Our first online Federal Conference

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Well, we did it; our first online Federal Conference!

We had over 3,200 attendees and I am really proud that we managed to offer the full experience usually on offer in the Conference Centre. The agenda ranged from racial justice to the BBC; from COVID-19 to Universal Basic Income and from Europe to the rule of law. We had debates, procedural motions, reports, votes, speeches, and questions – even the (virtual) conference fund raising buckets were passed round – and we were honoured with a visit from the Taoiseach.

There was a live chat in every session. It was lively and interesting throughout. We were able to meet old friends and new in the networking space – which many people said was strangely addictive! We noticed a much higher than usual attendance in our fringes. The training programme was extensive and well-received.

Over the course of our conference, there were in excess of 20,000 individual votes cast in the auditorium: much more than an average physical conference. If the total time spent logged in by our attendees was aggregated, it would come to in excess of five years. We are delighted that, for the first time, people the length and breadth of the country, and further afield, could join us.

This was the first time we had run a virtual conference and, of course, there were some parts that were a bit rough around the edges. We were grateful for all the goodwill that there was towards us as we navigated the challenges of moving an event as complex as our conference online. We know that there were some technical hitches in some of the fringes and training events. We were also a little disappointed at the footfall in the exhibition and did our best to improve that as conference went on. We will address both in the future.

Nevertheless, back in March, when Spring Conference was cancelled and the country was yet to go into lockdown, I would never have thought that a conference like that was even possible – let alone that we would be running it within six months.

There are so many people to thank for making the event happen. The staff at Headquarters were magnificent, as were the technical teams at Vivid Productions and Qwerk. Special mention must go to the Conference Office – Susie Murray, Wilma Robinson, Isabelle Pucher and Hannah Bacchus. And I must also thank every member of the Federal Conference Committee, our hard-working stewards, chat moderators and – above all – everyone who attended, spoke, voted and otherwise participated.

But enough from me. We are more interested in what you think. If you attended conference, you will have received a feedback link. Please do complete the survey and send it back to us. What did you think worked well? What do you think we could do better? What else might we do in the future that we did not do this time?

And above all, how do you think conference should look in the future? Online? In person? A mixture perhaps? Please let us know. If you did not attend and therefore did not get a feedback link, do make a comment below. We will consider all of them. Please also consider joining our Facebook group.

We pride ourselves on the democratic nature of our party and our conference. We are proud that we were able to maintain them both through this pandemic.

* Geoff Payne is the Chair of Federal Conference Committee.

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6 Comments

  • It is all very well joining a face book group but we need to reach out to all other face book groups. Reach out to welfare groups local community groups. All groups that we need to inform of our policies ideas.To influence THE COUNTRY THE WORLD ,ALL HUMANITY we have to spread ourselves around. We cannot expect a bias press to sell us.

  • Laurence Cox 29th Sep '20 - 11:52am

    Oddly, I haven’t received your email although I have received emails both from Mike German and Ed Davey (both through [email protected]).

    My general comment is that I found that Hopin worked well most of the time; the one time it failed was during the voting on the Europe motion when my screen video feed went black and I had to reload the browser tab several times to get the video working again. It was only comments in the chat box that enabled me to work out the outcomes of first two votes. Pinning the vote results at the top of the chat, or even on the polls tab would have made life easier.

  • Well done to everyone who made the virtual conference a success.

    I hope the success of the virtual element can be moved forward so that we have a hybrid model going forward.

    It has always been quite ridiculous to expect people on normal incomes with normal work and domestic lives to blank out five days in their diary, using holiday entitlement, and to spend out on travel, accommodation and over-priced rushed meals from the length and breadth of the country, to attend conference. You would virtually need to be insane to do it (and I have been).

    So we must continue the virtual element going forward, whatever happens.

  • David Rogers 30th Sep '20 - 8:14am

    I have not received a feedback link, although I attended all days of the virtual conference. It’s not clear from this article whether it should have come in an email – or in some way through the HopIn platform…

  • Yes it was good to have all the usual events taking place, but the lack of clear instructions how to cope with the technical problems, the resulting problems that disabled several people from taking part when fringe and booths were live, plus the huge time spent sorting out with the conference team the arrangements to take part were terrible. Am I the only one suffering this ?

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Oct '20 - 3:30pm

    I’m disappointed by the 3,200 number when we have 100,000 members. It’s not as if you have to travel somewhere, sort out your accommodation and commit to four days of being away from home with all that entails. FCC need to review what they could have done to entice more to attend at least part of it. We should also look again at allowing our registered supporters to attend if not vote.

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