Florida International University (FIU), Miami, is ranked among America’s top-50 national public universities and is focused on the success of approximately 58,000 students.
The Center for Student Engagement Department is one of the numerous departments at FIU, and it strives to find the best fit for its students and to build affinity towards the institution. The department was tasked with the planning of ‘convocation week’ event, and the University ‘resource fair’ was one of the events planned for the week.
One of the key goals of the ‘resource fair’ is to outreach new students and provide them a platform to gather resources to lead a successful academic and campus life. It jumpstarts the learning by connecting students with representatives from more than 30 departments that service the students, including academic and career support departments, student affairs departments, and student health, wellness & safety departments.
Challenges (and solutions)
Hazel Hooker, Program Director, Center for Student Engagement, FIU, says, “When we started planning the ‘resource fair’, we were worried about transitioning into a virtual framework while maintaining the same experience for departments and students. In our typical in-person fairs, we reserve a large ballroom and set out tables for the various participating departments.
Based on the number of departments that accept our invitation, we create a floor plan and plan every requirement. On the day of the event, the students walk in and go around to meet the various departments and get their queries resolved.
We started looking for the right technology platform that would help us transform such an event into a virtual event. After some research, we found that Airmeet supports huge fairs and we were thrilled to explore it.”
Let’s take a look at how FIU set-up a large-scale virtual fair and how you could use these learnings and leverage Airmeet for similar events as well.
Challenge 1: Pivot to virtual events seamlessly with 'Social Lounge'
When the Center for Student Engagement imagined moving their physical event framework with the table set-up into a virtual environment, they needed a platform that offered virtual tables. They didn’t want the event structure to be a series of lectures or panel discussions, as that would have changed the complete dynamics of the event.
Hazel says, “To organize an event we generally have to work with facilities, arrange tables, meet fire marshal’s standards and take into consideration a lot of logistics. With Airmeet, however, this became hassle-free and quick.
Airmeet’s ‘Social Lounge’ was our large ballroom, and the virtual table setting replicated the physical event experience. We just needed to customize it to suit our needs. The department representatives had to just join in the meeting, take a seat at the virtual tables and talk to the students via live video-conferencing enabled on each table. As simple as that. We got a very positive feedback from all the departments about how wonderful the experience was. It blew everyone’s mind away.”
Here is what made it possible –
- Social Lounge: Airmeet’s ‘Social Lounge’ feature allows you to connect with attendees on the same table via live feed. This powerful feature enables you to host a fair with multiple booths. It was especially beneficial to FIU as it offered intimate conversations between departments and students with video on the table. Once the students were done with one department, they could move on to the next and thereby explore the entire social room.
The ‘Social Lounge’ feature is also remarkable as it offers a lot of customization. You can configure the number of tables, name of the tables, and even the name of the lounge.
FIU renamed the ‘Social Lounge’ as the ‘University Resource Fair’. They created more than 30 tables for various departments and named each table accordingly.
‘Social Lounge’ automatically numbers each table. This helped them create a floor-plan, similar to a physical event, for both the departments and the students which made it easier for the students to locate where they needed to go. Since the tables have numbers and editable table titles, the floor plan spelt everything out and structured the event for all. It is fairly easy and quick to create a table setting and requires no logistic assistance and acquisition.
- Real-time HD streaming: High-quality video and audio streaming makes the experience extremely professional and allows participants to maintain focus on the event goal.
- Simple and secure registration: For attendee registration and authorization, anyone with the domain could register for the event. It was a lot easier as opposed to uploading thousands of names of potential registrants. It also ensured security because nobody could crash the event.
- Screen-sharing: Airmeet enables screen-sharing in the ‘Social Lounge’. It makes presentations and product demos more immersive and engaging. For FIU, this was especially helpful as department representatives could share their screen and guide the students better.
- Engagement features: While the ‘Social Lounge’ event is active, Airmeet still offers texting capability through its ‘Chat Box’ and ‘Q&A’ features. Departments could easily share resource links via the ‘Chat Box’ as opposed to printing and handing out material.
Each department created a separate online folder to give handouts like brochures, flyers, other resources and sent it to students as a link in the ‘Chat Box’. The entire event seamlessly transitioned into the virtual mode and became eco-friendly as a bonus.
"In order to transform a resource fair into a virtual event, we started looking for the right technology platform. After some research, we found that Airmeet supports huge fairs through the ‘social lounge’ feature and we were thrilled to explore it."
– Hazel Hooker, Program Director, Center for Student Engagement, Florida International University
Challenge 2: Adapting to technology
Hazel says, “Learning a new technology can be challenging for some. But truthfully Airmeet was very easy to use. Even with different technical expertise levels, we were able to get everybody to use it without any glitches. To ensure that everybody understood instructions and people who missed out on the demo were well acquainted with the platform, we created a step-by-step guide.”
- Ease-of-use/Easy-to-use: Airmeet works on all modern web browsers and does not require any downloadable component to join or host an event. It makes the platform inclusive for all. The departmental representatives had a lot of questions about permissions, difficulty level, set-up and more, and they all vanished as they entered the event platform.
- Support and training: Airmeet is committed to its community. It provides support throughout the journey. The support team even offered a separate demo to departmental representatives in order to make them comfortable with the platform.
To get them accustomed to the virtual environment, Airmeet created a demo site where departments could practice with their colleagues and go in-and-out as they pleased.
Airmeet’s support team is available 24/7 for assistance — from creating the event to making it live.
Hazel says, “Post the event, we received a lot of inquiries from around the University about how to use Airmeet since the experience was structured and great. The experience was much admired as it allowed us to interact with students rather than just doing another webinar session or a Q&A kind of event.
We now realize that this platform will be significant to us even post the pandemic. We can now easily reach students online which was a bit cumbersome before. It also provides a lot of flexibility in terms of timing and planning the event. As the world has taken an economic hit, attending physical events will be limited. So factoring all this together, Airmeet becomes an extremely critical platform for engaging students and helping them learn remotely.
We also plan to host a ‘happy hours’ style event for everyone, including students and staff, to drive interaction and connection during these tough times.”