OECS SDM (Sustainability Development Movement) Summit is a movement committed to the cause of sustainable growth and development within the Carribean. But, it was forced to reconsider hosting an in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What were they to do in such a situation? 

A dedicated team at OECS was not open to the idea of cancelling the Sustainable Development Movement (SDM) conference. Rather they began looking for alternatives that would not stall their efforts in bringing about transformational change in the region. 

Introducing the OECS Sustainable Development Movement (OECS SDM)

The Sustainable Development Movement Summit is an exciting space, where senior government officials, industry and sector leaders, global entrepreneurs and civil society converge. 

SDM2020 is produced in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). It drives progressive movement towards achieving 12 of the 17 SDGs. These SDGs include zero hunger, good health and well being, quality education, gender equality among many others. SDM logo

OECS realised that sustainable development cannot take place without the engagement of minds, taking an individual from the realm of limitations to the realm of possibilities. Therefore, in order to obtain sustained development, engaging the private sector was paramount as the MSMEs Sector is the engine of growth.

OECS SDM wanted to overcome some challenges when they were forced to move their summit to a virtual space. Firstly, they wanted to provide the same quality of education in a platform that is easy to use. Secondly, they were looking to facilitate the level of engagement that was witnessed in an in-person event. Thirdly, they did not just want to host a series of webinars and presentations without interaction between presenter and participants. 

They had previously hosted Zoom webinars and meetings, however this was their first experience hosting a fully functional virtual event. If they wanted to continue to provide education and content to their members, the team had no choice but to opt for a virtual conference

Why vFairs?

vFairs promised to overcome the aforementioned challenges and more. It provided the look and feel the OECS SDM virtual conference wanted. For them, the 3D animation was a huge selling point along with the customization features and graphics of the virtual platform. Another plus was the easy navigation. All these factors made vFairs the best fit and obvious choice for OECS SDM. 

Exhibitors and Attendees

The OECS SDM virtual conference hosted a total of 46 exhibitors. These included: 

  • entrepreneurs focused on addressing issues around climate change, 
  • event sponsors (investors, financial institutions, marketing and media companies, educational institutions), and 
  • development partners, regional organizations.

The attendees which were invited to participate in SDM consisted of: 

  • development partners, 
  • private sector entrepreneurs and investors, and
  • academia, Caribbean governments, civil society and youth.

Objectives of the OECS SDM Virtual Summit

Driven by their ultimate purpose of overcoming stagnant social, economic, and environmental growth, development and sustainability, they had some clear objectives they wanted to achieve with SDM: 

  1. Create a common space where international development partners, private sector, academia, Caribbean governments and everyone could come together to exchange thoughts, best practices, untold stories and strategies concerning sustainable growth and development. 
  2. Facilitate dialogue and agitate action towards sustainable development that has people at the core of development strategies.

Hence, creating a space where people under one virtual space could interact together, exchange ideas and work towards a common purpose of achieving sustainable growth and development was necessary. The virtual platform was designed specifically to help the OECS SDM virtual conference achieve their underlying objectives. 

The OECS SDM virtual conference was scheduled over 3 days, from September, 22nd 2020 to September 24, 2020. Here on we will discuss the strategy that vFairs and OECS SDM pursued to set up the virtual platform. 

Exciting Lobby to Draw in Attendees 

A colorful and attractive lobby was designed by the vFairs team. A welcome video pops up as the event page opens. Even after, the video is placed right in the middle of the lobby to help people easily locate it. The video welcomes the attendees to the virtual event. 

welcome video in virtual lobby

Clearly Laid Out Exhibit Halls 

To facilitate attendees, the exhibit hall was clearly laid out. Incoming audience members could easily scroll left to right to go to the exhibitor booth of choice. The exhibit booths had plenty of relevant information. From downloadable documents for investors to news, links to social media channels and even mentioned chat timings. A chat icon was also placed within the booth to easily direct attendees to interact with exhibitors. 

virtual exhibit hall

Additionally, videos and documents relevant to the exhibitors were also placed within the booth to give easy access to participants. 

OECS SDM virtual conference also had booths with diverse avatars. They had both male and female avatars, ethnically diverse and dressed in formal attire. vFairs provides its customers the option to self-select their avatars for exhibit booths for better representation. 

Exhibit Booth Exhibit Booth contents

For more on how vFairs has helped clients in customizing exhibit booths for more diversity and inclusivity read here.

Facilitate Networking with a Lounge 

A lounge was specifically designed to encourage networking between exhibitors and attendees. OECS SDM virtual conference wanted to facilitate dialogue between people at the core of these strategies. This lounge served that purpose. Separate tabs took attendees to those specific chat rooms to network with delegates, meet exhibitors and sponsors, or meet the experts. 

networking lounge

By clearly distinguishing the chat rooms, attendees were able to go directly to the people they wished to interact with. 

Educational Sessions in the Virtual Auditorium 

The virtual auditorium hosted a number of webinars and presentations. The first day featured a live opening ceremony. The next two days were a mix of live and on-demand sessions covering topics such as sustainability, growth and development in the region. The second day also had an entertainment session in the virtual auditorium by Chazzi Desriviére. 

The team did want to have more pre-recorded sessions than live. And even the live ones were added in after the session ended. This was so no one would miss out on a session since there were multiple sessions going on at the same time. These sessions, offering content were very well received by the attendees. The ability to go back to a session that they may have missed provided a huge value to attendees. 

Virtual Auditorium webinar sessions

SDM2020 Bag

The OECS SDM virtual conference platform hosted a number of educational and informative videos and documents. These resources were downloadable. Attendees could add them to their SDM2020 virtual bag and download them after the event to read at leisure post-event. Documents included strategic reports, plans and proposals. The videos presented business solutions and documentaries among many other topics. 

resources video vault

Results

OECS was beyond happy with the platform that was set up. They found the back-end tools to be easy. They could even work on the platform themselves. This gave them independence and power to make their virtual space their own. 

The lobby was a hit and the 3D animated aspect was hugely popular. According to Liza Taylor-Stone, Head – Development Cooperation at OECS SDM “vFairs exceeded expectations. The team members were very thorough and methodical and ensured everything was smooth”. 

The cherry on top was the outstanding attendee feedback. Exhibitors were happy with the recorded sessions. Moreover, the data analytics that vFairs provided OECS after the event were not possible in a live event. All these factors combined translated into a successful OECS SDM virtual conference. 

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