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This is how we switched FBTB into a digital conference – Part two: The important research

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The 2021 edition of FBTB became a digital version and in order for the conference to be able to offer the participants a packed version, a lot of time was spent on research – in true inUse spirit.

Like many other conferences, From Business to Buttons had to change and become completely digital. In three articles, inUse will share experiences and tips from the work of switching to a digital conference. In an earlier text, we explained how project management and planning changed focus. You can read more about this here.

Prior to the work of designing the conference, extensive analysis and research were also carried out: partly by really drilling down into what was important for the target group that would participate, and partly by seeing what platforms were available. This included mapping and evaluating them and their graphical interfaces, as well as attending various demo screenings.

— There are always things that you can compromise with, but the usability and the ability to tailor and design the tool so it felt like FBTB was important to us. Because there are a number of conference platforms, and it’s a total jungle. Some are expensive, others cheaper and all have different limitations.

– In order to form an opinion on digital conferences in general, we also decided to register and participate in some online conferences ourselves, as well as observe and look at what was good but also what was less good, says Anna-Karin Johansson, UX designer at inUse who worked with the prior research.

Learning from other people’s mistakes

What mistakes did you see that other digital conferences made?
 — Something we noticed was that some of them hadn’t particularly thought about what it looked like when the people speaking were in front of the camera at home. We saw a number of examples of boring fluorescent lighting and messy backgrounds, which also makes it boring to look at. We solved this ourselves by sending a special FBTB kit to every lecturer that they could put up in the background, says Anna-Karin.

During the research work, countless digital boards were filled with sticky notes describing which criteria were important to meet, what played less of a role, and what values the target group requested, among other things.

— It was a challenge to achieve that really good conference feeling while knowing the participants would be sitting at home at the same old kitchen table as they have been during the entire pandemic, says Anna-Karin.

The research showed that flexibility was important for the participants and the team wanted to create the best conditions for that.

— We wanted people to be able to participate while on mobile and we marked in the schedule which lectures were suitable to listen to whilst going for a walk, for example,” says Anna-Karin Johansson.

Different needs

Through the research, it was also shown that the participants come to the conference for various reasons.

— Many people are looking to develop skills. But many people are return participants and want to meet old friends and colleagues in the industry. We adapted the schedule in different blocks so it suited the different target groups. The different sections also had different characters. The conference itself is during a full day, but we spread out the workshops some time before and after, so the participants also had time to reflect, explains Anna-Karin.

Another important factor was to choose a platform that also suited the different needs of the lecturers and workshop leaders.

— Everyone had different wishes and we needed to be able to adapt so that they could choose the tool they were most comfortable with, says Anna-Karin.

In the end, the choice was for the platform Konf, which had extensive experience of various virtual events.

— We chose the one that best matched our list of requirements; we had a long Excel list and it was important for us to choose a platform that was user-friendly, says Anna-Karin.

 — You can see in retrospect that we managed to deliver different values. The only thing that felt rather negative was, in spite of everything, you still weren’t meeting people in person; you were still a little lonely during the conference day. It would have been fun to drink some bubbly together afterward, says Anna-Karin.

Three tips when doing research prior to a digital conference

  1. Do your research and analysis thoroughly and feel free to get a service designer's perspective.
  2. Go to some conferences to see and learn what does and does not work. 
  3. Early on, think about and investigate what you can do yourself and what you need outside help with.