Christian & Missionary Alliance (CMA) is a church denomination. The country of Canada has close to 430 churches. The CMA is the body that supports these churches and their leaders so they can lead well. For ease of administration, the CMA is divided into six districts. Each district manages a few regions and churches.
The Western Canadian District (WCD), which is one of the six districts, oversees all the churches in Alberta and one church in the northwest territory. In all, the WCD supports 130+ churches in these two territories.
The WCD hosts a biennial district conference. This two-day conference which has a theme brings people from all walks. Typically, the first day is a get together with some informative sessions, while the second day is reserved for reviewing and discussing the achievements of the WCD.
The last conference was held in 2019 across three different locations. With the idea of reaching out to more people, WCD had planned to hold the conference across five different locations in 2021. Wendy NG, Systems and Administration Manager at The Western Canadian District of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, said that physical conferences for them involved a lot of overheads like hotels, car rentals, travel etc. However, given the pandemic situation, they shelved the live event and decided to pivot to a hybrid model, eventually having to move to completely virtual.
The WCD team knew that Zoom would not meet their requirements. Hence, Wendy started searching for a suitable event hosting partner. An intensive internet search threw up many results. One such result featured Airmeet as an innovative event hosting platform. Following some exploration of the platform, Wendy was sure Airmeet was the one she wanted to partner with.
Challenges (And Solutions)
Challenge 1: Hail Mary transformation to online event
Wendy said that the biennial conference was a mega event for their office. A lot of planning and teamwork goes into making the event a success. She added, “Holding a physical event is something that we are used to. However, due to the pandemic situation, we shifted from physical to hybrid. And then, two weeks prior to the event, Canada saw the third wave of COVID and any kind of gathering was prohibited. Cancelling the conference was out of the question. So, we decided to host the event virtually. Organising any event is a herculean task. Added to that, if the format keeps changing, it can be nerve-racking for anyone!”
When WCD presented their challenge to Airmeet, the team rose to the occasion and helped the organisation host their Biennial conference. The change of decision from hybrid to virtual was taken just a week before the date of the event. That gave very little time to both parties. However, both teams put in their best and hosted the event. On WCD’s part, they had very little experience in hosting an online event. Besides the platform itself, Airmeet also offers an umbrella of Event Management Services & Solutions that ensure a smooth event flow. Here are some of the services provided to WCD that ensured a seamless experience to hosts, speakers and attendees alike.
- Dedicated support manager: WCD had a dedicated support manager from Airmeet who was available 24*7. The manager ensured that there were no glitches on the day of the event. The manager was the live support on the day of the event and ensured that the event went on smoothly. Wendy said, “The support manager accommodated all our requests. Even if it was something out of the ordinary, the team resolved it, which was super impressive.”
- Design Services: WCD was sure that they wanted to host a conference-style event with booths, social lounge, stage, Q&A and much more. The complete back end support to create the look and feel of the event was managed by Airmeet. Having this support helped the WCD team focus on the other aspects of the program.
- Platform walkthrough and training: The team was given training and a walkthrough of the platform. Apart from this, there were also resources for attendees telling them how to navigate through the site. Wendy said, “ Most people are used to a particular platform. When introduced to something new, they are resistant to change. But, Airmeet had very good documentation which told attendees how to navigate through the platform. The added advantage was that the material was available in both PDF and video formats so people could choose what they wanted.”
- Dry run: For the first day of the event, WCD had speakers from Canada and the US. Hence, a dry run was held to understand the platform and check all their technical aids.
- Dress rehearsal: Once the dry run was done, the WCD team felt there was a need to rehearse the entire event. They thought this would help them understand the feel of the event, improve time management and also highlight any technical glitches. This was taken care of by Airmeet through a dress rehearsal. “Having a dress rehearsal was very reassuring for the team. Post the rehearsal, we were confident that we were well-prepared for the event,” said Wendy.
