In 2015 I co-founded AtlanTec, a conference located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Galway City, a city renowned for its vibrant, multi-cultural atmosphere with a long history of festivals and a strong IT community. Where the Atlantic meets Tech, our vision for AtlanTec was to showcase the pool of talent situated in the west of Ireland and to bring great minds in the IT, FinTech, MedTech & Educational communities together.
In 2020, our AtlanTec conference faced a fork in the road. Gaining momentum each year, the conference now held a unique place in the hearts of the Tech community in Ireland however continued Covid-19 restrictions meant that in person events could not proceed. Do we postpone the conference for a year, or do we move online and host a virtual event?
To do this, we needed to ensure that we chose a highly reliable, secure platform which would allow us to deliver a high-quality online conference. Whilst there are many conference tools available, Webex was the obvious choice to give AtlanTec the best-in-class experience, empowering it to thrive in a virtual environment.
The 2020 conference was a roaring success with over 5,000 registrations across a week of events, far exceeding expectations. Due to Webex, not only were we able to reduce our cost outlay and neutralise our carbon output, we could now extend invites to world class speakers who joined us from their own personal home studios, sitting rooms, kitchen tables – you name it!
We were also able to extend our famous ‘Céad Míle Fáilte’ (‘A hundred thousand welcomes’ in Irish) as we saw attendees joining us from countries such as Australia, US, UK, Kenya, Spain, India, and of course from across Ireland. Without Webex we simply would not have had the opportunity to reach this audience.
As we looked to plan our 2021 conference, it was evident early on that we would not be back in person as Covid-19 restrictions remained. However, this year we were safe in the knowledge that we could rely on Webex to once again connect our communities.
In early May, our Webex team closed on our acquisition of Slido which acts as a “polling app that will turn your silent listeners into engaged participants” and I quickly set about integrating Slido into our conference sessions to enhance our audience engagement.
“Hands up how many people will work fully remote?” – a straight forward question to ask at an in-person conference but what about in a virtual setting? Slido’s impact was huge for AtlanTec. We were able to reach out to the audience members and truly engage with them. For each session we gained insights into where people were joining us from – Dublin, Galway, New York, London, Mauritius, Boston, Barcelona – it was fascinating to see this level of engagement with folks sitting in their own homes.
Many of our speakers used Slido at the start of their sessions to better understand their audience, and subsequently tweaked their presentations on the fly based on responses. The engagement levels were at an all-time high for us, with attendees jumping into Q&A, and up voting other audience questions. It was as if the audience took on a lifeforce of its own creating a symbiotic relationship with the presenter, all connecting on the Webex platform.
Overall, we saw over 6,500 registrations for 2021, a 30% increase on 2020’s figures. Many of our speakers touched on the idea of the future of work and what the ‘new norm’ will mean in practical terms. Important questions were explored such as ‘How do you build a culture in a new company when fully remote?’ and ‘How to build your career network when you never set foot in your company buildings?’.
These are challenges we will all face as the world reopens – but they are challenges we are better equipped to address now more than ever before with Webex at the centre.
The future of AtlanTec is truly inspiring, and most telling, the future of AtlanTec is hybrid. Our team has already discussed how to grow the conference in 2022, and I am very excited with our most recent Webex acquisition of Socio, a platform which is designed to power the events of the future – across virtual, hybrid and in person.
Javed Khan, our SVP of Collaboration, recently articulated how “the hybrid event model – one that combines the high engagement of an in-person event with the reach of a virtual event – is emerging as the new norm”. We’re certainly seeing that with our plans for AtlanTec 2022 as the power of Webex and the capabilities of Socio combine.
AtlanTec has always thrived on a sense of community and the meeting of minds each year in the Irish Tech scene. It was a privilege to combine my work life as a Webex Product Manager with my passion for this conference. I was delighted to see AtlanTec 2021 continue to thrive once again on Webex, allowing us to foster that sense of community & connection we strive for.
Check out AtlanTec and maybe we’ll see you in Galway for AtlanTec 2022 – or even remotely, as an empowered virtual attendee via Webex!