WSU offers virtual conference service

Participants can join speeches, breakout sessions, webinars; WSU will have helped put on six conferences by end of year



The virtual conferences have a vendor hall feature clients can use that allows participants to look at a 2D rendering of the exhibit hall with vendor logos. Participants can click on the logos to join solo and group conversations.

BRADLEY GAMBLE, Evergreen reporter

WSU Professional Education offers a virtual conference service, in which staff members put on customized conferences and help behind the scenes.

PE is a division of Academic Outreach and Innovation that provides event management and conference planning to clients, such as WSU departments or government agencies, said PE Director Jennifer Cook.

Clients talk about their needs for an event with PE, Cook said. The team makes decisions for what technologies and other services will be used based on their clients’ needs.

The service was created during the summer to help clients present their content originally planned to be shown at conferences to their stakeholders, said Brianne Wyatt, PE senior conference manager.

“We take care of the logistics of a conference while they take care of the content, and we help them deliver that content,” Cook said.

The team sets up an online space where participants can access different technologies they can use to join keynote speeches, breakout sessions or a webinar, Cook said.

The virtual conferences offer registration desks and vendor halls, she said. The vendor halls allow participants to look at a 2D rendering of the exhibit hall full of vendor logos. Participants can click on the logos to join live solo and group conversations.

About half of the conferences use the vendor hall feature, she said.

“We can’t give you that shrimp cocktail at the reception you’d normally get,” Cook said, “but we can have that interactive experience where you can still get some networking.”

Conferences with a Q&A session have a staff member reading the live chat to keep an eye out for questions, Cook said. They feed the questions to the moderator who then gives them to the presenter.

There is an increasing market for virtual conferences that will last beyond the pandemic, Wyatt said. Clients realize yearly conferences might be too expensive for some people with the added cost of travel.

The PE team will have helped put on six virtual conferences by the end of the year, Wyatt said. There are plans for more virtual conferences in 2021.