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What it takes to organize a Massive Open Online conference for 40 000?

There are MOOCs and MOOcs. The difference is that the first one refers to Massive Open Online Courses and the latter to conferences.

I was asked to deliver a short speech  in (Google’s) Education on Air conference in May. I was thrilled!. I was also curious, since this time my ”webinar speech” would reached more than 100 participants. Actually 40 000 participants! And I had 10 minutes to deliver my message on three thoughts.

I thought to share some ideas here. Not so much on my messages, but more on how a conference like this looked behind the screen.

It’s been only 3 weeks, since I agreed to speak. Normally, the minister would have had the floor, but since we (in Finland) are in between two parliaments somebody from the ”permanent staff” needed to fill the slot. Been there done that.

Google office was from the beginning very helpful. As soon as the preliminary program was released, things started to roll. First we agreed on my availability, then we fixed the time issue (+10 hrs to Pacific time zone) for briefing (west coast). Also, when the conference started on Friday morning (Eastern time zone), it was already 5 p.m. local time in Helsinki. I was happy to agree to come to the Google Helsinki office – It is just 10 minutes walk from the ministry. Plus tech side guaranteed. (More about that too…)

Two weeks prior the conference I had the first ’hangout’ with, Jill (Chair) and Carl ( just to make sure where we were at that point. Really professional people! They provided me the background info needed + some starting points for my speech.

By next Monday, (5 days before the conf) I had finally the outline of my speech ready. Again, Carl provided me a view from outside by wednesday – ”Too much stuff to deliver in ten minutes + message will get lost if everything is used…” Thanks – very helpful again.

On Tuesday afternoon I had flown to Paris to catch up with TALIS2018 project – until Thursday evening. I was back home finally half an hour before midnite. (Luckily the airline workers strike looming was postponed until next week. Plan B in the beginning of the week was to arrive on Friday to Google Paris office (instead of Helsinki)). It was really hard to get sleep that night. Too many things and ideas rolling in my head.

On Friday I had reserved some time for final rehearsals, In the afternoon I closed the door in the conference room and practiced my opening, used the timer to see how long does it take to get to the point etc. Getting little nervous.

Then It was time to go. I met my colleague on the way out and apologized for mumbling silently, while trying to keep my head in ”english gear”. Her response was, I had a tough week as well  :).

Finally arrived to the Google office at 4.p.m. Tiina greeted me and offered a cup of coffee. Showed me the room from where I was about to start in one hour. … Time flies when you are having fun. Half an hour before the conference all lines were connected. I was not able to participate in lively chat with other speakers, since my mic was muted. In fact my mic was silent all the way until the beginning of the conference. Just one minute left everybody else went silent as well. (and that’s when I needed most to hear some music.

It was all silent – and worse. The silence continued. I could not hear the opening words, nor when Michelle Obama addressed the audience. Then it was time to present the analysis I was about to comment. Silence continued. Tiina worked actively in the net, chatting some advise, and then when it was my time to comment. Then the line was FINALLY opened. Wow, what an adrenaline rush. I had concentrated for the first minute words – but noticed that I had no idea what I had just said. Toward the end I finally got hold of my speech, but also noticed how fast the clock moved. And then, Thanks, 10 minutes had passed so fast. Jill took the floor, started the panel with short presentations from others. Me having some time to focus again and finally relaxing. Actually enjoyed the next hour with questions pouring in and replies shared between the speakers.

But yes, speech to remember. Conference to look forward to.