Water Unite is a programme aimed at uniting retailers and food service companies who sell bottled water around a common collective action – namely to create a small micro-contribution from bottled water sales, of one cent per liter, to help address the issue of a lack of safe clean water globally, whilst at the same time helping to address the issue of plastic waste.
The cost of ending water poverty by 2030 has been estimated at $8.5bn p/a, while the cost to tackle plastic pollution has been calculated at $28-40 p/tonne. By the end of 2020 sales are forecast to approach 520 billion liters, valued at over $200 billion. In theory, bringing the industry together could raise up to $5bn a year, which would then be leveraged with monies from the World Bank, the government and the finance sector.
Originally, Water Unite planned a meeting at the United Nations in New York that was to take place in September 2020, right before the General Assembly. This meeting would host 30 of the world’s top retailers and their governments, all gathered in one room together.
However, due to COVID-19, a lot of this changed at once. What didn’t change was the determination of the team at Water Unite to continue their mission, regardless of any opposing forces.
In doing so, they decided to move their efforts online. While the team was previously aware of various conferencing tools, they wanted their platform to be more than just a meeting. They wanted to offer their partners and audience an experience, considering this was the first time they were inviting them anywhere other than a physical environment.
According to their two two-pronged objectives, they wanted to focus on the following:
(i) Introduce people to Water Unite
(ii) Encourage people to continue the conversation and understand the significance of getting involved
“When we found vFairs, we realized we could do so much more than we had originally planned! Instead of it being just a meeting with 30 people, we could host a whole conference and invite a larger number of participants from across the world. We could spread the message louder, and wider,” says Connie Goring-Morris, Marketing Manager at Water Unite.
The unique functionality and the many possibilities of creating engaging content persuaded Water Unite to go forward with vFairs. They knew this was their opportunity, not only to overcome their existing challenges, but also to accomplish their new and refined goals.
On September 3, 2020, Water Unite was able to bring together multiple stakeholders from the private, development, political, and finance sectors onto the vFairs platform to create a new, highly innovative, catalytic fund that addressed the global issues of plastic waste and lack of access to clean water and decent sanitation.
Click here to access the event.
The event had several components that brought value to the host, partners, and all the attending bodies.
1) Welcoming visitors with an introductory video
Just like an opening ceremony, Water Unite opened up their virtual conference with a video, first introducing the organization, and then highlighting the various places that attendees should visit.
This video was designed to further acknowledge the attendees’ role at the conference which involved understanding the global challenges ahead and helping overcome them.
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2) Designed to set an impression
“Although we’re a comparatively small organization, vFairs allowed us to reach a wider audience and make a great first impression,” said Connie.
By setting up a virtual conference, Water Unite was able to showcase itself across the globe as an innovative organization with a solid purpose.
Their virtual lobby was designed to imitate a physical event, with realistic avatars for delegates, most of whom felt like they were at an actual event rather than just an online meeting.
3) Engagement opportunities with partners
On entering the exhibit hall, attendees were able to visit various virtual booths set up by partners. This made the following possible:
- Have conversations with booth representatives in real time
- Access the content showcased at each booth in the form of videos and documents
- Easy redirection to social media channels to gain more insight and research
‘“The virtual booths were a great way of giving our partners the opportunity to showcase what they are doing in this space – it was really a win-win”, says Connie.
4) Maximizing value through webinars
A virtual auditorium had been designed to host various keynote and breakout sessions at the event. The host optimized this area by benefiting from pre-recorded sessions that were shown as if live, retaining attendees’ engagement.
Since the team did not want to end the drive as soon as the event concluded, they decided to make their sessions available on demand for later access.
5) 24/7 assistance for visitors and participants
It is fair to assume that a lot of people who were a part of this event were attending a virtual event for the first time. Therefore, an information desk, just as in a physical event, was placed to answer any query or provide troubleshooting assistance — not only to attendees, but also to participants and the host itself.
Since this was the first time that Water Unite was hosting a virtual event, it was a brand new technology for a lot of the people on the planning team. However, the host commended the vFairs team for the support that was extended and the process that helped solve a lot of their questions.
Furthermore, the host was able to collect a great amount of positive feedback from delegates as well as the speakers, who complimented the sleekness of the event and the ease with which they could navigate through the entire virtual conference.
As one would say, the event was a great success in terms of fulfilling all the desired objectives and spreading their message on a global platform, encouraging Water Unite to go forward with many more virtual events in the future.
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