The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce (herein referred to as the Chamber) needed a comprehensive platform to host its 11th annual Worcester Women’s Leadership Conference (WWLC) virtually, due to the event restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Having already started planning this event for an in-person experience, the Chamber was preparing for a full-day conference with morning and afternoon keynotes from two different speakers and eight workshops to run simultaneously, with four in the morning and four in the afternoon. The Chamber also had sold sponsorships of various levels to 28 businesses as well as table space to 50 exhibitors as part of their vendor marketplace service at the event, where those exhibitors could sell product and interact directly with attendees. What’s more, the Chamber’s typical turnout for the WWLC event comprised of over 800 attendees, and the Chamber had purchased an app to manage the event scheduling and presentation information, including the ability to send real-time push notifications to attendees to remind them of start times for various activities.
The Chamber needed a partner that could not only provide a robust virtual platform from which to host this major event and all the live and pre-recorded presentations, but a team that could manage the bandwidth necessary to host 800 attendees and be able to tie in backend web programming to the app system for one seamless experience.
We therefore developed a microsite with an interactive floor map as the main view of the site space that attendees could click on to enter each area. Such a design allowed for simple yet effective user interaction as well as space for sponsors, as would an in-person event. Upon clicking a specific area, attendees would open a sub-page within the site that contained the relevant content and/or activity. This interactive floor map was also duplicated with a left-side map view on each sub-page, so that attendees could move from one space to the next fluidly rather than having to always go back to the homepage (just as they would at an in-person event). We also built in a navigation menu typical of most websites, to ensure attendees could comfortably move around the space regardless of tech-savviness. And, the app previously purchased by the Chamber was tied into the backend of the virtual platform, so attendees could access the app directly from the interactive floor maps.
For the scheduled keynotes and workshops, we utilized Zoom Webinars because the Chamber needed video meeting technology that would allow multiple, remotely located speakers to present to a maximum 800-person passive audience in live video format as well as play pre-recorded video before returning live for Q&A sessions. Due to bandwidth needs for such a large audience, our team hosted the keynotes and workshops from our office and managed the behind-the-scenes flow of the presentations, so that speakers and presenters could focus on their specific content.
We also incorporated social aspects typical of the WWLC in-person event, including peer-to-peer networking, a vendor marketplace for exhibitors to interact with attendees, and a selfie photo station, into the virtual event space. Live face-to-face networking was achieved using an instant meeting video tool, which allows up to eight people to join a video chat room at a time, simulating those random meet-and-greets that happen during a break or at lunch. The vendor marketplace, a mainstay of the in-person WWLC experience, was recreated through a dedicated space via site sub-pages where exhibitors/vendors could share content and a direct link to their website (especially beneficial for those vendors with ecommerce sites). All vendors were also given a contact form for any attendees that wanted to talk directly to that vendor. Just as with the event sponsors, there were various levels of exhibitor packages, and vendors were given more space and range for content based on those tiers. To emulate the selfie station photo-op of WWLC, we embedded a social feed into the break room space that pulled posts on Instagram and Twitter based on the event hashtag, #WWLC2020. Attendees were able to share their experiences of the conference throughout the day in near real-time, just as they would if the event were held in-person.
The Chamber’s first virtual conference of this size and scope was deemed a success by Chamber members and attendees alike.
The virtual WWLC 2020 event had over 900 registrants with approximately 700 attendees during the 8am to 4pm conference timeframe. Both morning and afternoon keynotes were attended by 600-700 attendees. Each workshop was attended by 150-200 attendees, with some audience overlapping if a workshop ended earlier than another.