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National Oceanography Centre or NOC is a renowned oceanographic facility in the UK. Recently, it became an independent charitable organization. NOC serves the international science community and has the largest marine autonomous facility in Europe. They are working on multiple government-funded projects to raise awareness about oceanic issues. Additionally, NOC encourages public participation and contributions for a global impact. Moreover, it makes sure that publicly funded data is openly accessible to everyone.
Every year, people and organizations around the world recognize World Oceans Day. So, NOC hosted an event titled: NOC Virtual Open Day for the general public. People of all ages were encouraged to participate. The event gave a space for their speakers to raise awareness and highlight the issues and a platform for everyone to connect.
Recently, they hadn’t been able to arrange an in-person event. Hence, they decided to go virtual like everybody else and chose vFairs as their online event hosting partner.
The main goal of NOC Virtual Open Day was to bring schools, colleges, and universities together on a single digital platform. Here, they could hold oceanographic educational talks, discussions, and virtual tours. This way, they could replace in-person open days. Moreover, it offered a space for NOC’s speakers to share their latest ocean science and technology with audiences across the world.
The event had multiple sessions and each session was designed to cater to a specific age group. Although the event was open for people up to age 80, some sections were divided by age. ” Ian, the Events Manager at National Oceanography Centre discussed the goals and targets of the event.
In-person events limit event organizers from reaching a wider and diverse audience. Therefore, NOC decided to go virtual this time around with its NOC Open Day. According to Ian, “When we were doing personal events we were pretty aware that we are restricted predominantly to UK visitors and probably within a 50-70 mile radius.” The idea this time around was to see how virtual events effect interaction and attendance.
National Oceanography Centre has hosted two of their events with vFairs so far. The first one was a commercial industry event. So, they already had an amazing experience with vFairs. So, they chose to use vFairs this time again to host NOC Virtual Open Day: World Oceans Day.
“One of the reasons we really liked that we used vFairs last year in November for our commercial industry event was the gamification technology. As you see, youngsters are very engaged with the digital screens nowadays. They are far more involved than probably their grandparents would be. They are intelligent people to use this kind of technology, it’s so intuitive for them. It helped spread our outreach from that point of view.” says Ian, “Last time was particularly great, but this one it was very different,” he added.
NOC implemented the combination of both live and on-demand sessions. These featured talks from panels of experts regarding the ocean. They discussed climate change, innovative ocean tech, extreme exploration, and plastic pollution. The sessions were followed by a live Q&A session. There, students engaged with industry experts on themes like ‘Science at Sea’ to ‘Ocean Robots’.
Then, Ian stated that the even’t reach was much wider due to the virtual platform. In addition, the host made on-demand content available as well. The audience included schools from UK, India, and Singapore etc. So, on-demand content really helped with timezone differences.
Plus, NOC arranged a live guided virtual tour of two of their royal research ships, the RRS James Cook and the RRS Discovery. They hosted these tours between the scheduled talks. Resultantly, the audience had an immersive experience.
Virtual booths were set up for prospective students and to inspire the next generation of marine scientists with a variety of downloadable content. Attendees visited the inspiring future exhibits to see what career paths the speakers have been on, from international degrees to apprenticeships. Students also engaged with scientists and engineers — asking questions about their education, qualifications, life at sea, and career experiences.
NOC also used vFairs gamification feature to arrange activities like a scavenger hunt. It not only increased the audience engagement especially youngsters but also enhanced satisfaction and promoted networking opportunities.
Initially, they did not expect any potential benefit of having chat rooms but to their surprise, it turned out to be a great success. “Scientists and students reached out to each other through chat rooms, it was a nice-to-have function, we were glad we had it but we weren’t expecting it to be crazy busy,”commented Ian.
vFairs provided all the essential tools to National Oceanography Centre for planning the event, driving registrations, and engagement. Additionally, it was easily navigable for attendees of all ages. Plus the ample customization options allowed them to set it up however they wanted. NOC really loved the flexibility of the platform, all in all.
“From my point of view, obviously I spent most of my life running live events but having a virtual system that is quite logical… and makes it much easier to navigate — certainly when you are doing lots of videos and that kind of thing, it’s great that it works, that’s it for me,” says Ian
When asked if they faced any challenges with the system or during the event, Ian said, “Project management was actually brilliant, we had no challenges”. Also, he loved the fact that the project manager quickly responded to any last-minute changes and the way he offered alternative options to demands was commendable
For them the highlight is that they have used the vFairs platform twice now for two different audiences i.e. business industries and educational institutions. Then, they got great engagement metrics and results from those audiences. They found the platform to be very intuitive for all ages and genders.
Since National Oceanography Centre is an environmental research facility, it has always been in their plans to host virtual events. Due to the pandemic, everything went virtual sooner than expected.
They are excited to host virtual streams moving forward. Moreover, initially, their scientists believed in face-to-face meetings. But, ever since their first virtual event, their attitude changed, mentioned Ian.
“Virtual is here to stay because travel is no longer necessary for scientists from all around the world to participate”. according to Ian. “Also, virtual events promote work-life balance and that’s something a lot of people we interact with really appreciate,” he commented. He also expressed the desire to hold more virtual events with vFairs.
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