WordSouth partners with Tennessee and Kentucky broadband associations to meet evolving member needs

When your conference needs a reboot, it helps to have reliable connections.

Broadband companies are adept at connecting consumers to reliable service. Telco staff manages this by sharing insights and collectively tackling industry trends. The pandemic not only added weight to telcos’ mission of serving rural communities; it shifted industry learning online, too.

The Kentucky Telecom Association and the Tennessee Broadband Association decided to meet the networking challenge cooperatively. WordSouth stepped in as a partner to navigate the need. In October more than 300 telco staff and vendors met for two packed days of interactive panels, virtual networking, and value-driven content.

There was nothing conventional about this convention.

“When our boards decided to convert our meeting to a virtual one, I thought it would be just another virtual look-alike,” said Tennessee Broadband Association Executive Director Levoy Knowles. “I was wrong. WordSouth helped create a virtual meeting that was so close to an actual one it was unbelievable. [They] helped create an environment that encouraged participation and made it all look easy.”

fall conference 2020 poster

How to Adapt

Stephen Smith

As you plan training, let content—not technology—be the star.

“We wanted to create a conference that went beyond the expectations of the necessary virtual format to create more value than attendees would expect,” said Stephen Smith, founder of WordSouth. “Content drove our discussions. As the programming came together, our staff worked on what technology was needed to support it.”

Sarah Lancaster, an account manager at WordSouth, helped both telco associations coordinate content. Meetings were held via Zoom every three weeks to plan, chart progress, and brainstorm how to engage participants.

Organizing content and speakers were the first step. Lancaster suggests allowing ample time to understand how to tap technology, too.

“I spent a large portion of time just learning the platform, figuring out best practices,” said Lancaster.

The conference offered Zoom sessions and used EventBrite for registration. Video trial runs with each speaker the day before the event helped avoid problems

“We know this couldn’t have gone as well as it did without Zoom and the training tools the platform provides,” Lancaster added.

One set of highly effective tools created for the 2-day event were instruction sheets for the speakers and organizing staff members at both WordSouth and both associations. See an instruction sheet example here.

The sheets were created by WordSouth Executive Assistant Sarah Wootten.

Having all the conference organizers’ and speakers cell phone numbers was invaluable,” said Wootten. “While someone was presenting, we were hard at work in the background to make sure the conference ran smoothly.”

Managing a conference can feel challenging, according to Wootten. She advises allowing time to check and double-check your work.

“While I was nervous about juggling over 20 different URLs for participants, having a separate URL for each session worked really well,” said Wootten. She checked each link before the conference, just to make sure the event ran smoothly.

Embracing Change

Was everything perfect? No. The team thinks adding short breaks between afternoon sessions would have been nice. But the event was flexible and engaging.

“2020 has been full of webinars and virtual meetings,” said Wootten. “Giving participants the ability to come and go as they please, depending on what topics interested them and their availability, helped engage participants. They could give attention to sessions that truly interested them.”

“This conference, even though it was virtual, was packed with stellar content,” said Lancaster. “This event would rival any conference, in person or virtual, with its speakers, topics, and valuable information. The content is what made it so engaging.”

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WordSouth delivers free webinars and podcasts for both rural telco and electric co-op communicators. Learn more at WordSouth.