After a year of preparations, the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin’s (PDPW) marquee event was days away. Organizers were counting on 1,400+ dairy farmers and allied industry partners from across the country and around the world to come to Madison, Wis. to network and learn from each other. But like many others, they faced travel limitations and event restrictions due to the coronavirus.
“This is the event we get excited for every year. It covers numerous topics, plus gives attendees the opportunity to network, which is invaluable. It’s a great way for farmers to connect with each other, mentor students and meet partners that help support the industry,” said Cassandra Strupp, Program Manager for PDPW.
“Cancelling the event was not an option. Our only option was to succeed. We had to figure out how and what that meant. This conference is the longest marathon we put ourselves through every year. What are we going to do?”
To take this formerly in-person event 100 percent online, PDPW turned to Mediasite Events.
“We told their team our big picture, and they filled in the rest, handling all aspects of the technology to make sure it went smoothly.” All of a sudden we got this sense of calm,” Strupp said.
Other than monthly webinars, PDPW was new to the virtual event world. The idea of multiple-hour streams, let alone multiple days of content streaming like this business conference, was new territory. The Mediasite Events team streamed from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. for two days straight.
The event was originally supposed to take place at the large Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., but due to the cancellation, PDPW had to find a location where local speakers could present while honoring social distancing. Plus, they needed to have a strong, dependable internet connection. They chose the Monona Terrace and Convention Center in Madison. Nearly 40 speakers presented. A few were in-person while most were remoted in with the support of one Mediasite Events technician to ensure the best quality video capture.
“It’s a whole new world we introduced to our audience. We had to make it as user-friendly as possible for folks regardless of whether they were 70 or 18 years old. We didn’t want to intimidate them, and Mediasite Events made sure everything was easy to use for our viewers,” Strupp said. “They were so patient with us, and they took the worry out of so many things.”
With Mediasite, there is no limit to how many people can watch the virtual conference at one time. The in-person annual event typically draws 1,400 industry professionals. With the virtual event, PDPW saw 2,300 live viewers over the two days, which is significant considering they transitioned from an in person to virtual event in just days.
Although networking was different online, speakers engaged with viewers using Slido. Mediasite also has live chat, ask-a-question and polling features. It doesn’t end there, either. Attendees now have access to an on-demand video library of valuable content they can reference year-round. With Mediasite’s powerful search capabilities, they can easily locate topics and event moments.
“When the world seems to be working against you, there’s still an option. We had so many people say ‘thank you’ for not cancelling. This was the hope that we needed to continue in our industry and with each other. We owed it to our members to do it to the best of our ability,” Strupp said. “This isn’t the end for the PDPW/Mediasite Events relationship, either. We’re thinking down the road of ways we can continue to work with Mediasite Events because we were very impressed with the team and the virtual event experience.”
Since the virtual event, PDPW expanded its use of virtual meetings. It is working with the Mediasite Events team to stream informational videos to dairy farmers three times per week to keep them up to speed with the industry during the pandemic.