AUN-EEC Conference 2020 Provides Insight for Organizing Online Forums

By Phasawit Jutatungcharoen, Programme Officer
14 December 2020

The organization of the ASEAN University Network (AUN-EEC) Conference on Ecological Education and Culture held by Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and the AUN-EEC Secretariat on 17 November 2020 presented novel ways in which regional events within ASEAN could be organized.

The organization of the Conference had initially met with significant difficulties after being postponed several times from as far as November of the previous year. These reasons include the Taal volcanic eruption in November 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic, and Typhoon Ulysses, the latter causing a blackout in Manila on the originally set date of 12 November. Despite all these massive hindrances, the online nature of the AUN-EEC Conference allowed it to adapt its logistics and scheduling in a way that would have not been possible for an on-site event. Furthermore, the organizers had already built a strong relationship with its experts and speakers along with several test runs, contributing to the ease of flow and date adjustment even in the face of sudden obstacles.

Hosting the conference online also created another challenge, as the organizers were confronted with the daunting task of accommodating nearly 450 participants ranging from students, faculty members, professionals, and AUN representatives, while a Zoom Video Conference could only allow up to 100 by default. As such, the conference organizers used different channels to host the event, using Zoom for VIP guests who could directly interact with panelists and presenters while creating a livestream on the ADMU’s Campus Events Youtube channel. Participants who watched the event through the livestream could post comments during the conference which could be viewed by the organizers and easily responded to.

A well-designed programme and preparing ahead of time was particularly important, especially when it came to breakout sessions. In a regular on-site event, participants could choose to attend a workshop and paper presentation session in a separate room before returning to the main room for the closing address. For the online conference however, the organizers sent registrations to VIP participants to choose the session they want to attend beforehand. "Rooms" would come in the form of different Zoom links that would be sent to registered participants, who would attend them after the lunch break. Instead of all participants coming back for the closing ceremony, a pre-recorded message from AUN-EEC Director Dr. Assunta Cuyegkeng was played at the end of each of the sessions. Aside from reducing logistical issues, each session now had more time flexibility, with overruns no longer affecting the overall scheduling of the conference.

The AUN-EEC Conference 2020 is a testament to significant ways in which future AUN events could be held. Hosting the event online certainly allowed more flexibility, but it also created new challenges that required innovative methods like pre-recorded messages and multiple online channels to overcome them. Beyond this, the conference still required a solid programme, prepared foresight, and a close relationship with its speakers for the event to run smoothly. With these factors combined, the AUN-EEC Conference can serve as a benchmark for future events to come.