Peer to Peer: ILTA's Quarterly Magazine

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55 I L T A N E T . O R G attendees to be able to navigate the conference sessions and interact with each other. ILTA already uses online communities: there's a match. In the end, the solution design was an exercise of identifying attendee user stories and which of our existing applications could deliver those needs. The platform is merely the delivery mechanism. Generating value for the attendee is the product. While we received plenty of complements on the platform for delivering ILTA>ON, no one commented on the specific systems, such as the communities or the content management system. Attendees received value in attending GREAT educational sessions, interacting with other attendees – particularly chats during sessions, and getting an overall sense of what they would have received from attending ILTACONs in years past. Was ILTA>ON the same as ILTACON, no. We knew that going in. But did our attendees rave about the value they received by attending ILTA>ON, yes. It's value creation that people, if I may use a pun, value. As I mentioned above, there is much we can improve. The biggest from a technical perspective is our chat capabilities. While the conversation during sessions was so vibrant it was described as twitter-esque, and the conversations outside of sessions offered additional opportunities to network, it was not unified. Zoom chats died in the zoom room and non-session conversations occurred in the communities. We would like to see that merged under the ever-elusive goal of unified communication. We can also improve member and business partner interactions. In-person conferences have similar issues to virtual conferences. Instead of microphone issues and locked room doors, you have mute button issues and bad meeting links. It's no different with the exhibit hall. In an in- person conference, you drive traffic to the exhibit hall. Those interactions are valuable for both the members, in terms of education, and the business partners, in terms of exposure to their offerings. We will continue to work on improving those interactions, just like we would for an in-person conference. In the years to come, I have many wishes. First among them is an end to COVID. Even with that desire, I think we can safely say some aspect of virtual conferences is here to stay. Primarily because people found value in attending virtually. All our conferences this year have experienced record attendance numbers since members and business partners who normally do not get the opportunity to participate were suddenly able to do so. Whenever the time comes where we can attend conferences in person again, there will still be those who want to participate virtually. Delivering value through a hybrid model of in- person and virtual attendance will allow us to provide the best of both worlds. ILTA 3 as many of our most engaged volunteers. Too many to properly thank here - but thank you all the same! I am not going to say this was an easy project. Many of our staff worked nights and weekends, probably the whole month of August. And there was the opportunity cost, as other projects received less attention or were shelved entirely. But the platform was built. In the end, we delivered an exceptional conference, at a reduced cost, that we can now replicate with much less effort. Words cannot express how proud I am of our team and volunteers who made this happen. This was a mammoth undertaking, and as it has in the past, our team rose to the challenge. So, what did we learn? There are three key lessons: Start with the end in mind, not the technology. It did not matter that we used Higher Logic communities for the site design or Zoom for our session delivery. It was the understanding that we needed to provide a conference agenda, enable people to navigate between meetings and attend educational sessions that drove our solution. Like all non-technical projects, start with the why and what before you work on the how. Break down your needs into consumable chunks. Building a virtual conference platform in 8 weeks sounds like a daunting task. But if you look at each component, the solution starts to present itself. For example, we needed to deliver educational sessions. ILTA already uses Zoom for our virtual meetings: there's a match. We needed 1 2 Corey Simpson Chief Operating Officer ILTA

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