The disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic has forced the London conference of the Risk & Assurance Group (RAG) to be replaced by an online event. The event, to be known as RAG London Online, will deliver the same agenda with speakers participating by live video stream from remote locations.
The online event will be held on the same dates as originally planned for the London meeting, Wednesday 13th and Thursday 14th May. Live presentations and panel discussions will be broadcast throughout both days. Anyone will be able to watch the live feed without needing to register in advance, and the audience will be able to interact with speakers in real-time by sending questions and sharing their observations in the form of typed messages. A web portal for the online conference was erected on Friday, and the first schedule announcements are expected soon.
Some experts are predicting that mid-April will see the peak for coronavirus in Britain, and that rates of infection will then fall. However, the impact on London has been especially severe. Staff have been sent home and relevant services have been suspended, meaning there would now be insufficient time to prepare for a large meeting even if the government lifts travel restrictions in early May. Conference hosts BT have confirmed their willingness to hold the conference later in the year, but dates will not be proposed until the risk of further postponements has subsided.
Two widely-respected members of RAG’s leadership team have agreed to join me as comperes for RAG London Online, helping me to maintain continuity as we switch between speakers in different locations. They are Rachel Goodin, Head of Technology Audit at Ocado, and Anthony Sani, boss of Orillion Solutions and formerly the RAFM Executive at MTN Group.
This year RAG would have drawn an especially diverse range of attendees to London. It is bitterly disappointing to have to announce a delay after so many professionals had agreed to participate so far in advance. International registrations were at an all-time high until coronavirus became front-page news. The roster of speakers coming to London included senior managers working for telcos in Australia, Russia, Afghanistan and India, as well as a wide range of European countries.
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. Compared to other conference organizers, RAG has placed a high priority on using the internet to share information and advice. RAG began experimenting with live video streaming during the second half of 2019, with the result that preparations for the first season of RAG Television were already advanced by the time coronavirus was first identified as a global hazard. There is a brazenness to some conference organizers who charge telcos excessive amounts so small cliques can be ‘educated’ in the immediate vicinity of a theme park, casino or golf course. For our profession to thrive we must stop discriminating based on where professionals live or how much money their employers can afford to spend on international travel. Taking this conference online means we will deliver the best knowledge and advice to a much larger audience. This will be the first time our profession has had a two-day online conference that is accessible to all. Achieving this milestone will be something worth celebrating.