2020 California Entrepreneurship Educators Conference (Virtual)

Success story with Whova

Executive Summary

The California Entrepreneurship Educators Conference (CEEC) worked with Whova to bring their annual event online. Despite initial concerns about postponing the in-person conference, the result was a record-setting virtual event that pulled in huge numbers of both speakers and attendees from all corners of the world.

About 2020 California Entrepreneurship Educators Conference

The conference is an annual event put on by SDSU’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Center in partnership with the International Council for Small Business (ICSB). The conference attracts professionals, educators, and students from around the world to network and attend sessions on entrepreneurship education. 

While it was initially planned to be held in person, the 2020 California Entrepreneurship Educators Conference successfully transitioned into a virtual event, and was held from April 15 to April 17.

Challenges

When the coronavirus pandemic put most events on hold, an array of potential challenges emerged in finding the best way to hold a conference remotely.  In order to make this virtual event as successful as possible, the event planning team worked with Whova to address their new concerns, such as: 

1. Transitioning to virtual fast and smoothly: CEEC 2020 took place in mid-April, when fully online events were still very new to many organizers! Not only that, but they made the decision to use Whova only 5 days before the conference. This meant that initial plans for an in-person event had to be quickly modified to support the new format and gave them only a few days to set up the virtual event. 

2. Securing online speakers: With many speakers unsure about the success of virtual events, securing strong speakers was going to be a challenge. Additionally, as attendees were still unsure of what kind of experience to expect, it was crucial to have exciting speakers and attractive content to convince them to participate. Getting the right event content was both more important than ever and potentially even more challenging. 

3. Attracting attendees: As a virtual event, CEEC now had the opportunity to reach out to attendees who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend, and could even support a larger audience now that they didn’t have to worry about the number of seats or other physical restraints. But what was the best way to spread the word to these new potential attendees?

4. Encouraging virtual engagement: As a conference centered on collaboration, the organizers knew that opportunities to network, discuss, and learn from each other was an important draw for many attendees. But without an in-person event’s opportunities to interact with attendees, CEEC needed to come up with other ways to create engagement.

Solutions

With Whova’s resources, the virtual conference was able to see new heights as the largest online event for entrepreneurship education. Here’s how it all came together: 

1. Whova makes it extremely easy to digitally transfer pre-existing materials to the platform. 27 online sessions were quickly set up and streamed smoothly during the event days. Everything from the agenda to exhibitors to attendees can be automatically uploaded through Excel or another event platform, and online sessions only take minutes to set up through Zoom or another streaming platform and connect to Whova. By prioritizing efficiency, we were able to quickly help CEEC set up their virtual event!

2. Holding the event virtually actually ended up being a benefit when it came to content. The organizers took full advantage of the benefits of a virtual event by reaching out to speakers from around the world. Whova supports both livestreamed sessions and pre-recorded video sessions, so it was simple for speakers from all over to either quickly drop in for their session or prepare it ahead of time. 

3. The events team came up with creative marketing solutions for advertising a virtual event. As an international event, they made use of their partnership with ICSB, which was already part of a worldwide network. From there, they reached out even further by encouraging all of their speakers to feature a virtual badge (easy to make with Whova’s marketing tools!) on their LinkedIn page to advertise their appearance. This ensured they were able to specifically reach people with an interest in their content and was also easy and cost-effective to put together! 

4. The Whova app has a number of ways for attendees to easily engage with each other, such as private messaging, event-wide discussion threads in the Community Board, Q&A for speakers and session-specific chat, virtual meet-ups, and more! By using Whova, CEEC was able to encourage plenty of interaction among the attendees, and even encourage shyer attendees to participate more through the virtual format! 

Results

Days to set up

Messages

Attendees

Meet-ups

Online sessions

Discussion topics

Interview with the conference organizer

Quotes

One of the most valuable things about virtual events right now, and I think everyone should take advantage of it, is the reach we were able to get. I don’t think any of us could have fathomed that we would hit 77 different countries.

Tammy Nguyen

Virtual and In-Person Event Manager

Excellent by all means: well organized, excellent speakers, super crowd of participants.

Hanaa El Hilaly

Attendee

An excellent event filled with many experienced and amazing speakers, providing a unique blend of academic research with realistic entrepreneurship. It was a great offering with a combined source of inspiration.

Kamrul Hassan

Attendee

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