Alexander Stephenson, Defence iQ: Shaping Conferences in the COVID-19 World

By Robbin Laird

I have attended the International Fighter Conference for the past two years in Berlin. I provided several analytical pieces on presentations and discussions at those two events as well as reports covering the events as well.

I was certainly looking forward to coming to Berlin and seeing my German friends and colleagues in the air combat community this Fall when the conference is scheduled to be held. But having left Australia prematurely in March and having returned to the United States in the world of COVID-19 that will not be.

But thankfully, the hosts for the conference, Defence iQ, have been working a way ahead for the conference which holds promise for providing an interesting venue for the conference which be held from the 18th through the 19th of November.

It will be a virtual conference but one which the Defence iQ team has come up with a way ahead which can make it more valuable than what many of us have experienced while living in the Zoom world.

To get a sense of how Defence iQ is working to provide a more innovative framework than has been delivered with the broad scale zoom experience, I had a chance to talk with Alexander Stephenson, Deputy Director, Defence iQ.

We discussed the approach being shaped for the event. As Stephenson explained it, the digital side of the company has been active for many years, and has provided core competencies which have been leveraged as the company faced the challenges of holding conferences in the virtual world.

As Stephenson explained it. the conference will host a number of panels through the more traditional virtual presentation methods, but will embed this approach within an innovative networking platform which allows the participants to interact with one another and to do so in way to set up chat rooms around topics of interest among the participants themselves.

They are using a networking platform called Brella which can able the participants to engage in interactive conversations around the conference framework.

According to Stephenson: “We have found at all of these official events, that the networking component is the hardest to replicate and lots of platforms don’t try to.

“Many will now be familiar with the lonely experience of attending a webinar purportedly attended by hundreds.

“With Brella, you’ll login to that web platform and you’ll answer a few questions about yourself and then it will suggest people on the delegate list you might like to meet.

“You can click on a page and set up a little private meeting room and invite people to join you as a sidebar. You can click on the conference room and look at the presentation itself, and ask questions. You can go to the list of event partners and next to each one, it has all their documents, PDF’s, videos and also the names of everyone from that company who are there.

“So you can click on them and reach out for a personal video chat. We all are trying to replicate as much networking, minus the beer and the whiskey as possible, but we’re also playing to some of the other strengths of the internet. You can see the full delegate list and you can request meetings with anyone on the delegate list and schedule them in.”

He noted that there are some advantages to the virtual conference when enabled with such networking software. They are able to have a wider range of moderators; they can invite a wider range of experts to present at the virtual event, and they can allow the military which comes free to their events to bring a larger delegation of participants to the conference as well.”

This approach allows for questions to be generated, and cross linked and answered, as well as much wider engagement than would happen in a live Q and A session as well. Stephenson highlighted: “It really shows us what questions people have. And that will obviously feed into the online discussion.”

In short, Defence iQ is providing an innovative answer to a key question: “How do we present a large event, like the Fighter Conference and make it attractive to people, but also replicate in some way that personalized experience that you get when you go to a conference?”

I am looking forward to the November event and providing my third year of coverage and analysis.

To register for the conference, please use the following link:

The featured photo: An F-22 flying with a Typhoon and a Rafael at the Trilateral Exercise at Langley AFB, December 2015. Credit Photo: USAF.

See the following:

International Fighter Conference, 2020

The International Fighter Conference 2019 report can be read as an e-book below:

The International Fighter Conference 2018 report can be read as a PDF below:


For a look at the Brella networking software, see the following: