The National Association for Interpretation (NAI) hosted their National Conference as a hybrid event with Whova’s event planning platform. Though balancing both the online and in-person groups was challenging, the organizers used Whova to unite both kinds of attendees, streamlining their event communication and management. The resulting engagement was outstanding: with over 11,000 messages exchanged and 91% app adoption, nearly all attendees were on the app and actively communicating with 1-1 messaging tools.
Interview with the Organizer
About the National Association for Interpretation
You might’ve thought the “I” in NAI stood for interpreting languages, but what the NAI actually focuses on is interpreting heritage. When visitors come to parks, museums, or other cultural sites, interpreters communicate the historical and cultural meanings of the surrounding environment. So, instead of interpreting in the linguistic sense, the NAI interprets heritage to enrich the visitor experience.
The NAI National Conference invites their 6,000+ members from over 30 countries worldwide to celebrate their profession while learning from each other. The 2021 hybrid conference was hosted online as well as physically in Palm Springs, California, with both sides supported by Whova.
- Managing both attendee types
Even though both virtual and in-person attendees are attending the same conference, their respective mediums mean they’ll both have vastly different experiences. Organizing attendance, sessions, and reminders for both types of attendees simultaneously could prove challenging.
- Keeping the hybrid conference connected
The magic of Palm Springs could make it easy for organizers to focus less on their online attendees. They needed a way to unify both their audiences so virtual attendees didn’t feel left out.
- The new app learning curve
Some conference participants would be using Whova for the first time. It was important that new users would be comfortable using the app prior to the event.
- Facilitating engagement
Keeping the attendees coming back every year for more is arguably the top priority for most events. Engaging them during the sessions with the speakers and each other is essential.
- Specific announcements for specific attendees
With Whova, the organizers could create and assign attendee categories at their leisure. From there, the organizers were also able to send specific announcements, polls, and surveys to specific groups. Using Whova’s Attendee Categories, the organizers managed the overlap between their attendees so that in-person attendees only got content relevant to their experience while online attendees only got content relevant to theirs.
Organizers could specify exactly what attendees would receive in-app announcements, making sure the information was relevant
Anything that they’re participating in together, make sure you’re speaking to both audiences. When they’re not, use that Whova feature to make sure only in-person attendees get in-person notifications, because as an online attendee, when you get that notification, you feel segregated.Song Stott
- Giving virtual access to in-person attendees
Whova not only lets organizers send specific content to specific attendee types, but also lets them control who can access specific content. The NAI organizers gave virtual attendees access to online sessions, of course, but gave in-person attendees access to both in-person and online sessions, too.
This helped in two ways: 1) it gave in-person attendees additional benefits that could make them more eager to keep attending at the costlier, but more perks-entitled ticket type, and 2) it let the in-person attendees also be virtual attendees. They were able to take a break from all the in-person socializing, and let them interact with the online attendees, broadening their connections and diversifying their event experience.
Controlling session visibility also helped the organizers manage both online and in-person sessions in one screen. Filtering between events helped them keep track of which kind of session was where and when, which was especially helpful during the 5-day conference with many concurrent sessions.
- Pre-conference Whova rehearsals
For the organizer, scheduling virtual event rehearsals was “a must.” Some speakers might wait til the day of their session to log on to Whova for the first time. Holding rehearsals guarantees that speakers use the app ahead of their session while giving them time to feel comfortable with it. It also often gets them excited to use the Whova features and make the best of their presentations.
Whova makes rehearsals secure by having them be invite-only, with organizers selecting the participants by categories or hand-picking them individually. Because the rehearsals are set up much like the actual sessions, everyone – even the organizer – gets to practice their roles. Initial problems can be addressed ahead of time, participants get to network a bit before the event, and everybody can relax a bit knowing they’ve passed the dry run.
Rehearsal sessions could only be viewed by the speakers and organizers, giving them the opportunity to privately get comfortable with presenting
Scheduling that rehearsal for online presenters is a must.Song Stott
- Pre-session polling
The NAI organizers specifically encouraged the speakers to use Whova’s Live Polling feature to create engagement before the session and gauge what topics the audience wanted to touch on. Many speakers took up their advice and as a result were able to: jumpstart the session engagement before it even started, got quick headcounts of their audience, and empowered them to increase engagement independently from the organizers.
Speakers ran polls before and during the sessions, giving them the chance to prepare and engage attendees