We are setting up a virtual and face-to-face group for members and supporters in Belgium who want to "attend" the Virtual Autumn Conference. In previous years, we have always had a handful of members going to the Conference and have used a WhatsApp group to communicate with each other. This year with the virtual conference we are trying two things.
- Setting up some sort of local virtual event so you can attend the conference (if you wish) in the "company" of other LibDems in Europe members.
- Organising a live event where the conference will be broadcast on the big screen - so you can also attend in the company of other members.
The first thing, of course, is to register to attend.
Clearly it seems a big blow not to be able to organise the conference as usual this year. On the other hand this really is an opportunity for many more members to "attend" than is usually the case. One of the deficits of our democratic process is that although all policy is decided at conference on the basis of one member one vote, it is only those with the inclination, time and money - who can actually attend, that are allowed to vote. This year it will be much easier and much more affordable, in both time and money, for everyone participate in the process.
Attending conference for the first time can be a confusing process. In previous years, the groups we have set up have allowed those going to organise their transport and accommodation together and generally visit the conference as a group. Discussing which sessions to go to, dividing to conquer multiple simultaneous sessions and meeting up for dinner to discuss the days events.
We hope to achieve a similar(ish) effect by setting up a virtual group - imagine Zoom or Bluejeans with the actual conference being shared by one of the participants with the others able to discuss events as they unfold. Of course there is nothing stopping members just attending the virtual conference alone, without the additional technical and social overhead.
For face-to-face participation there are a couple of ideas. Running the conference feed, especially for the main speaker events, on a big screen in a bar or hotel where up to 15 people can come together with suitable social distancing and/or simply sharing who intends to "go" to conference and letting people who live close together decide if they would like to meet up to "attend". All this of course does depend on what the rules will be for gatherings where you are at the time of the conference which may well change in the weeks ahead.
So, if the idea of a face-to-face or virtual meeting of members to attend the virtual conference interests you - please let us know by signing up for this event. Once we have some idea of numbers and what is possible we will contact you again to see which sort of event interests you.
Finally, if you have any better ideas or indeed any ideas on how to make this initiative work better - perhaps from your professional experience of "attending" other virtual events - please let me know.
Thanks and we look forward to having a much larger contingent of LibDems in Europe members at the conference than usual!
Chair, LibDems in Belgium