A Nonprofit Conference Finds Camaraderie Online in Kumospace
The Alliance for Nonprofit Management hosted successful networking events in a virtual lounge they dubbed "The Hallway."
The majority of the year, Julia Burns is a consultant for nonprofit companies, helping them to bolster their strategic planning and training practices. As a volunteer for the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, she also takes on the task of being a conference event planner for a united organization of nonprofit consultants. “Our conference is informally known as a family reunion,” she says.
In the fall of 2021, Julia helped plan the Alliance’s first virtual conference called, "The Journey Forward: Putting Our Values Into Action," and sought out alternatives to Zoom.
“We did a Zoom cocktail hour last year and it was terrible. One person talks at a time, you're in your box, you go to another floor," Julia says. "There was nothing energizing about it.”
She learned about Kumospace in a New York Times article, and decided to try it for the social aspect of the conference — and was thrilled with the results. Roughly 60 people showed up to mingle during the social portion, and each of them stayed in the Kumospace for 90 minutes at the end of the first day of the conference, even after being online all day. “They wanted to poke around and play with it," Julia says.
Julia and her team dubbed the Alliance’s virtual space "the hallway."
“One of the things we kept hearing at past conferences was that the best conversations happened in the hallway. We thought, let's use Kumospace as our hallway,” she says — and it worked.
Dozens of people regularly gathered day or night in the virtual "hallway," making meaningful connections and chatting about various conference topics.
"The feedback from it was amazing. We got messages like, 'I've never actually met anybody new at an online conference before. This was the first time that happened.'"
Two floors were set up, including a virtual lounge, using the Hotel Lounge template, where people met up for the virtual cocktail party. This floor was adorned with Halloween decorations for the season and the jukebox played a Spotify playlist.
Julia used Kumospace's fully editable templates to personalize the floor for the conference, including adding sponsors' branding. "We put a big welcome sign up at the door, and a thank you to our sponsor with our sponsor's logo on it," she says.
A noted favorite feature of the spaces was the spatial audio feature where people can limit the range of who on the floor can hear them talking. People were able to have multiple separate conversations on the same floor without the need for breakout rooms, just like in real life. Julia appreciated the playfulness of hopping from circle to circle, or person to person.
“It really helped take that in-person conference and make it friendly and welcoming,” she says.
With Kumospace, the Alliance for Nonprofit Management had the ability to create a platform for hosting a virtual conference that felt like real life.