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 Experience Article in View From the Edge Magazine

When Jeff Berliner, Chief Information Officer, Institute of Advanced Study (IAS) was confronted, like others, with a need to re-craft planned on-campus workshops and conferences as virtual events, he looked to Edge as a resource for helping to coordinate and orchestrate such an event.

“Although we had the technology pieces in place, and audience, there were questions about who and how we would go about dealing with challenges like speaker coordination and session moderation in an online event,” said Berliner, “I knew this was something Edge might be able to make happen for us.”

The conference was streamed over two days, with over a dozen sessions presented by speakers from across the nation and abroad. The anticipated attendance prior to the conference was 200.

Mission Accepted

When IAS came to Edge, their conference, Workshop on New Directions in Optimization, Statistics and Machine Learning, was months in the making. With presenters and attendees from a diverse geography (including attendees from Duke, MIT, Stanford, University of Toronto, and more) and a packed two day agenda, virtualizing the event in two weeks time was a daunting challenge.

Nancy Zimmerman, Edge’s Executive Director of EdgeEvents and Print Communications said, “Whether virtual or in-person, the drivers of events are still the same: bringing people together for education and networking.” She continued, “During this unprecedented time EdgeEvents has the expertise to use technology as an enabler to virtualize events more efficiently for our members.”

Edge was able to seamlessly move the event online by working closely with IAS and coordinating and hosting practice sessions with the speakers. The event ended up with over 700 attendees, a more than 300% increase from attendance projections.

Zimmerman says, “Although you can’t exactly replicate the feeling of attendees coming together in person, there are some benefits of virtual events. From the attendees’ standpoint, they have the flexibility to learn from the best and brightest in their field without having to spend the time or money to travel.” IAS benefitted as well, as there were no geographical limits on who or how many attendees could attend the conference.

With technology provided on a simple, intuitive platform, with UX more akin to a social network than a typical webinar, Edge was able to provide a dynamic and rich online experience for attendees near and far. The ability to ‘ask questions and talk’ during the presentation was enabled with chat and real-time Q&A functionality. The synchronous interactivity made the event engaging from both the attendee and speaker points of view, and the ability to come together to share insights and “ah-ha” moments despite the challenges of the moment made the event a success for IAS.

If you would like help virtualizing your next event please contact Nancy Zimmerman,