The University of Liverpool's Successful Virtual Networking Events
While hosting the 2,000+ person National Post-Doc Conference the event organizers turned to Kumospace, an immersive virtual chat platform, for an engaging virtual conference.
In September 2021, The Academy on behalf of the University of Liverpool hosted the National Post-Doc Conference (or NPDC21) online with approximately 2,000 participants. The bi-annual conference is dedicated to providing ground for the research community to engage with industry stakeholders, policy influencers, funding agencies, and career development professionals. An essential component of the virtual conference was the opportunity for exchanging ideas and networking on the virtual event platform, Kumospace.
Dr. Angela Midgley, a Research Staff Developer for the University of Liverpool, and her colleague Luke Simpson helped organize the event. They chose Kumospace's for networking events because they say it broke away from the grid-like format of Zoom and offered more flexibility.
"In the six weeks leading up to the virtual conference, and on the day of the conference itself, we had events on Kumospace that were led and facilitated by a community of researchers," says Angela. "They did a pub quiz and a speed networking event as well as some online games like Pictionary." They even had a historian from Loughborough University give an interactive lecture on the Beatles as a nod to the conference's Liverpool headquarters — and hometown of the Beatles.
Angela says the Kumospace networking events were a hit, and there were anywhere from a dozen to 40 people popping into the virtual spaces. Kumospace features virtual drink offerings like wine, beer, water, and coffee.
"People loved coming in and exploring the space while moving around, and grabbing themselves a drink," she says. "It just felt very organic, very informal."
Guests could freely move in and out of conversations using Kumospace's proximity chat, or spatial audio. With spatial audio the closer you are to others in Kumospace the louder you can hear them.
"We received feedback about people making friends… Recreating that friendly chat in a virtual space with someone worked massively," Luke says.
Angela and Luke particularly liked Kumospace's versatility.
"What was really lovely was the ability to customize the space," Angela says. "We had a number of sponsors of the events, and we gave them a dedicated floor which we placed their logos in. It felt really interactive."
They set up formal floors, with an office-like virtual setting, as well as more casual floors outfitted with bars and virtual drinks. A standout Kumospace feature is customization. Hosts can customize various virtual floors by choosing from a range of furniture and decor options. They can also add their own SoundCloud playlists, YouTube videos, logos and games which can be played within the virtual space.
According to Angela, using Kumospace for the conference's networking events "absolutely" helped the National Post-Doc Conference event planning team save time and money.
"For any networking events that we would have had face to face, there would be a room hire cost associated as well as a catering cost on some events. We didn't have any of those," she says.
It also gave the event team the flexibility to have more networking events leading up to the conference. "I think logistically it would have eaten up a lot more time organizing those events in-person."
Angela and Luke's success with using Kumospace for virtual conferences has opened up possibilities for more events. "I'm looking at using it for another conference in January next year," says Luke.