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Can a virtual event adequately handle the incisive discussions required for youth development, care, and investment? Ready by 21 made this possible with their annual meeting, bringing together a wide range of experts related to youth issues.
Ready by 21 is an organization which brings together leaders in the youth development sector, and formulates ways to improve their capabilities. It comes under the Forum for Youth Investment, headquartered in Washington, DC. These leaders are from the fields of government, businesses, education, legislation, recreation, and childcare. Most of the time, these fields work in silo, with no coordination among each other.
However, Ready by 21 aims to bring them all together to create a more synergistic strategy for youth development. It does this with the help of its national partners, who offer the tools, materials, training and support required for this extremely important sector.
This organization holds seminars throughout the year in its various target locations. These focus on youth voice, and the quality of service with youth-related concerns. However, physical seminars were not a possibility for a while because of COVID-19 restrictions. The team did hold a few basic training webinars, but felt that there could be more to do.
The annual Ready by 21 National Meeting is the major event for this organization, with people all over the country getting together to discuss how they can do better for youngsters. This meeting was scheduled to be held in Louisville, Kentucky, but travel and social distancing restrictions forced the company to opt for a virtual forum. They came across vFairs, and liked its interactivity and ease of use. Then, they determined the goals of their event as follows:
The Ready by 21 National Meeting 2021 was on the 19th and the 20th of May. It had an agenda chock full of expert speakers, coaches, and heads of various institutes. Initially, the organizers felt they had to incorporate some interactive features in the event, so that they could emulate the feel of the physical version. Therefore, they leverage a number of fun features for this purpose.
From the get-go, the hosts wanted to add some gamification elements to their event. Therefore, they placed a few leaderboards around the virtual venue, and people clamored to have their names on them. Attendees got points for various kinds of interactions, thus improving engagement, and generating hype within the event.
The chat rooms proved to be quite successful for the event. They encouraged both the participants and the host staff to interact in a fun and engaging way. There was staff consistently present in these chat rooms to keep the conversation going.
As the organizers used to incorporate the host city’s culture in their physical event booths, so they had to retool their idea of an exhibit hall for this virtual event. They were able to do this quite successfully, and experienced higher booth participation rates than usual.
As this was their first virtual event of this scale, the organizers just set a few back of the napkin revenue and participation goals. Therefore, they aimed for 400 participants, and got over 440, so they exceeded that goal. They also appreciated how easy these numbers were to track.
The organizers reported that round table sessions were a highlight at the previous editions of this event. This year, they emulated that experience with the end of day reflections, where they got to wrap up the day and showcase some highlights.
Ian Faigley, the Director of the Forum for Youth Investment, had an excellent experience with this virtual event. Then, he particularly emphasized the efficiency and helpfulness of the vFairs support staff, and its cooperation in such a short-term event.
The event lobby really stood out for Ian. He stated, “I really like the lobby with the animated people walking around, and the flexibility with the vFairs team to build an environment that was inclusive and diverse. It actually did look like how our in-person conferences look and feel.”
He further added that this lobby really helped put things together and make the event easily navigable. Furthermore, he revealed that it convinced people to take the leap towards virtual events.
Ian believes that this virtual event did a lot to bring youth development stakeholders in one place, and discuss relevant issues in a user-friendly yet comprehensive way.
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