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Virtual event solution

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This year, it’s going to be virtual!

For the third time in a row, the Applied Artificial Intelligence Conference (AAIC) 2020, organized by Advantage Austria, takes place. With one difference. This year it's going to be virtual!

We talked to Matthias Grabner, event organizer & director of technology at Advantage Austria, and asked which challenges he is facing and how he experiences the pivot. The citations throughout the article are from an interview with him.

Initially, we planned to host this year's conference just like the years before, as a physical event here in Vienna, Austria. But because we have a very international speaker line-up and due to the current situation (COVID-19), we were forced to take action.

As the name suggests, the conference is all about how real-world businesses can make use of AI. To address this topic, the conference hosts keynotes from international experts, deep-diving workshops on specific topics, and provides a forum to connect developers of AI solutions with potential end-users from all industry sectors. You can see the event agenda here.

The conference which is going to take place on May 11th is still open for registration and you can participate for free. In this short video the organizers briefly describe what the conference's all about:

Virtual event format lets the organizer face a completely new set of challenges

We asked, why they did choose a pivot to virtual, instead of postponing the event.

First of all, for us, it was important to be proactive, not reactive. We considered postponing our event, but a lot of organizers chose to do the same, so (probably) a lot of events are going to take place in September/October. This will stress out attendees, and it is likely to impact the attendance of postponed events negatively.
Additionally, due to the topic of the conference, it just seemed like the ideal case to try hosting it virtually. As the idea behind this whole conference is to showcase how a rather theoretical topic (AI) can be practically implemented. So we saw ourselves as organizers, responsible to live up to what’s at the core of our conference, to be innovative, and apply a new solution for our own conference.

After the decision for a pivot to virtual had been made, the challenge itself was to create a virtual counterpart for the conference, which’s agenda consists of three elements:

  • Keynotes from industry experts
  • Workshops on specific topics
  • Connect developers of AI solutions with industry end-users

Those elements also had to be the focus points of the virtual conference.

You could think that a virtual event is easier to organize than a physical event, and the challenges are easily solved when you just use the right tool. Asking the organizer about comparing the planning process of a physical event vs. a virtual one, he said:

It is more flexible, you can implement stuff faster, you actually have more free resources and the entire logistics planning related to the physical event (like the location, catering, etc.) can be omitted.
Apparently, it seems to be easier to have a virtual event. But, the entire workflow is turned upside-down.
You as an organizer, have to adapt the same flexibility which comes with the online-only setup. The response time you have for interventions during the event is drastically reduced. You have to be more agile. Also, because there are a lot of currently unknown factors.

What are those unknown factors for the virtual event?

It starts with a good streaming set-up. This topic is not as trivial as it seems to be, and I guess it is an unknown topic for many other organizers and they don’t have the technical know-how to do it properly.
Additionally, how can I make sure the internet connection of my speaker line-up is good enough? How do participants behave during the event and what kind of interventions could be needed during the event?

How do you approach those factors?

For the streaming set-up and quality testing of the speaker line-up connections, we did hire a third-party organization. Even though we would have the knowledge to technically solve those factors, it gives a great peace of mind to know that experts are there to back you up.
For the interaction with the participants during the event, we are in close contact with all our keynote speakers and make sure that interactivity gets prioritized. This is important because, when you think about it, interactivity is really the only thing that differentiates those keynotes from ted-talks or something.
And most importantly, we make sure that our team can react and take action as fast as possible.

The virtual event solution

To represent the three key elements of the conference, a virtual event solution was needed.

Do you currently look for a similar solution?

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We did look at extremely many different solutions out there because we have to make sure that we can deliver our services. Additionally, we always get input from our worldwide offices, telling us about their good and bad experiences with platform providers being used in their part of the world.
Anyway, a couple of reasons did lead to our decision, using b2match for this. We know how well the networking & matchmaking functionalities work, like the detailed profile set-up, the listings of “searching for” and “offering” opportunities in the marketplace, and the smooth meeting scheduling.
Nobody else has worked-out those features so well, and we can’t sacrifice on this. Additionally, the new virtual event solution allows us to create a virtual version of this event, which is what we were looking for.

The first part of the new b2match virtual event solution makes it possible to broadcast the event program & engage the audience online. Two of the three elements, namely the keynotes and workshops of the conference are covered  by a two-sided approach:

  1. Through an integrated broadcasting for live-sessions/workshops up to 100 participants
  2. Incorporation of any third-party streaming provider and embedding links to the virtual rooms directly into the agenda sessions

The second part of the solution enables the organizers to provide a forum, where developers of AI solutions can connect with industry end-users, and let them meet virtually.

Smart & customizable matchmaking of the platform enables participants to easily identify relevant meeting partners, and schedule meetings with them.

Those meetings are then taking place, through 1:1 video meetings, which enable participants to have their scheduled meetings remotely. It is fully integrated into the platform, so participants can meet online with just one click. No additional software installation or account setup is needed.

Online meetings are not the same as in-person meetings, but probably everyone already knows that they are a viable substitute for many cases. Bottom line: they work!

How well they actually work, shows the outcome.

The Outcome

Right now (27.04.), one and a half weeks upfront the event, already 798 participants are registered, and almost 450 of them are available for meetings. So far, 155 1:1 meetings have been scheduled. Chances are, those numbers are already far greater when you are reading this, you can check the actual numbers on the event website.

We can already now conclude that the share of international participants is far greater than the previous year. The acceptance of the new format is extremely high.

Put in perspective, this means a 290 % increase in international participants  (still counting) compared to last year.

And, last year's benchmark of participants available for 1:1 meetings is already now exceeded by 71 %.

  • 2020 - 578 international participants (excl. Austria) from 55 countries
  • 2019 - 148 international participants (excl. Austria) from 26 countries
  • 2020 - 447 participants available for 1:1 meetings
  • 2019 - 260 participants available for 1:1 meetings

We see that those registered participants perfectly match our target group.

Up until now, the numbers of the AAIC 2020 look promising and indicate that the new event format seems to be a viable alternative. We asked the organizer if he could give us a preview of how their future event setup could look like.

We already had the idea to switch some of our events to be virtual, but we did not really take action. The current situation was the tipping point we needed, to finally give it a go and try it out!
It’s a very interesting experiment for us. At the bottom-line, it is all about acceptance. If the conference turns out to be a success & the participants are happy, we can imagine regularly having online events & hybrid events.

Note: the event will first take place on the 11th of May, so the actual outcome will be updated shortly after!

New @ b2match: Virtual Event Solution

The new virtual event solution lets you create an engaging virtual experience for your audience to network, connect & collaborate.

You can explore new business opportunities, run events virtually across the entire world, or incorporate virtual attendance as an addition to your physical event.

Key features the solution compose are:

  • Ability to distribute & broadcast content (your event program)
  • Flexible meetings scheduling
  • An option to easily integrate third-party streaming providers
  • New 1:1 video meeting format

If you want more information about the virtual event solution:

Read more

Or talk to us and start using it four your event now:

Contact us