Attendee video chats and automatic language translation were tipping points in moving an annual show for wedding videographers online.
For most of its history,WEVAEXPO,the annual conference and exposition formembers of the inter- nationalWedding and EventVideographers Asso- ciation (WEVA), rotated among high-profile U.S. destinations, including LasVegas and Orlando. But in 2011, its address was aURL—the 21st
annualWEVAEXPOwasheld entirely online. For two days, from Oct. 5–6, WEVA presented live- streamed keynotes and30prerecorded conference sessions, along with virtual networking, a live video-editing competition — “The Battle of the Videographers” — and an online exhibit hall where participants interactedwith exhibitors via live video. After Oct. 6, the event website remainedopen until the end ofDecember, allowing visitors access to all the education sessions as well to exhibitors.
Found in Translation After two decades in physical locations, WEVA Chairman Roy Chapman decided to move the event to anonline-only format for a number of rea- sons—not the least ofwhich was the fact that the association’smembers are all in the video business. The online environment is evenmore demanding when it comes to engaging attendees, he said, andWEVA’s speakers andmembersknowhowto make video visually stimulating.“Ourmembers are artists,” Chapman said. “They are all very con- cerned about the quality of the presentations.” A virtual-only conference also made sense
because it eliminated travel and lodging costs for WEVA members, many of whom are interna- tional. Plus,mostmembers are independent busi- ness ownerswhopay travel and lodging expenses themselves, and over the last fewyearswere find- ing it difficult to absorb the lost revenue fromtak- ing time away from work. “The economyhit our industry hard,” Chapman said, with manymem- bers taking on second jobs. The cumulative effect took a toll on attendance atWEVAEXPO. But just as important as lingeringeconomic real- ities are the very recent advances in teleconference
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platforms that make it possible for attendees to communicate online with other participants through video, rather than by text alone. It’s not the same as physical face-to-face interaction,Chapman said, “but it’s close.” During the 2011 WEVA EXPO, speakers participatedin live question-and- answer sessions, and video chat rooms allowed multiple attendees to gather at one timeto talk. Another deciding factor in taking WEVA
EXPOvirtual had to do with translation. By pre- senting prerecorded conference sessions online, WEVAcould translate key programs into Spanish or Englishand add captioning. Theonline platform also offered attendees the option of using instant language translation to send messages; they could typecomments in Spanish and have themappear in English, and vice versa. Using in-person trans- lators in the sessions would have been prohibitive- ly expensive, according to Chapman,whointends to add text-translation services in 18 languages for the associaion’s next online conference.
The Virtual Planner Linda Elland, president ofA2Zmeetings in Sara- sota, Fla., has worked as a planner for both ver- sions of WEVA EXPO — online and face-to- face. As she prepared for the virtual event in October, somuch had dropped fromher to-do list — everything from dealing with speaker flight delays, to food-and-beverage functions, to set- ting up and tearingdownrooms—she wondered if there would be any responsibilities left for her during the event. Were there ever.“Ohboy,” Elland said. “I spent
just as much time coordinating and wrangling everybody as a virtual planner as I did on-site. Even though I was not running from room to room to room, I had three different computers open the whole time, plus I was texting, and talking on the telephone and by Skype.” Onthe planning side, preparation and attention to logistical details were just as critical. “I would
“I spent just as much time coordinating and wrangling everybody as a virtual planner as I did on-site. Even though I was not running from room to room to room, I had three different computers open the whole time, plus I was texting, and talking on the telephone and by Skype.”