The Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE) partnered with Whova to host its annual conference virtually in 2021. Professionals in the continuing education field from across Canada joined Whova’s virtual conference platform to attend keynote speaker sessions, panel discussions, conference presentations, and workshops. Attendees engaged through the app to develop professionally, spark ideas for new ways to improve and innovate, and build upon their respective institutions.
About CAUCE 2021
CAUCE is a professional association of deans, directors, and senior administrative personnel in university continuing education in Canada. The mission of CAUCE is to support the success of its members in serving professional and adult learners and diverse learning communities.
Over the course of a month, attendees gathered around this year’s conference theme, “Spotlight 2021: Reimagining the role of CE in Higher Education,” to share ideas and best practices, deliberate on important topics, develop and strengthen networks, and reflect on the place of continuing education in broader society.
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1. Fostering virtual connections
The organizers of the 2021 annual conference wanted to strengthen the CAUCE community of professionals in university continuing education and offer participants the opportunity to make new connections and exchange ideas. Faced with the new challenge of connecting and engaging their audience virtually, the organizers were determined to leverage new and unique benefits for interaction that the new remote format could offer.
2. Scheduling concurrent sessions
The CAUCE 2021 organizers needed to make sure they would be able to schedule and run up to five concurrent sessions during the conference. The concurrent breakout sessions were a central component of the conference, and the organizers were wary of potential technical difficulties occurring while setting up virtual live sessions.
3. Registering attendees for a specific session
The CAUCE 2021 agenda included a special panel presentation, which needed to be limited to under 200 attendees. As there were nearly 500 attendees registered to attend the virtual conference, the organizers needed to make sure they could provide online access to the panel presentation to only the limited group of attendees.
4. Coordinating sponsors and exhibitors
Coordinating with conference sponsors and exhibitors can be a logistically challenging and somewhat daunting task leading up to the event. It was critical that the organizers could do this efficiently, while offering the sponsors and exhibitors a valuable experience, even though it would be entirely virtual.
5. Sharing conference resources efficiently
The conference was going to be packed with information that needed to be distributed effectively to every attendee in order to make the conference a productive experience. So, it was important to provide attendees with all of the relevant conference materials and resources in an organized way.
1. Offering a virtual Speed Networking session
The CAUCE organizers wanted to give participants a way to connect and network with other attendees as they would in an in-person conference. They decided to use Whova’s Speed Networking feature to host attendees in a live video call “tables” where they would have the chance to meet new people.
When attendees joined the Speed Networking session, they were assigned to a four-person virtual table that shuffled every 10 minutes. This session proved to be an easy way for participants to make connections with other CAUCE attendees they otherwise wouldn’t have, and took the pressure off initiating a networking connection with a new person.
2. Facilitating engagement in the Community Board
The Community Board served as another great way to get attendees acquainted with one another and start building connections. To get attendees started in the Community Board, the organizers set up Social Groups based on professional specialties in the field, like “Leadership and Strategy” and “Marketing and Student Service Administration.”
The Community Board took off from there, with participants posting their ideas about different conference themes in discussion threads, sharing articles, as well as light-hearted conversation topics and icebreaker introductions.
3. Creating live stream links directly through Whova
With Whova’s Advance Stream Integration, it was easy to create all of the conference;s sessions. By integrating their Zoom accounts, the organizers could create new Zoom calls directly from Whova and sync already scheduled calls with the platform. Through Whova’s online session manager tool, they were able to schedule concurrent sessions with no complications, while avoiding the hassle of toggling between two platforms or pasting any links.
4. Utilizing Whova’s Ticket Session Mapping
The organizers used the Ticket Session Mapping function to assign a limited group of conference attendees to the exclusive panel presentation session. The Ticket Session Mapping feature allowed them to register a limited number of 200 attendees for the specific session, and assign only those registered to have access to it, while keeping it within the agenda as part of the overall CAUCE 2021 conference.
5. Setting up sponsors and exhibitors directly in the app
The organizers took only a few minutes to upload the contact information for the CAUCE 2021 sponsors and exhibitors into Whova’s Sponsor and Exhibitor Centers, and from there, the contacts were emailed a personal link to set up their respective Sponsor or Exhibitor Booth. Each Sponsor or Exhibitor had the chance to add company contact information, links to deals and offers, branding content, company videos, or even set up a live virtual demo in the booth. This took the pressure off the organizers to manually set up each virtual booth, and allowed the vendors to get creative with the content they wanted to showcase.
The organizers also used Whova’s Passport Contest feature as a way to boost exhibitor visibility, where attendees could earn points towards winning a prize each time they engaged with the vendors. Throughout the virtual conference, attendees explored the list of sponsors and exhibitors and stopped in at the booths to watch company videos and chat live with booth staff.
CAUCE 2021 attendees viewed company videos and chatted with exhibitors in the virtual booths
6. Using the virtual platform as a resource hub
The CAUCE 2021 Agenda was uploaded before the conference so attendees could check out what was in store ahead of time. The conference exhibitors had also uploaded their information before the event for attendees to access. Having everything in one place in the Whova app let the remote audience get excited early and feel like the event had a real venue online.
The organizers also added a direct link to the conference platform to their website to steer interested participants in the right direction. After it was over, registered attendees could revisit the conference through the app to look at session recordings, download presentation slides and handouts, or scroll through previous chats and discussion posts from the conference.