Green Fin Studio has been proudly assisting the Chesapeake Community Modeling Program (CCMP) and the Chesapeake Research Symposium (CRC) with the facilitation and management of the biennial Chesapeake Community Research Symposium since 2010. The popularity and associated attendance of this regional environmental science and management conference has been steadily increasing over the years. 2020 was shaping up as our biggest symposium yet, in terms of attendance and number of presentations. Then came COVID-19. By March it became clear that, in the face of the pandemic, holding a three day conference with over 200 participants would not be possible. The symposium steering committee decided that instead of canceling the event, it should be shifted to an online format. And so we, Green Fin Studio, were tasked with pivoting the symposium to an online format with three months to prepare.

Going virtual was no small feat to undertake and we had a short amount of time to prepare and execute a plan to make it happen . While holding an online conference means not having to worry about catering, event space, or travel, it does require other considerations like setting up our client with the proper Zoom account that can handle four concurrent presentation sessions and then configuring that account to ensure the event was as secure as possible. It also entailed distributing detailed information and instructions to registrants, speakers, and panelists and ensuring everyone has the technical requirements necessary to participate.

The virtual symposium took place June 8-10 and we are proud that participants deemed it a big success! When we were planning for the in-person event, we were expecting a little over 200 people to show up. Over the three days of the virtual symposium, 495 people attended! The symposium featured three plenary speakers, two panel discussions, and more than 130 presentations occurring across four parallel sessions.  Shortly after the symposium wrapped, we sent out a survey to attendees. The results are still coming in, but we’ve received a lot positive feedback on this smooth transition to an online format, including the timely and relevant plenary speakers, interesting panel discussions, an event almost completely free of technical difficulties, and punctual transitions between speakers – the latter two point are thanks to the detailed logistical preparation of our team leading up to the conference!

As we settle into a new normal, virtual events are clearly here to stay, either exclusively or through a hybrid format. Holding a virtual conference also gave us a chance to reimagine what online engagement looks like and expand the audience while doing it. We have fully embraced the new shift toward virtual meetings and are working with clients to lead online board meetings, strategic planning retreats, educational webinars, workshops and other conferences. If you are looking for ways to make online meetings work for you, our team is here to help with everything from providing logistical advice to running the whole show for you.