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“We’re live in five minutes”: the value of an event producer

John Lovell

When conferencing event technology isn’t playing nicely minutes before an important live virtual training session is set to begin, that’s when having an experienced Event Producer really matters.

Recently I witnessed an incident during a live video conferencing event, and it really served to highlight how challenging it can be for presenters when unexpected technical issues come up “in the heat of the moment.” It was also a powerful example of the value that a seasoned Event Producer (EP) can bring to the table when it comes to managing conferences.

The client was a government agency conducting an important two-day training session on the use of a new software system they had recently adopted. There were two external presenters who were experts in the new software, conducting a series of lengthy tutorials on how to use the system – so they needed to keep their presentations engaging.

One presenter, however, had been replaced at the last minute and wasn’t 100% confident in using the conferencing tools the organization had chosen for the event. Soon it would be discovered that her computer wasn’t totally compatible with the presentation platform they were using – an issue which arose just at the wrong time. But that’s where a good EP’s experience, and knowledge of multiple popular conferencing event platforms, really proves its worth.

Two days is a long time to sit through multiple-hour training sessions, and there were several hundred participants on the call, so getting them involved was critical. They decided to sprinkle about 15 poll questions in at various points throughout their slides, tally the results and discuss the findings – in real time.

The challenges of managing live conferencing events

Now, let’s pause here to think about the elements already in play on this call – “balls in the air” to juggle, if you like. There were:

  • Two presenters, in different locations, external to the organization hosting the training
  • Hundreds of participants calling in, using either a desktop conferencing event application or traditional telephone lines, all in different time zones
  • An interactive slide presentation to keep running smoothly
  • Live polling questions to conduct, at agreed-upon points during the call, and corresponding results to tally and display in real-time

Imagine being the person presenting the training material, and also having to manage all of these disparate elements. Seems almost impossible, and it nearly is!

Fortunately, this was a client of Intellor’s and so they were working in partnership with a dedicated, experienced Event Producer whose responsibility is to juggle these different technologies and features, communicate (using separate lines) with both organizers and participants, and make sure everything flows the way it should, without interruption or delay.

I happened to be observing this particular call in one of Intellor’s studios and listened in while the EP went through a standard pre-event session with the presenters to test all the functionality before they began. The EP had the participants on hold in a “green room” and was giving them regular spoken updates on when they would begin – “Your event will be starting in ten minutes, please continue to hold,” etc. He effortlessly toggled back and forth between participants and presenters and was practicing the polling cues with them before going live.

The presenter, however, needed to launch the polling slides at the right time in order for the Event Producer to know when to begin the interactive poll – but because she was a recent replacement taking over for someone else, she was having trouble finding the place in the software interface to do so. It soon became clear that in her browser, she was not seeing the pop-up menu that she needed to access. At one point I heard her say, “I can’t get this working and we’re live in five minutes,” with noticeable (and understandable) stress in her voice.

But then an amazing thing happened. The EP had been trained to handle incompatibility issues, and knew he had options. He suggested she try a few tweaks and neither of them worked. I could sense that the presenters were getting anxious: the clock was ticking, and all of the presenters were assembled and ready to start. Then, the EP calmly suggested a third fix. The presenter tried what he suggested, and voila! – there was the drop-down she needed, visible on her screen. She was able to launch the poll module and the EP could take over from there to manage the interactive portion.

I could sense in the room, even over audio and video lines, a calm settle in. The EP knew how to solve the problem from his experience in running multiple calls and conferences just like this one, and the presenters could breathe easy, knowing they had a steady hand on the tiller throughout the training session.

The ultimate value of conferencing event producers

Throughout the call, there were multiple polls launched at various times and they all worked flawlessly. Afterwards the two presenters thanked the EP profusely for helping them to run a successful, smooth training operation that was clearly important to their organization.

This is the power of managed, professional “conferencing as a service.” When so much is on the line, many organizations know they can’t afford for things to go wrong – whether they are critical training events, public communications, town hall sessions or urgent announcements. They choose to bring in an experienced partner to handle the many moving parts of the conference, so that they can focus on what matters most – getting their message across, clearly and effectively.