Looking forward to our first virtual conference

At a glance

  • Conference will be taking place from 25th – 28th September,
  • We are using a platform called Hopin; login details will be sent out the week of conference,
  • Speaker’s cards for debates must be submitted by 4pm the day before the debate,
  • The motions on COVID-19 and Europe, along with other late items, will be announced in Conference Extra the week of conference and on Facebook,
  • The Emergency Motions ballot will be taken on the Friday using Mi-Voice. Instructions will be sent out in advance.
  • Please watch our introductory video,
  • You can follow us on Twitter @LibDemConf.

Introduction

Normally in September, we would be looking forward to gathering by the seaside for our Autumn Federal Conference. It is our chance to meet together, debate and discuss policy, set the direction of the party, learn new campaigning skills, catch up with friends and make new ones. Above all, we are a democratic party where the voices of our members really matter.

This year, things are a little different and we cannot meet physically. But our commitment to our internal democracy is undimmed. Conference is therefore moving online for the first time.  We will be meeting from Friday 25th to Monday 28th September.

We have done our best to re-create the conference experience virtually.  In this article, I want to go through how we have planned conference. Do not worry! It is not as complex as it all sounds and we will offer all the technical help and support we can.

We have partnered up with Hopin, a professional conference platform which has the capability to accommodate events with hundreds of thousands of people. Hopin is best accessed through a computer or laptop with Google Chrome and ad blockers and firewalls turned off. Firefox works well too. For iPads, Safari (the built-in browser) offers the best experience. For Android devices, Chrome works best.

Hannah Bacchus and I have made a video about how to get the most from Hopin. You can watch it here.

We will be sending out login details to those who have registered early next week. Although the event is starting on the Friday at 2:15pm, the event will be open from 11am to allow people to access Hopin, explore what is on offer and to sort out any technical issues.

Party staff will be on hand virtually through our technical helpdesk to answer any questions there may be. You will find them on the first stand in the exhibition.

You can also email [email protected] and there is a troubleshooting guide.

Homepage

When you first access Hopin, you will come to the homepage. There, you will be able to see the agenda and the fringe and training line-up. There will also be links to the formal Agenda and Directory as well as Conference Extra and Conference Daily.

You can edit your profile in the top right-hand corner of Hopin so people know who you are.

The menu bar appears on the left. From there, you can access the following areas.

Auditorium

First is the auditorium. That is where we will be holding our debates. We are going to be running them very much as we normally would at a physical conference but with a few differences. Every speaker will be contributing remotely.  You will be able to see the speakers on screen along with our British Sign Language interpreters. On the right-hand side of that screen, there is a tab that you can click on to see the conference chat (feel free to post but the chat will be moderated and you must abide by the party’s Code of Conduct at all times). You will be able to vote using another one of the tabs (but only registered members will be able to do that).

If you want to speak in debates, and I hope that you do, you will need to submit a speaker’s card – but earlier than you would a physical conference. That is because of the technical work required when planning debates. The deadline for speaker’s cards is 4pm the day before the relevant debate.  Cards submitted later may be considered but there is no guarantee. You should submit a card even if you are proposing or summating on a motion or amendment.  Speakers cards can be submitted online. The submission form is open now.

If you are selected to speak, you will be emailed by our technical team so that your sound and vision can be checked in advance. You will be given instructions on how to stand by, ready to speak, before the debate begins. Don’t worry – it is not as daunting as it sounds and we will offer all the help we can. Unfortunately, we are going to be selecting more reserve speakers than we normally would because of the risk of technical issues so please do not be offended if you are not, in the end, called. We will, as ever, try and maximise the number of people we do call.

To raise any procedural motion or point of order, email using [email protected] making it clear the ‘F’ number of the agenda item in question. It will be monitored by the chair and aide team. To submit a separate vote request (the deadlines are set out in the agenda), use the email address [email protected].

A vote on which motions to debate in the Emergency Motions slots will be taken on the Friday using the Mi-Voice website. It is the one we use for the Federal Elections.  Instructions will be sent out about that before conference starts.

Questions can be put to our spokespeople in the various Question and Answer sessions or to the Leader. Please use the submissions form.

We will announce which late motions on Europe and the COVID-19 pandemic we have selected, set out the various questions that will be taken to party reports and the Emergency Motions that will appear in the ballot, in Conference Extra, which will be out in the week of conference. You will be able to find it on our Facebook page and on the section of the website containing conference papers. The late motions will also appear on the conference Facebook page.  They are open to amendment – the deadline is 23rd September at 5pm.

Fringe and Training

From the main menu on the left-hand side on the homepage, you will be able to access the fringe and training meetings.

We have put together a really interesting programme of events for when the auditorium is not in session. They can all be found in the online Directory. We are updating it all the time so there is no printed version this year – it would be quickly out of date. This year, we promise that there will be no capacity issues with fringe rooms!

Training is for party members only. The Training Team has developed a first-class line-up of training to improve your campaigning skills. From setting up a Young Liberals branch to pastoral care; from approving and selecting candidates to developing an election winning machine; from learning how Parliament works to digital campaigning, there really is something for everyone. The sessions run alongside the auditorium.  Just make sure you log in a little earlier than the advertised start time to settle in.

Exhibition

Conference would not be the same without an exhibition! Like the other parts of conference, you can access it from the homepage.  Our exhibitors are listed in the Directory.

We have a wide range of party bodies, commercial organisations and charities waiting to meet and interact with party members. You will be able to find out about the exhibitor concerned, speak virtually to them and access their websites. You can even come and meet the Federal Conference Committee!  The times that live chat are available are listed in the Directory.

Networking

Using the networking function, you will be able to chat with a randomly selected conference attendee (although that function is not open to people under 18) or find particular attendees using the people function. This is a great way of staying in touch with people. I am sure I do not need to say this but please remember the Members’ Code of Conduct at all times.

And Finally…

Conference is almost upon us and it is time to get ready! Please make sure that you have:

* Geoff Payne is the Chair of Federal Conference Committee.

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