Society for Conservation Biology IMCC6 (Virtual)

Success story with Whova

Executive Summary

After deciding to bring their event online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Society for Conservation Biology partnered with Whova for the 6th International Marine Conservation Congress to give members the same networking and educational opportunities virtually that they had gotten from previous in-person events.

About the International Marine Conservation Congress

The International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) is an event held by the Marine section of the Society for Conservation Biology. The event is mainly for members of the association, who come from all across the marine science field, from students to professionals to policymakers, to share findings, connect with others in the field, and promote conversation around conserving marine science. The 6th IMCC took place virtually through Whova from August 15-28.

1,198

Attendees

987

Icebreaker responses

10,960

Messages exchanged

1,605,090

Sponsor impressions

325

Photos shared

423

Discussion posts

Challenges and New Opportunities

Networking with others in the field is a critical part of any association event. IMCC6’s organizers wanted to be sure that members and other attendees were getting the most out of their experience by connecting virtually with others in the field, learning about the latest in marine science, and getting the absolute most out of the event. But with virtual events still fairly unfamiliar, the organizers needed to find a way to bring these benefits to a virtual event, including:   

1. Gaining new members: As an association event, IMCC6 needed to not only provide value to current members, but also reach new potential members. A major priority for the event was to both reach people who wouldn’t have been able to attend the event previously and get them interested in joining the Society of Conservation Biology in the future.

2. Bringing benefits to society members: While non-members could still attend, IMCC6 is specifically for the Society of Conservation Biology. What was the best way to get attendees the benefits of their membership through the virtual format?

3. Fostering the community: Beyond the initial interaction, it’s also important for attendees to make connections that will be long-lasting and meaningful. It’s easy to exchange a few surface-level messages, but opportunities to get to talk in-depth will not only make the event more enjoyable, but will also give attendees the valuable connections that make their membership worthwhile.

4. Providing helpful membership information and high-quality content:  In addition to the networking elements, the educational components were also a huge draw of IMCC6. Presentations, in-depth talks from important speakers, and other opportunities to learn about recent findings and other research keep members updated on the most recent goings-on in the field, and can also prompt further discussion and growth. The organizers wanted to be sure that attendees would still be able to easily view this content online while keeping the interactive, collaborative element. 

5. Putting on an affordable event: With virtual events still very new,  the organizers needed to ensure that they were putting their resources to good use by putting on an event that was high quality while also not unnecessarily expensive.

6. Ensuring sponsor ROI: In a virtual format, sponsors’ presence can feel minimized without physical banners or stands as they would have in an in-person event. The organizers needed to find a way to still ensure their ROI for the event.

Solutions

By working with Whova and our resources for virtual events, IMCC6’s organizers were easily able to meet these goals! Whova’s virtual event platform is specifically designed to make attending virtual sessions easy and intuitive and to provide a variety of new ways for attendees to connect through an online platform. Here’s how we did it: 

1. Attracting new attendees online: Virtual events are a great opportunity to reach attendees who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to make the event. With Whova’s marketing tools, events can spread the word online and reach potential attendees who might not have considered registering for the event if it was in-person. Because it’s not required that IMCC6 attendees be SBC members, the event provided these attendees with the opportunity to get to know SBC’s community and learn about the benefits of being a member.

2. Giving members exclusive content for discounted prices: While IMCC is open to non-SBC non-members, members’ admission comes at a steep discount. From there, Whova continues to support attendee tiering by allowing the organizers to include other member-specific benefits through Whova, such as setting up private virtual meetups or exclusive sessions that only members have the password for.

3. Various virtual networking tools to help enhance the community: Despite their distance, IMCC6 attendees connected virtually through messaging, video calls, and virtual meetups. In the Community Board, anyone could create a thread to get a discussion started with other attendees, and when attendees were looking to connect with someone specific, they could reach out with 1-1 chat and video calls. Messaging was particularly popular at IMCC6, with over 10,000 messages exchanged throughout the event!

Attendees were also able to get face to face interaction through virtual meetups. Speakers at one session created a meetup for attendees to join them afterward for a virtual happy hour, one meetup centered around discussing solutions to relevant industry issues, others focused on other specific research topics, and some were just for friendly chatting and community building!

4. Interactive video sessions directly embedded into the agenda: Whether the virtual session has been pre-recorded or is being livestreamed, attendees just have to click on the corresponding item to view it. In an event like IMCC6, where many of the members have a wide range of interests, these sessions can be categorized by custom tracks, such as Workshops, Policy & Planning, and Tech, that can help attendees choose which sessions interest them the most. 

Collaboration doesn’t have to pause during the sessions either; each session also features a session-specific chat and a Q&A function, making it easy for attendees to discuss with both fellow attendees and the speaker. 

5. Affordable pricing with fewer expenses: With no need to worry about food, hotel, travel, or venue costs, virtual events can already be cheaper to put on than in-person ones. However, Whova can make virtual events like IMCC6 even more affordable, with less expensive pricing than many other platforms. Its all-in-one event management features also prevented organizers from having to spend the time and money to make accounts on different platforms for the same features.

6. Increase sponsor exposure with sponsor banners, webpages, and virtual booths: The conference utilized Whova’s sponsor banner and virtual booths feature to maximize the sponsors’ exposure. The sponsors were displayed in the app with their company videos and plenty of interaction opportunities, and on the website with Whova’s sponsor webpage!

Quotes

“The effort of the IMCC6 panel to bring a HUGE symposium online has been amazing. All I’ve managed to join has been flawless, very inclusive, plus I hope my carbon footprint has been reduced!!” Liz Morris-Webb

Attendee

“#IMCC2020 is my first virtual conference where I’m both attending AND presenting! The @WhovaSupport app really makes it feel like we’re in a conference community even if we’re scattered across the globe. Looking forward to a good two weeks of #MarineConservation!” Catie Alves

Presenter and Attendee

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