Are you all ready for our first virtual Conference?

I’m not going to lie, I’m a little bit sad this weekend.

For the last few days, and for the next few, Facebook will be bombarding me with memories of past years when I’ve headed off to the seaside for a whirlwind of social and political activity. There are pictures of me with my friends in pubs, on beaches and

It’s not just about the debates and the fringe and the late night gossip, it’s about getting to see the Lib Dem “family.” I know that I’ve “seen” more of people on Zoom and the like, but there is nothing like actually being in a room with people.

And it’s now a year since I last caught up with many of my friends and it’s likely to be some time yet before I can see them again. I miss you all.

Having said that, I am excited that our first ever online Conference is taking place next weekend. Getting this up and running in just a few months has been a massive job for staff at LDHQ, Federal Conference Committee and all the various training suppliers. A massive thank you to everyone who has been involved in this. It has taken a huge amount of time and everyone has done a marvellous job.

The party is using the Hopin platform for its events. The Scottish Party tried it out in July. At the time I gave my top tips for making the most of the experience. In summary, they are:

1 Read all the information

In July, the Scottish Lib Dems  had prepared a detailed and very helpful document outlining the process and how the tech worked. This time, there is a lot of information in the agenda and we’ll be emailed further details. Make sure you read it. Even if you are not a first-timer,  you will find this comprehensive guide that the party has produced really useful.

I only discovered that I’d have to download a new browser when I did that. Apparently Hopin and Safari aren’t that in love with each other so they recommend Chrome or Firefox. I hate doing tech stuff like this but it worked quite smoothly – though I had to change my passwords for my email because I couldn’t remember them. So my advice is do that this weekend and get it out of the way.

Take time to play around with the system ahead of time. There’s a demo here. We didn’t have any fringes or an exhibition at Scottish Conference but there is the usual glittering array of fringes and training which you can find out about in the Directory. One thing that hasn’t changed is that there are multiple things I want to go to in each time slot, but the advantage of this all being virtual is that the events will be available in Hopin for a few days afterwards.

2 Familiarise yourself with the process for speaking

You fill in a speakers’ card online. As Duncan Brack points out in the comments, you need to submit it by 4pm the day before the debate you want to speak in:

one thing people need to remember: the deadline for submitting speaker’s cards to speak in a debate is 4.00pm the day before the debate. So for debates taking place on the Friday, that means submitting on Thursday – the day after tomorrow, as I write. This is much earlier than in a normal conference, so don’t get caught out!

You then have to watch your email when the debate starts to see if you get called. There will be a special link in that area which gets you to the backstage area. You can still watch the Conference from there, but you need to close down the tab you are already watching on or you’ll get a dreadful echo as there is a time delay between the two. You will be asked to share your video and audio in the backstage area, which you need to allow it to do. Once you have done that, you still can’t say anything until you are called. When you can see yourself on-sceen with the session chair, you can just launch into your speech.

It is really weird to make a speech from your house. You don’t get the sort of feedback that you would if you were in the hall. You can’t tell if people like your jokes, or whether they are responding well to your arguments and it’s probably not a good idea to look in the chat while you are delivering your speech. However, you will be able to get some idea of the mood of the debate from the chat in the time leading up to your speech.

If you haven’t spoken before (and even if you have), it can really help to practice your speech and get some feedback from others. Would you find it useful if I set up a Zoom event at some point during this week to give you the opportunity to do that if you would like?

3 Download the Conference app

It will be easier to navigate between the various events you are going to at Conference. A few screen clicks is certainly quicker than walking between venues with all the distractions that entails. Because there is so much going on, the Conference app is a really useful resource for helping you to keep track of where you should be at any given time. If you go to your app store and search for Lib Dem Conf, you will find it. Some people had some trouble getting the events they put in their schedule to stay there, but it worked fine for me.

How to get involved

If you haven’t registered for conference yet, you can do so here. The fact that it is virtual means that people who couldn’t afford for either time, work or financial reasons can come. The Friday and Monday sessions are afternoon and evening so you can fit them in around work.

There is a huge amount to offer – keynote speeches, debates on UBI, Covid, Europe, mental health, a big consultation on party strategy as well as a varied and interesting range of fringe meetings and training. Don’t miss out.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • No, no I’m not ready, I’m crapping myself. What if it all goes horribly wrong and IT’S ALL MY FAULT?

    I mean this is how I normally feel before conference but it’s turned up to eleven this time because everything is new and different. There have been absolutely Herculean efforts made by the whole of FCC, especially the officers; and the conference office staff, frankly, deserve their pay doubling.

    I hope that it will all go smoothly, but remember if it does the aphorism about the swan: we’re all flapping our feet like hell under the surface to make it look so serene on top. And I hope if there ARE any teething troubles I hope that people will be kind.

  • Paul Barker 21st Sep '20 - 3:46pm

    I see the “Independent” is reporting that we are to drop our commitment to rejoining The EU at Conference. If you read the article it does mention that there will be Vote.

    I do hope Conference will reject this attempt to appeal to Voters who will never Vote for us.

  • Tony Greaves 21st Sep '20 - 5:18pm

    @William Wallace. Caron will not be laughing at your jokes because you never make any!! I will not laugh at either of you because I am not bothering with this thing. No doubt we will all come out on the other side.

  • Duncan Brack 22nd Sep '20 - 9:53am

    I feel like Jennie … but one thing people need to remember: the deadline for submitting speaker’s cards to speak in a debate is 4.00pm the day before the debate. So for debates taking place on the Friday, that means submitting on Thursday – the day after tomorrow, as I write. This is much earlier than in a normal conference, so don’t get caught out!

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