California State PTA 122nd Annual Convention

Success story with Whova

Executive Summary

The California State PTA National Convention successfully used Whova to put on a highly interactive virtual conference, facilitating thousands of engagement actions from session Q&A, Community Board discussions, Speed Networking, and more. By leveraging gamification and pre-conference activities, they furthered interaction among attendees and secured high ROI for their sponsors and exhibitors. They also found a unique use for Whova’s Artifact Center by using it to showcase the winners of the annual student Reflections contest, giving the students the same recognition and visibility they would have had in person.

About California State PTA 122nd Annual Convention

PTA members from across California attend the convention annually to connect, learn what other PTA units are doing, and work on how to further their impact by attending workshops, discussions, and more. Usually in-person, the convention was held virtually for the first time in May 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant they especially needed to make sure their platform supported engagement, networking, and interaction to give the attendees the same benefits as years previous.

2,000+

Attendees

22,000+

Community Board posts

180+

Meet-ups

3,000+

Q&A messages

7,000+ 

Messages sent

2,500+

Exhibitor leads

Challenges

  • Managing numerous virtual sessions for a lengthy event

The PTA Convention was an especially large event, with many sessions, both in English and Spanish, and 118 speakers total. In addition to numerous workshops for attendees to learn from, they also held general meetings for conducting the business of the organization, and meetings for determining the association’s resolutions for that year. They needed an effective way to hold different types of sessions with varying levels of interactivity.

  • Virtual session engagement and connecting remote attendees

In addition to managing the sessions and running them smoothly, they wanted them to feel as engaging as they would be in person, allowing attendees to ask questions and contribute their own thoughts. Likewise, it was also important that attendees have opportunities to connect and network outside of sessions.

Attendees could engage and connect with one another through Whova’s Community Board

Attendees could engage and connect with one another through Whova’s Community Board

  • Providing high ROI for sponsors and exhibitors

The convention featured multiple sponsors contributing at different tiers, as well as exhibitors. To give both groups the best ROI, they needed a way to provide different opportunities for sponsor visibility in a virtual format and to encourage virtual booth traffic to secure more leads for exhibitors.

  • Featuring the winners of the Reflections contest

The PTA Convention usually features the winners from the Reflections program, a yearly competition where students from all grade levels across the state can submit artwork inspired by a set theme. At an in-person event, they would display the art throughout the venue’s hallways, so they needed a way of translating this experience of exploring the different entries online, so the winning students could still get recognition and the chance to present their creations.

 

Solutions

  • Supporting a long virtual event with hundreds of speakers and many sessions

While managing the logistics of a large event is always going to be an undertaking, the organizers were able to reduce their workload by utilizing Whova’s Speaker Center, a central location for managing speaker information that empowers speakers to upload their own information, from speaker bios to session videos to handouts. This allowed the organizers to save time collecting speaker information, while the speakers could ensure everything was as they wanted it for their session.

To accommodate Spanish-speaking attendees, the organizers used Whova’s session tracks to specifically tag sessions held in Spanish, allowing attendees to easily filter the agenda to sessions on that track. For the sessions themselves, while some were held entirely live, many were pre-recorded, making them much easier to manage on event day. 

However, they didn’t want attendees to lose out on any interaction opportunities. Live sessions were easily embedded into the Whova platform, allowing attendees to interact with the speakers through Q&A and session chat. Meanwhile, the pre-recorded sessions had two different purposes. For some, the organizers still wanted attendees to be able to ask questions, even if the session itself wasn’t held live. Whova’s Q&A feature also supported these sessions; attendees submitted questions as the session recording played and the speaker answered through text in real time. 

For others, the organizers actually wanted to feature some sessions multiple times throughout the event to encourage attendees to view them if they hadn’t already. This was easily accomplished by simply duplicating an existing session through Whova to assign the same video to multiple days.

  • Facilitating remote engagement and effectively connecting attendees

The event successfully created opportunities for engagement through Whova’s Community Board, session Q&A and polling, and networking features. Whova’s Community Board, an event discussion board where attendees can create and respond to different topics, was particularly active. Attendees and organizers alike created discussion topics on promoting diversity in schools, coordinating volunteers, how to rebuild community when schools finally returned in-person in the fall, and much more. 

Attendees were able to directly engage with sessions through embedded Q&A, live session polling, and session chat. They could submit questions directly to the speaker, while others voted for their favorite questions to be listed first. Meanwhile, organizers were also able to create polls specifically attached to individual sessions and create more general polls for the entire event to participate in.

Beyond session interaction, attendees found even more opportunities to connect with networking features like Icebreakers, Virtual Meet-Ups, and Speed Networking. Virtual Meet-Ups allowed attendees to create video meet-ups through the app centering on discussion topics and opportunities to socialize for other attendees to join to interact face-to-face. Meanwhile, Speed Networking placed attendees in shuffling video calls in order to easily expand their networks and meet more attendees. The organizers created some general Speed Networking sessions for all attendees, and also specific ones for board members, council members, and other specific positions within the PTA to break the ice within these leadership roles.

180+

Meet-ups

3,000+

Q&A messages

22,000+

Community Board posts

3,000+

Polling answers

  • Ensuring strong sponsor and exhibitor benefits

Both sponsors and exhibitors could create virtual booths in Whova, where they displayed company videos, livestream links, photos, PDFs, and booth promotions, as well as interacting with attendees through a chat sidebar. 

The organizers could also tier sponsors and exhibitors for visibility and further benefits. At the California PTA Convention, high-tier sponsors were given desirable locations for their company banner to be featured throughout the app. They also had the opportunity to sponsor Speed Networking sessions and specific sessions during the event, with their name and logo featured in the agenda and in the session itself.

High-tier sponsors got higher visibility with in-app banners and could even sponsor specific sessions and networking opportunities

High-tier sponsors got strong visibility with in-app banners and could even sponsor specific sessions and networking opportunities

The organizers further encouraged exhibitor booth traffic by using Whova’s Passport Contest to conveniently gamify the Exhibitor Hall. Attendees collected stamps by interacting with exhibitor booths and were entered in a raffle if they collected them all. This approach to encouraging interaction was extremely effective, with 2,560 leads generated at the event.

2,500+

Exhibitor leads

  • Supporting the Reflections program through the Artifact Center

As an innovative solution for bringing the Reflections contest online, the convention used Whova’s Artifact Center, a feature where presenters can set up online presentations with video, PDFs, and photos. This worked particularly well for the multimedia nature of Reflections — poems and short stories could be displayed as PDFs; songs, dances, and short films were uploaded as videos; and art and photography could be easily displayed as photos. Each presentation’s description included an artist’s statement, and attendees could easily move between the different exhibits, leaving encouraging comments for the students on each presentation.

The Artifact Center gave students an opportunity to showcase their artwork online, and PTA members could leave praise on each entry

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