Harvard Kennedy School Reunion

Success story with Whova

Executive Summary

The Harvard Kennedy School hosted their 2021 reunion digitally through Whova, taking advantage of virtual networking and engagement features to bring alumni together remotely to reconnect, network, and work with alumni organizations. In addition to a variety of smaller class meet-ups and networking opportunities, they were also able to hold sessions and Q&As with different alumni and faculty members.

About Harvard Kennedy School Reunion

The Harvard Kennedy School (also known as the John F. Kennedy School of Government and HKS) is the public policy school of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to Wikipedia, the Kennedy School has produced 17 heads of state or government, the most of any graduate institution in the world. Alumni also include other public servants, including cabinet officials, military leaders, heads of central banks, and legislators.

Each year, they host reunions for different graduating classes, but the COVID-19 pandemic required them to alter their plans. Instead of their usual in-person reunion, the entire event was held digitally through Whova in May, with the event spanning just over a week. The reunion was a highly interactive event with dozens of active sessions and meet-ups and thousands of in-app networking actions.

5,000+

Messages Exchanged

50+

Discussion Topics

1,300+ 

Attendees

Challenges

  • Reconnecting classmates remotely

As with any reunion, opportunities to network with other alumni and connect with old classmates were a major priority. However, as an entirely online event, the organizers needed ways to ensure that attendees would have ample opportunity to find each other, meet, and socialize throughout the event. 

  • Setting up panels and general sessions

In addition to networking opportunities, the reunion also featured panels by alumni on their fields of expertise and some general sessions held by the school’s administration to keep alumni updated. The event was going to require an intuitive way to hold these sessions that still provided plenty of opportunities for engagement.

  • Attendees used the Community Board to update each other on their careers and promote their work

    Furthering professional opportunities for attendees

As a networking event, the reunion gives further value to attendees by connecting them with other alumni in their industry and creating new opportunities for professional development. With Whova’s interaction features, it could be even easier to make these connections.

  • Encouraging attendees to participate in school and alumni networks

In addition to personal and business connections for alumni, the reunion was an important way for the organizers to encourage alumni to become further involved with the school and their various alumni networks and resources. They wanted ways to educated alumni about existing programs and opportunities and to encourage them to join.

Solutions

  • Attendees could find their graduating class in the Community Board to easily connect with former classmates

    Creating social groups through the Community Board for each class 

While there were some broader networking opportunities, attendees wanted the chance to reconnect with the people they graduated with. While they may not be able to move attendees into different rooms, the organizers provided dedicated, natural opportunities to chat with each other, have discussions, and share photos with Whova’s Community Board social groups.

Organizers created a group for each graduating class at the reunion so it was easy to directly reconnect with old classmates and take part in casual, asynchronous networking opportunities.

50+

Discussion Topics and Social Groups

  • Scheduling dedicated networking tracks for each graduating class

In addition to chatting through social groups, attendees also got the chance to talk face-to-face with video networking sessions with their graduating class. While they may not be able to move attendees into different rooms, the organizers were able to easily create online gatherings for different classes with Whova’s session tracks.

Organizers created networking sessions by integrating a Zoom meeting into the Whova platform and categorized these sessions by the class they were targeted for. For instance, a Class of 1996 alumni would be able to filter the agenda by the Class of 1996 track to specifically see sessions for their class. To make things easier, the organizers also added all class tracks to the general sessions as well, so attendees would be able to see all sessions available to them by filtering by their class! 

  • Furthering networking opportunities with attendee profiles, 1-1 messaging, and more

Attendees also took networking into their own hands through Whova’s Meet-up function, where they could suggest online meet-ups with other classmates, schedule them through the Community Board, and then meet in an embedded virtual meeting room. Attendees suggested meet-ups for their graduating class, those in the same field or location, and a number of other common factors or meet-up ideas!

    For further individual connections, alumni also made use of some of Whova’s other networking tools, like 1-1 messaging, attendee matchmaking, and introducing themselves with fun icebreaker prompts!

    5,000+

    Messages Exchanged

    • Attendees were able to take an active role in sessions by submitting questions through Whova’s Q&A feature

      Connecting alumni and the administration with integrated Q&A

    The organizers were able to encourage further involvement between the alumni and the school by hosting a discussion section with the HKS deans, using Whova’s Q&A function to ask them questions as it went on. Attendees could easily submit any questions they had through the mobile app or a session sidebar, as well as voting on other relevant questions so the speakers knew which questions to prioritize.

    • Creating professional development opportunities through the Community Board 

    Attendees also used the Community Board for more than just socializing. They created discussion topics for alumni to share information about their careers, helping attendees connect over relevant opportunities and even promote their work. Other threads were even more specific, as alumni asked for specific resources in their field or reached out to offer advice.

    • Promoting organizations and alumni networks with Whova’s Artifact Center

    In order to educate alumni about relevant HKS organizations and networks, the organizers transformed Whova’s Artifact Center into a virtual display to explore different programs.

    The Artifact Center is a versatile, interactive function where organizers can allow presenters to set up videos, pictures, PDFs, and more for presentations. It can be used for poster sessions, start-up pitches, art galleries, or in this case, an overview of different groups and organizations alumni may be interested in. Different set-ups informed attendees about alumni networks for different regions, HKS volunteer opportunities, and a number of other organizations and programs.

    Volunteer programs and organizations were able to connect with alumni by being featured in the Artifact Center

    Quotes

    Utilizing the Whova for our annual alumni reunion was a great success. The platform proved easy to use for alumni of all ages. It greatly enhanced our event experience by centralizing the content so very few questions came through regarding accessing live streams, etc […] Overall, very happy with the purchase and look forward to where the platform can go for virtual/hybrid events in the future. Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Relations Team

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