When Hilliard Solutions was confronted with the decision of whether or not to cancel the 2nd Women in Athlete Development Symposium & Networking Event due to the Coronavirus pandemic, there were several important questions that we, our business advisor and partner, the Laboratory for Athlete Development Research (LADR) at the University of Florida, had to consider.

First, could an event touted for the networking experience actually be achieved online? We quickly consulted with colleagues and organizations that had experience hosting large and small similar events. Next, we consulted our university partner to determine what platform, if any, could achieve our goals and what it would entail. After becoming confident and fired up about the positive responses, we then consulted our talent – the half dozen or so women who were the event features. To the woman, each said whatever we needed them to do, they were there for us including making themselves available to participants post-event.

The next move was to consult with inaugural year event participants. Each one felt that an online version of the event could work. Several offered creative suggestions for engaging participants during and after the event. A small number of them received complimentary access to the virtual platform to not only add value to the discussions by sharing their experiences but to also help us assess the approach for future events.

The last decision regarding our transition involved re-imagining the event game plan. Not only was each member of the planning team committed to our success, unsolicited creativity arose organically. Videos on preparing for an online networking experience were provided for participants prior to the event and contributed greatly to their preparation and engagement. A discussion board facilitated interaction among participants and speakers. Over 300 conversations took place prior to, during and after the two-day event.

Rehearsing the virtual sessions, paying close attention to detail and focusing on the facilitator/moderator communication flow provided for a flawless execution. The innovative virtual networking platform allowed participants to interact with the selected speakers of their interest while also engaging with other participants in an intimate setting.

Hilliard Solutions is proud to not only be the leader in athlete development and the preparation of future women leaders in the field, but also to have ingeniously integrated content, talent and technology to create a new model of professional development. Our desire is to help you create innovative and engaging education and development solutions for your athletes, colleagues and organization. Virtual is here to stay!

Be the leader and innovator in your world! We invite you to share your comments and suggestions on virtual professional development below. Contact us today for a free consultation!