Air Force Eastern Regional Environmental Restoration SummitSuccess story with Whova
The Air Force Eastern Regional Environmental Restoration Summit, hosted by the Environmental Management Directorate of the Air Force Civil Engineering Center, took place digitally through Whova in July of 2021. The two-day summit included dozens of live streamed sessions, where attendees were able to connect and collaborate on environmental cleanup goals.
About the Air Force Eastern Regional Environmental Restoration Summit
The Air Force Eastern region followed the Western and Central regions in hosting this Environmental Restoration Summit. The annual summit is an opportunity for the Air Force, Environmental Protection Agency and State Regulators to meet and work together to achieve environmental cleanup goals.
Attendees at the summit heard various speaker presentations from leaders of the EPA and the Air Force Environmental Program on crucial program updates and national environmental cleanup goals and policies. The Summit was highly engaging and interactive with hundreds of messages shared and dozens of live and active sessions.
The organizers of the Air Force Eastern Regional Environmental Restoration Summit knew that hosting a successful virtual event wouldn’t necessarily be a walk in the park. Here are a few challenges they were up against:
- Switching gears to a virtual event
The organizers originally planned for the summit to be in-person, but as the outlook of the pandemic remained uncertain, they eventually realized they would have to hold the event virtually. Finding the best online solutions to effectively reach and connect the attendees became a critical challenge in the planning process.
- Collaborating effectively in a virtual space.
The event’s primary goal was to provide a space where Air Force, EPA, and State regulators could effectively work together to achieve environmental cleanup goals. This required a robust platform with multiple channels for communication and information sharing.
- Maintaining strong attendee engagement and participation.
With a group connecting on such crucial topics, keeping the audience engaged was especially important. Because they were planning a virtual event, the organizers needed a way to prevent Zoom burnout and keep things interesting.
- Distributing important information and official documents.
In addition to live streamed presentations, discussion sessions, and networking opportunities, document sharing was a key aspect of the Summit. They needed an effective, seamless way of distributing factsheets, contact lists, written policies, goals, and relevant program and operations updates to attendees.
These challenges were nothing the organizers couldn’t handle, and Whova’s features and support were there to help along the way:
- Reaching a broader audience than previous in-person Summits
Although they originally hoped for the event to be in-person, the virtual format proved to offer the organizers unique benefits that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. They were able to leverage the virtual platform to extend the summit to participants from areas in the eastern region, such as Puerto Rico, who wouldn’t normally be able to attend.
- Fostering meaningful online interactions through the Community Board
During the event, attendees created meetups to connect with others in their area and posted discussion topics in the Community Board. The Leaderboard was a great way for attendees to have fun with the app during the event and encouraged participants to interact with one another.
Participants also matched their profiles based on interest, affiliation, background, and networked through private 1:1 messaging through the app.
- Capturing audience attention with live session polls
The organizers set up a number of engaging live polling questions at different times throughout the event to connect all of the participants. They also created some polls linked to certain sessions in order to draw engagement and gather more specific thoughts from the audience.
- Organizing tracks for concurrent breakout sessions.
During the second day of the summit, attendees had the opportunity to participate in various breakout sessions to connect with their respective EPA regions in smaller groups.
Dividing the breakout sessions by region was made simple by using Whova’s agenda track manager tool, which allows organizers to categorize sessions so attendees can filter the agenda by specific groups, topics, or session formats.
- Utilizing Whova to create a hub for important documents.
Whova made it easy to upload all of the Summit’s essential documents in one place. Over 25 documents were readily accessible for all attendees to view and easy to download directly from the app as needed. This document hub also cut the cost of printing, and made the event even more sustainable.