- Analytics: On the completion of an event, Airmeet provides all its partners with event analytics. That gives details like session wise attendees, the number of emojis used, booth attendees, chat feed for sessions and common chat, how many attendees visited sponsor booths and much more. Similar analytics was given to WCD as well. Wendys said, “ the detailed analytics helped us understand the successes and failures of this event. This will help us in planning our next event because now we know what works and what doesn’t.”
Wendy also said, “The extensive support from Airmeet helped us make a smooth transition, navigate easily through the platform and host an interactive and engaging event.”
Challenge: To keep the attendees engaged and to encourage them to use engagement features without being forced
From the many options that WCD came across, they chose Airmeet. Wendy elaborated on this, saying, “when I saw the feature of the social lounge and tables, I was sold. While on other platforms engaging seems more forced, on Airmeet it felt like a choice. That is what we wanted for our attendees – the choice of using interactive features.”
To increase engagement among attendees, WCD used some features like
- Emojis: Wendy said, “This feature was a super hit with the attendees. The team tried it once after the speaker mentioned something. And within minutes, we saw that the attendees were following suit. They started using emojis whenever they liked something, or something touched a chord. Over two days, we used 4978 emojis. Participants used a variety of emojis, which tells us how popular the feature was.”
- Chat: This was yet another engagement feature that was liked and used widely by the attendees. Like the emojis, whenever participants heard something from the speaker that appealed to them, they expressed it on the chat box.
WCD’s key speaker, who was based in New York, had pre-recorded his sessions and was to go live only for the Q&A. Post the first Q&A, he chose to stay back and observe the next session as well. When asked for his feedback, he said that he never got this kind of real-time feedback, even in live sessions. He said that using engagement features like chat and emojis gave him a lot of insight into what the audience liked and what they didn’t!
Wendy added to this, saying, “ The emojis were a unique feature, and the attendees were engaged, which is the perspective from the user’s end. From the speaker’s perspective also, the event was a success. The combination of chat and emojis was so insightful; it was beyond our expectations.”
- Booths: Like their regular conference, WCD wanted booths for their virtual event and put up 15 booths for the event. They highlighted the booths and had commercials running, which encouraged attendees to visit the booth. Wendy said, “In two days, the booth saw 1428 visitors. The feedback we got from attendees was that the booths allowed them to engage as they would have done in any physical event.”
- Social tables: Wendy mentioned, “ Social lounge with tables was what caught my eye right away. However, we didn’t want to force the attendees to use the feature like attendees have to with Zoom breakout rooms. So, it was left completely to them.” Despite no push or marketing of social tables, 183 attendees used the feature for conversations and small group discussions.
- Organising Q&A: For this, the team tried two different features. On the first day, they had a moderated Q&A session using the chatbox, and on the second day, they used the raise hand feature and invited people on stage. WCD said that they wanted to use as many features as possible, and the combination of chat and raise hand worked well for them. Wendy added, “we saw high retention of attendees during the Q&A. We feel that the use of engagement features was new for the attendees, and they had fun which led to high retention.”
When it came to the number of attendees, the figures surpassed the team’s expectations. The first day saw 363 attendees, and on the second day, which was the business session, they had 291 attendees. Both days had about 85% of the attendees staying for the entire day, which was a fantastic retention percentage compared to previous in-person events, where it was common for people to just get up and walk out of them room, with only a sprinkling of attendees left towards the end.
In summation, Wendy said that “All the hard work from both sides paid off because we had a smooth event. In my experience of organising live events, I have seen many glitches. But this event was practically glitch-free.”
When asked about WCD’s future plans with Airmeet, Wendy said that all events of WCD would commence only in July 2021. She said they have plans to host smaller events leveraging the maximum features they can use via Airmeet. She also said that in November this year, the WCD will be organising its annual retreat. Though the retreat is typically a physical event, the team is pondering over the possibility of hosting it as a hybrid event.
Wendy said that the vision was to help more people attend the retreat event. Wendy concluded by saying, “Airmeet as a platform for an all-inclusive conference was amazing. It check-marked all our expectations, and the execution was done so well. We hit it out of the park with this one, and I can’t wait to see how Airmeet will top this. We look forward to more events with them.”
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