Disaster Planning for Conferences

Skype link and presentation stage

Disaster! Your key note speaker can’t make it due to a family crisis!!!

This is what happened on day 2 of this year’s International Digital Curation Conference, 5 – 7 December 2011, Marriott Royal Hotel, Bristol, UK. Unfortunately Professor Philip E Bourne from the Department of Pharmacology, University of California San Diego wasn’t able to fly over for the conference.

So what did we do?

Plan A was to have Philip connect through a Skype connection and provide the audio part of his presentation. His slides would be presented on the big screen at the conference and the chair (Professor Matthew G.Davidson, Associate Dean (Research) from the Faculty of Science, University of Bath) would move the slides for Philip. Luckily this worked perfectly and the audience (and remote audience) were treated to a seamless presentation.

Behind the scenes there were a couple of things going on that are worth noting. We connected up with Philip through Skype in reasonable time for the talk and made sure that he was kept up to date with what was going on using messaging e.g. “get ready to go, the sound is perfect etc.) We didn’t allow Philip to hear the audio till the end of his talk – primarily to avoid distracting him with our conversations but also because the last minute nature of the set up didn’t allow time for testing. At the end of Philips talk we managed to connect to the mixer desk and use the microphones in the room so he could hear questions. We didn’t use video for the talk. It was 1am in California where Philip was Skyping from so he was probably ready for bed! Not only this but there were concerns about using video over the wireless connection, which was all that we had. Big thanks to the AV team at the Marriott hotel for helping us with this.

We did have a Plan B. Philip’s slides were available on Slideshare and he had also pre-recorded his talk and shared in on SciVee (it would have been played in video and document mode). SciVee is a provider of internet video and rich media solutions for the scientific, technical, and medical market.

SciVee in video and document mode

Plan C was phoning Philip’s mobile up!!

So what’s your back up plan for when your speaker can’t make it?

Rich Pitkin on the streaming desk