Friday 28th August 2020 Getting the best from our virtual events

Hopefully in 2021 Workplace Trends and other event organisers will be able to run physical conferences again. Most likely they will all be hybrid events, with a mix of virtual and real life experiences – something we’ve been particularly working towards for a few years now. Covid has just accelerated us in this direction.

This is how we found the Hopin virtual event platform. At the beginning of the year I suspect Hopin was jut another small Californian start up. But in the face of the global pandemic the founders were suddenly confronted with an enormous and hungry market, desperate for their product. All credit to them, they’ve done a fantastic job to bring the software forward in such a short space of time.

So both what should have been our spring Workplace Trends Research Summit (now scheduled for 10 September) and our main autumn London conference (taking place on 15 October 2020) are both happening on the Hopin platform.

Ahead of these events we want to make sure our delegates are comfortable with the platform and don’t spend the first half hour of the conferences finding their way around. To this end we’re running some short orientation events, plus I hope the following notes will help outline how the events will work.

In short, the programmers at Hopin have emulated a full conference venue as far as is possible, in an online environment.

After entering the event, attendees are taken to the Reception area – the information hub and equivalent of a venue’s lobby. The other areas in the venue are on the left sidepanel. These include Stage, Networking, Sessions, and Expo.

Which browsers work best?

The latest versions of Chrome or Firefox guarantee the best experience. Brave, Safari, and Microsoft IE or Edge don’t quite have the web tech that’s required.

Note: Sometimes, third-party extensions can affect the experience blocking some of the Hopin interface elements. If this happens Hopin advises to open the event in Incognito mode on Chrome or Private tab on Firefox.

The 5 areas of Hopin

There are five areas in a Hopin event. Each area is flexible and provides live interaction for attendees in different ways.

1. Reception

The Reception area is the welcome page or “lobby” of an event. Here you can quickly find out what’s happening at the event currently: the organizer’s welcome message, sponsors, the schedule, and speakers. The Reception area is also used for announcements, important links, messages, and event updates.

2. Stage

This is a one-to-many interaction area that supports up to 100,000 concurrent viewers. The Stage is great for keynotes, presentations, panels, performances, and fireside chats.

3. Sessions

The Sessions segment of Hopin delivers the best experience for group discussions. In Sessions, you will see virtual roundtables for speakers and attendees to interact. Up to 10 people can participate in a Session with their camera on, with up to 500 people who can watch off-camera and interact via the session chat. This will be where attendees ask questions to the speakers on camera if they wish, or through the chat function, whichever they are comfortable with.

Attendees can also create any number of their own sessions during the live event.

4. Networking

The Networking segment on Hopin is pure engagement and is similar to one-on-one meetings on a FaceTime call. This segment is designed to recreate the “coffee-in-the-lobby” conversations or watercooler chats. The Networking area automates the discovery of new connections. When an attendee participates in the Networking, they are matched with a random attendee and meet for a set time preset by the organizer.

Attendees can click the Connect button during a call to exchange contact information and after the event the newly made contacts will appear at https://hopin.to/account/connectionspage of their individual Profile.

5. Expo

The Expo area is the virtual exhibitor hall with vendor booths.

Every booth will either have a pre-recorded video in it, or a live video session with a vendor representative manning and moderating the booth.

Plus, you can leave your details with the click of a button for vendors to follow up with you later if you wish, and many will also be carrying an event special offer for delegates.

How do people get around at a Hopin event?

Similar to a physical event, the Hopin event experience is self-directed but with wayfinding tools and signs to help people easily get around. Attendees ultimately choose where they want to go.

Chats for everyone

There are multiple chat channels in a Hopin event. Each one serves a different purpose.

  • Event chat — global event chat where all participants can post messages.
  • Stage chat — chat with a Stage-related discussion all attendees have access to.
  • Session chat — each session in Sessions has dedicated chat rooms. Attendees who are off-camera can chat to interact with people on camera and vice-versa.
  • Booth chat — like Sessions, each booth has its own chat for group discussions and interaction.
  • Meeting chat — in Networking, a private 1:1 chat channel is available to the participants.
  • Direct messages — anyone can send messages to an individual at a Hopin event via DMs in the People tab. To send a DM, find the person you wish to chat with in the People tab, click their profile photo, and send a direct message to them.

I hope you like the sound of this platform. I certainly did, having spent many days in early lockdown searching for an online model that would get us this close to an in-person conference experience.

Check out our Workplace Trends Research Summit if you haven’t already got your ticket. Full details are on our website and on Hopin of course as well.

Thanks for reading, stay safe and well.

Best wishes, Maggie