NACA BLOG - A Virtual Success - 10/6/2020
NACA Virtual

Oct. 6, 2020
Toire Vince, NACA Experience & Events Director

In June when it became apparent that the traditional, in-person NACA regional conferences were not going to be possible this year, we knew that we had to pivot very quickly. Not hosting a virtual event to replace the live experience was never an option but putting on a virtual event that would have the major components of a regional conference was logistically daunting. How do we deliver high-quality showcase performances, keynote speakers, educational sessions, an exhibit hall to meet with vendors, networking session for members to interact, and a business hub to facilitate business all in a virtual space?

With the first weekend of NACA® Virtual complete, we can say that we did all of these things and did them well! 

"Having gone to a NACA event in the past, I was not sure what to expect with a virtual experience. However, I was blown away by how well everything ran. Despite not being in person I felt as if I got the same experience as before."

- Deashia McAlpine, student, State University of New York-Upstate

The showcases included six amazing emcees that engaged with the audience through the chat function throughout the performances. Over the three days of the event, attendees previewed 78 acts that were hand-selected by a volunteer group of students and staff members from NACA member schools. We want to give a huge shoutout to our National Showcase Selection Team and showcase committee members for volunteering their time to select the amazing talent that performed this weekend! We also want to thank the National Showcase Production Team for slotting the showcase performances. 

The opening keynote speaker, Benjamin Jealous, empowered attendees with his important message about finding unexpected allies and the importance of creating change in the world. The closing keynote speaker, Derrick Kayonga, left the audience inspired and uplifted. Keppler Speakers provided two fantastic people with a timely message and calls to action.

"I feel energized, inspired and reminded of why I chose this as my profession. Virtual NACA® Virtual did all of that! I saw my pals, made new ones and still got to hang out with my roster. I REALLY enjoyed the live interaction during showcases and marketplace and enjoyed every ed session I presented and attended. The fact that I could do all of that while still getting my laundry done at home was an added bonus. The time FLEW by and I am SO excited for the next one."

- Melissa Beer, President, Rebelle Events

The educational sessions featured a robust line-up on topics around navigating this new normal, programming, diversity equity and inclusion, leadership and more. Attendees engaged with the presenters and each other in sessions and walked away better prepared to do their jobs. Thanks to all of the NACA volunteers that reviewed and selected the educational session programs, as well as the session presenters. 

"All the presenters did a great job of keeping me engaged in the educational sessions. I enjoyed going around and talking to all the different agencies and learning a lot about the college entertainment industry. Couldn't have been any better in this virtual setting!"

- Anthony Grauso, SOAP On-Campus Programming Chairperson, Salisbury University (MD)

The exhibit hall featured 60-plus companies representing live entertainers, novelty and interactive companies, educational products, speakers and more. School attendees were able to review offerings in the booth space, watch video demonstrations, book calendar appointments, and meet live through video chat with NACA associate members. 

"We had a great time this past weekend at the first NACA® Virtual. Our booth traffic was great, and I was excited that school members not only stopped by but hung out. Looking forward to weekend 2!"

- Ken Abrahams, VP for Client Relations, FUN Enterprises, Inc.

For our networking sessions we hosted affinity chats, regional socials and Playback Bingo by Perfect Parties USA, a musical bingo session. Having a way for attendees to be able to see and talk to each other in a fun environment was one of the hardest pieces to capture in a virtual program, but also a really vital one to have everyone feel connected. 

Finally, our National Block Booking Team and block booking coordinators worked tirelessly throughout the weekend to facilitate business between school and associate members. They will wrap up both this weekend's and next weekend's events by hosting Virtual Business Meetings on October 15 and October 20. The meetings are hosted in Airmeet, which allow attendees to choose their own tables and video chat with others at the table, as well as move around as they wish.

"I enjoyed how during the virtual business hub, you can sit in virtual tables where people could come chat with you, or you could jump in with other conversations. I loved the showcasing format. I feel they had the right amount of talent per showcase and the slots we just long and short enough to keep you engaged. The chat in the showcase room was on fire!! I especially loved all the traffic and connection in our virtual booth. Just a great experience and it made me miss in person conferences a little less."

- Shane Anderson, Agent, Brave Enough Artists

Reflecting on the weekend, all of the thought and work that went into the details of the schedule, attendee engagement and platform was well worth it. We were forced to pivot very quickly, and we did, but we also did it well. The NACA® Virtual attendees were hungry for the human connection and sense of community that defines NACA. So, while we couldn't be together this weekend in-person in Atlanta or Hartford or any of the cities we had hoped to be in, this was definitely the next best thing! We are so looking forward to another successful weekend starting October 9. If you attended this weekend and want more, come see another lineup of talent and sessions!

If you missed this weekend, it's not too late to jump on the NACA® Virtual train and see what we are doing. We promise you will not regret it. Learn more and register here.

Toire Vince is the Experience & Events director for the National Association for Campus Activities.

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