How to Hold a Digital Conference

Best Practices

conference call

Imagine the situation: you have spent months preparing for an event, planning and organizing everything, when the bad news drops: it's no longer possible.

Don't panic! All is not lost. "Our clients don't always realize that there are solutions available. The first thing to remember is that it is perfectly feasible to digitalize a conference," says Marie-Sophie Petit, Head of Process & Innovation at Acolad. But before getting started, there are a few essential steps. 

1. Assess your needs

There are many tools available for remote conferencing. To find the one that suits you, you need to assess your particular needs. For example, are you holding an internal or external meeting? How many people are expected to attend? A few dozen? Several hundred? Would you like to send automatic emails? And reminders? What bandwidth do you need? Is video really necessary or is audio enough? Do you need subtitles?

2. Find the right tool

Once you've answered these questions,take a look at the various tools available. Microsoft Teams is often recommended for internal conferences. For external conferences, Zoom is widely talked about for its ease of use, while Webex is one of the long-standing players. Having trouble deciding? "We can recommend tools and even work with a client's IT department to set up conferences for them," says Marie-Sophie. 
But the most important thing to consider is the reliability of the tool. The higher the bandwidth of your tool, the smoother your event will be. 

3. Ensure logistics

So, you've found the right tool. Perfect! Now it's up to you to ensure that participants of your conference have everything they need. Make sure you send all the necessary information in advance, such as a link or QR code to connect to the meeting, and the dateand time it is being held. "Before any digital event, we send instructions with the details that participants need to join the meeting: computer, headset, smartphone, etc.," explains Giulia Silvestrini, head of Interpreting/Conferences at Acolad. The last step in the preparation is a hardware test. Carry out a trial run the day before or a few hours prior to the meeting to check that everything is working. 

Digitalizing a conference with interpretation 

In interpreting, the most important element is sound. The interpreter must be able to hear what the speaker is saying in order to be able to translate it. The technical challenge lies in sending the sound, in different languages, across different channels. This is what inspired Acolad to develop its own, reliable tool, which is ideal for holding events with thousands of people simultaneously, all while guaranteeing good audio and video quality. "The technology behind the tool makes it possible to send the sound from the speaker to the different interpreters, who translate the speech into their respective languages. This is then sent to the audience members, who choose the language they want," explains Marie-Sophie. With this tool, remote conferences can also benefit from multilingual simultaneous interpretation 

At a physical conference, interpreters need booths to do their job. "The Acolad tool reproduces these booths. It has an interface dedicated to interpreters as well as a technician. This technician monitors the meeting and can provide technical support at any time, "adds Giulia Silvestrini.  
You may also just want to translate what the speaker is saying into writing using subtitles. Again, several solutions are possible. Acolad has tools that automatically translate what is said, using a voice recognition system. However, this service still has its limits. The ideal solution would be a combination of human and machine translation: a machine provides the initial translation and a human reads it in real time to correct what is written. 
If your videos are already prepared, or if you are filming a conference to broadcast it later, it is better to have it translated beforehand. This will provide the best translation quality. 

Case study: "I digitized an event for 300 people" 

Yann Orpin, President of Medef Lille Métropole, holds meetings for entrepreneurs every two months. During the lockdown, he decided to do them remotely. "I decided early on that I wanted to hold a digital meeting. But I soon discovered that I didn't have the right tool or enough bandwidth, and only 20 people were able to connect. I therefore found a tool reliable enough to accommodate 300 participants. Another point I had to consider was the time of the meeting. I chose to put on these events early in the morning, at 8:30 am. As this time, there are far fewer people connected, so it's more likely the speed of my connection will be good. Finally, I had to adapt to new behaviours, so I opted for a tool that could be used on either a computer or a phone. For the next meetings, I'm going to create virtual round tables for 8-10 people so that participants can talk to one another for 10 minutes before the conference begins. There are many positives to digitalizing events: they start on time, nobody is stuck in traffic, everyone can attend, even from their car with their phone, and, the icing on the cake is that I can rebroadcast these events as podcasts. The next step is to develop the podcast platform where people can have access to all of our past events."