent an online conference would circumvent the core problem (travel) and is doable technology-wise. So we made the commitment, while making clear it’s a big experiment. I’m confident the content will be better than ever before, but I think we didn’t fully appreciate just how radically different a live in-person event is from a live online event. 

For example, think about time zones. When people fly here from Europe they usually have a day or two to recover from jet-lag, and they fully accept the conference schedule during Pacific Daylight Time. On the other hand, if you haven’t left your time zone, the idea of staying up until 2AM is utterly preposterous. Looking back, perhaps we should’ve scheduled sessions for two hours a day over two weeks. But even then, it’s always a lousy time somewhere in the world.

Our solution to the timezone challenge is to record every session and make the videos available for convenient later viewing by attendees, but those folks still won’t get to participate in live polls and other interactive components. Again, I’m confident we’ll deliver good value and hosting the event will be far better than the alternative (nothing), but my point remains… live vs. online conferences are very different animals.

Stay tuned for a candid self-assessment next month of how things go. And be adventurous... don't forget to register.