Behind the scenes: online events

My role as a Content Executive has adapted since we started producing online events in 2020. Alongside my usual job role, I have managed live and pre-recorded sessions in an online broadcast studio and learned to vision-mix (an exciting and daunting first for me!). I stepped in as a gameshow assistant for a client’s online party, have been a tech-savvy support guide, and I have even tried my hand at a bit of graphic design. Delivering online events has proved to be unpredictable and rewarding in equal measure and not without tech challenges.

“You’re on mute” has become my most used phrase this year but luckily there have not been any “I’m not a cat” moments during our online events. Nor has a broadcast meeting descended into Jackie Weaver chaos and fortunately none of our moderators have forgotten to turn their cameras off to go to the toilet. Nevertheless, I have seen my fair share of bloopers!

The tea-stained moderator
Four seconds before I broadcast an online event live to hundreds of attendees; the moderator spilled hot tea all down his smart shirt. We both howled with laughter– as if this could have happened! He was contemplating taking his shirt off to change but I stopped him in time “NO!” We didn’t have time and a topless moderator wasn’t quite the professional look that the delegates had signed up for. With mere seconds to spare, I frantically clicked a few buttons and found a frame to use that just shot to his face and shoulders, so his tea-stained shirt was out of view. It meant that he was unable to move for the duration of the session and was sitting in hot tea, but nobody had any idea watching from afar. Phew….

Lights, camera, action
Speakers sometimes join our events from different time zones, and we always encourage those joining late in the evening to set up bright lamps to improve the lighting. However, we had not factored in the possibility that a speaker’s lights could automatically turn off in the evening due to the security system at their office. This is what happened when a speaker was suddenly sitting in darkness. I quickly thought on my feet, removed said speaker from view and transitioned to someone else whilst the speaker hastily operated the security lights. Panic resolved!

Does anyone know of any good sign language teachers?
We always provide speakers with instructions to mitigate Wi-Fi and technology problems and are on hand to help wherever possible, but sometimes technology is out of our control. I was pre-recording an online session with a speaker when his laptop froze and he suddenly couldn’t hear the audio. I frantically typed instructions to him and used embarrassingly exaggerated gestures on camera to get my points across. Through a mix of this and him lip reading, we somehow produced a polished recording. Takeaway: I really ought to learn universal sign language.

As event professionals, we can try to think of every possible scenario but we can only plan so much! When confronted with an unexpected challenge, we keep a calm exterior, think on our feet, and find a solution. The online world will always present its tech difficulties, but it is our role to deal with these quickly. In the words of my colleague Tracy, “we are the Dellar Davies Event Swans – serene on top of the water but paddling furiously underneath!”