There was a time when international events took the form of large conferences, to be held in large venues, with interpreters translating in real-time to allow vast international crowds to share knowledge and debate ideas. The logistics of that kind of event were obviously very complex. Our entire world has changed unimaginably over the past year, to the point that it is almost unthinkable nowadays to hold events in this format and we had to learn how to organise international digital events. Worldwide conventions of politicians, scientists, and professionals of all industries now happen on virtual platforms or video-conference platforms, panels are streamed and audiences gather virtually without travelling, thus expanding the scope of many major trade shows and festivals. What do you need to know if you are hoping to organise or attend international digital events this year?
What you need to know about international digital events
Language barriers have not disappeared
International digital events, by definition, cater to international audiences and, while the English language is generally used and accepted for registration forms and official websites, it is not advisable to assume that all attendees will be able to participate in complex panels and discussions in English. Depending on the field you work in, you might want to invest in interpreters to offer a multilingual service. This will inevitably add to the overall cost of the event, not just because you will need to hire the required professionals, but because you will have to set up the needed infrastructure for them to be able to do their job. Even the most popular and easy-access platforms, such as Zoom, now offer premium services allowing for different audio channels on which to stream the required translations, but you will need to configure and test them effectively beforehand. It might also be useful to request copies of all introductory speeches, greetings, and presentations in advance, thus making the interpreters’ work quicker and easier. It may also be worth translating your official website into multiple languages, to show international attendees that you care about their experience.
Take different time-zones into account
International digital events need to engage all attendees at the same time. If your attendees are located in different time zones, this might make attendance less convenient for some of them. If your event is truly global, it is unlikely that you will manage to find a time that fits absolutely everyone, but there are steps you can take to make sure you minimise any inconvenience or at least spread it evenly to avoid penalising specific groups. If, on the other hand, you can establish in advance which time zones the majority of your attendees will be logging in from, you can plan accordingly. Whatever option you choose, don’t forget to make it extremely clear, in your official communication, which time-zone the event times refer to.
There’s no such thing as too many trial runs
When organising international digital events, technical problems and glitches are your nemeses and you should do all you can to plan ahead for them and avoid them. For this reason, you should schedule as many trial runs as possible, to test all features of your chosen event platform and make sure the whole technical team knows exactly what to do and how the whole event is going to flow. Make sure you have experimented with all available functions of the tools you will be using and plan against last-minute glitches, with at least a plan-B for everything and anything that can go wrong.