Tag Archives: hopin

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.

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Scottish Liberal Democrats trial new virtual conference – 3 top tips from me

I spent most of yesterday glued to various screens. I went to Social Liberal Forum’s leadership hustings in the morning and in the afternoon, we had the Scottish Lib Dems’ virtual special conference. Thanks to Paul McGarry for the screenshots.

Here, Willie Rennie and Alistair Carmichael are interviewed by Environment spokesperson Rebecca Bell, watched by convener Sheila Ritchie:

Chair Jenni Lang watches while LGBT+ Exec member Fraser Graham speaks on the diversity motion:

And here are John Ferry and Katy Gordon putting Layla and Ed through their paces:

We had a couple of items of actual business – a motion on diversity for the elections next year and the report on a reference back from a policy motion, which couldn’t wait any longer. We haven’t had a proper Conference since Spring last year. The election did away with our Autumn Conference last year and the pandemic scuppered Spring Conference in May.

We were the pioneers for the Lib Dems in using the platform Hopin, which the party has acquired for the Federal Conference due to take place from 25-28 September.

Massive thanks are due to Paul McGarry, the Scottish Conference Convener, Megan Wiseman and Paul Moat from Scottish HQ who set everything up. Federal Conference will have people to do that professionally, but they did a great job. Though there were a few testing problems with the tech, they got them sorted and we got all the business done.

The chairs and aides were based in Scottish HQ, all appropriately socially distanced bar the two from the same household.

The agenda provided two debates and two keynote events so there was a good mix. We had one procedural motion, a suspension of standing orders, and an amendment for each motion.

We used a separate voting system called mi-voice, but I think that for Federal Conference we’ll be voting in Hopin. That was a bit glitchy, but we got there.

As we were all attending from our homes, there was bound to be some background noise at some point. Usually it’s my dogs causing various sorts of mayhem, but on this occasion, it was the gorgeous Thor and Bella who did what every self-respecting dog does when a delivery driver turns up at their house.  They didn’t realise that their mum, Cllr Fiona Dryburgh,  was making her debut conference speech.

 

Top Tips

From yesterday’s experience, I’d say that there were three top tips for attendees to the Federal event in the Autumn.

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Get your Conference motions in for 1st July

There’s going to be a massive Conference shaped hole for many of us this September. I love heading to the seaside – Bournemouth being my favourite by far – to catch up with the Lib Dem family. Whether it’s causing trouble for the leadership in the hall or indulging in late night irreverent singalongs, taking part in training, wandering round the exhibition or just catching up for a coffee or a cocktail, those few days are a whirlwind of activity.  I’ve taken to staying an extra night at the end to have a  a quieter meal out with friends and a walk on the beach.

So the cancellation of both Spring and Autumn conferences this year was really disappointing. By the time York was cancelled in Spring, I had already decided not to go because I felt it was too risky. And given that a fair proportion of the friends I would have spent time with all came down with  an illness that had a startling resemblance to Covid-19 very shortly afterwards, that was the right decision for me.

While I will miss going to Brighton in September – and in particular dinner at Smokey’s  with its rather excellent cocktails – I am glad that we will at least have the opportunity to attend an online event from 25-28 September. The Federal Conference Committee has put a huge amount of work into identifying and customising a digital platform. They’ve had so many meetings and have been determined to be as faithful as possible to what we think Conference should be.

I did wonder about how the exhibition would work, but watching this demo from Hopin, the platform we are using, explains it all. You are not going to get all the random bumping into people and the buzz of a physical event, but you will be able to take part in debates, vote on policy motions, attend fringe meetings, go to training and catch up with people in the networking room. I liked the feature in there that it only swapped contact details if both people wanted to.

There will  be BSL interpreters on the main stage as happens at a physical conference.

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