The Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition’s (PaPSC) Annual Conference was held virtually from June 3rd to 25th in 2021. After initially planning an in-person event for 2020 and having to cancel due to COVID, the organization partnered with Whova to put on their first online event. Over the course of 22 days, the conference featured a variety of successful sessions, including two keynote presentations, 22 workshops, and multiple networking opportunities.
About the Pennsylvania Peer Support Coalition Conference
PaPSC is a peer support industry organization, which helps connect people who have been successful in the recovery process with others experiencing similar situations. The conference brings together peer specialists, recovery specialists, family recovery specialists, family peer specialists, and others in order to support them, create networking opportunities, and find ways to advocate for education and reform for mental health and recovery.
The event had high engagement, with many successful sessions, an active Community Board, and great ROI for their sponsors.
Community Board messages
- Giving attendees the chance to network and hold discussions
Being physically distanced doesn’t have to mean losing out on interaction! The organizers wanted to make sure attendees would be able to hold meaningful, useful discussions just like they had at previous, in-person events.
- Giving sponsors strong benefits and ROI
Many of the 2021 conference’s sponsors were hold-overs from their canceled 2020 event. Despite not having a physical venue, they wanted to make sure their sponsors got strong visibility and a good ROI from the virtual event.
- Effectively communicating with attendees and keeping them up to date
It was also important that the organizers were able to easily communicate with all their attendees. While they weren’t going to be able to speak to them face-to-face, they needed to be sure that attendees received any important information that might arise.
- Making sure the event ran smoothly and resolving any technical issues
As their first virtual conference, it was important to find an event solution that was easy to use, and that the organizers were confident they could resolve any technical issues with.
1. Empowering attendees to interact: Attendees were extremely active during the conference, using Whova’s Community Board event forum to start and join discussions. Topics ranged from everything from discussing hobbies, to support for specific groups, like veterans or members of the LGBT+ community.
They also used Whova’s Virtual Meet-Up feature, which allows attendees to plan in-app group video calls anyone is able to join in on. The organizers scheduled a few meet-ups ahead of time for their virtual Peer Drop-in, which they had been doing for over a year prior to the event. Attendees took this opportunity to engage even further, planning over a dozen other meet-ups for attendees from different regions.
Attendees and organizers alike created virtual meet-ups, where participants could join in face-to-face discussions through video
The organizers also set up virtual speed networking sessions for attendees, where they could randomly be assigned to a virtual “table” to meet other attendees in a video chat room. The tables would periodically shuffle to give attendees the opportunity to further expand their network, and they could follow up on connections with 1-1 messaging and video calls.
While the attendees spurred on a lot of this interaction themselves, the organizers were also able to encourage it with gamification through Whova’s Leaderboard Contest, which allows attendees to earn points and compete to win a prize for interacting in the Community Board and even joining in on networking sessions.
Community Board Messages
2. Giving sponsors opportunities for visibility throughout the app: Sponsors were able to achieve high visibility throughout the virtual event, with hundreds of thousands of attendee impressions. To achieve these results, the organizers took advantage of multiple sponsor visibilities throughout Whova, like featuring their name and logo on virtual banners throughout the web and mobile app. They also created digital sponsor booths, where sponsors could upload their company information, like photos, PDF brochures, videos, and more, for attendees to view.
Sponsors’ names and logos were featured on banners throughout the app
The organizers were also able to create multiple sponsor tiers, which they could use to control which benefits different sponsors received, such as where their company banners appeared, and could even add certain sponsors to specific sessions.
3. Quickly contacting attendees with Whova’s announcements: The organizers could immediately update attendees, sponsors, and speakers with Whova’s announcement feature, which achieved a high open rate by sending as both an email and in-app notification.
The organizers could even send different announcements to different attendee categories and ticket types, making it easy to reach who they needed to when they needed to. In addition to keeping attendees up-to-date on the event, the organizers also encouraged participation in the event by reminding attendees to utilize the Community Board.
Organizers could keep attendees up-to-date with announcements
4. Using an intuitive platform with responsive support: By using Whova’s all-in-one event platform, the organizers were able to avoid having to learn multiple platforms to put on their event and found the features they needed intuitive and easy to use. When they did have a question, Whova’s support team was highly responsive, so they were able to quickly get answers and the support they needed.
When asked what his biggest piece of advice for other organizers would be, organizer David Measel said to make sure to use Whova’s features to their fullest extent.