Last month, I was delighted to participate in an educational experiment. I often lead roundtable conversations among meeting professionals for organizations such as Plan Your Meetings and PCMA, but for the MPI Cascadia Educational Conference (MPI-CEC) I was asked to do so as a virtual presenter/moderator.
Normally, I would jump at the chance to travel to Seattle and stay at an exotic resort I’d never been to. But being seven and a half months pregnant, flying across the country and spending two days in transit to present a session was a daunting prospect. Thankfully, they agreed to let me present “Making Cents: Cost-Saving Measures to Increase Your Meeting’s Bottom Line” virtually from the comfort of my Atlanta office, using the online platform Skype.com for Mac, which lets me toggle between a live video feed and my computer desktop.
Doing so not only reduced the carbon footprint of the meeting, it also helped emphasize one of the innovative cost-saving solutions available to the planners in attendance: By virtually beaming in a presenter, planners can save on speaker’s fees (I don’t charge as much for virtual as I do for in-person engagements) as well as the costs of transporting and feeding the speaker. And by using Skype, I was able to share my presentation with the audience at no cost to me or the event organizers. Plus, from my standpoint, it improved my quality of life by allowing me to contribute 90 minutes of quality education to the group without sacrificing time at the office or with my family.
To ensure that we could fully engage the audience, I had an in-room moderator, Susan M. Kerber, CMP, who had attended my “Making Cents” session at the PCMA Emerging Leaders Conference in Dallas earlier this year, so she was familiar with its unconventional format, which involved a lot of group discussion. During the session at MPI-CEC, she could pass the microphone through the audience, help troubleshoot any tech issues and gather attendee’s notes to share with me afterwards. Through a series of conference calls with the conference’s educational coordinator Cathy Mason, CMP, Susan and I discussed the format and what we should do if there were any technical hiccups. After a couple of tech runs, we were set, and the session went off without a hitch. Although, I do think in the future I will have my in-room moderator record the conversations and e-mail me the audio file rather than try to record the session over my laptop’s speaker. Something truly gets lost in the (audio) translation.
During the session we discussed the attendees’ current budget challenges and discovered potential solutions. Some of those in attendance wanted to discuss other challenges they were facing, so we answered those questions as well. To read a summary of findings, visit “Your questions answered: Meeting professionals speak up at MPI-CEC.”
All in all, Susan and I felt as if having the in-room moderator was necessary to the success of the videocast session, especially because the format required so much audience participation. “People really jumped into the spirit of things and became engaged without a whole lot of prodding,” Susan noted. “I heard many comments about what a very informative and helpful session it was.”