The American String Teachers Association (ASTA) is a community of peers for all teachers of stringed instruments. It provides professional development, career building, and support for all members. The annual ASTA National Conference plays a key role in helping ASTA realize its mission to enrich lives through universal access to fine string playing and teaching.
Despite high hopes for a return to normalcy in 2021, the lingering impact of the Coronavirus pandemic meant the planned in-person conference would have to be fully virtual. “ASTA had never staged a virtual event,” said Susan Hoopes, director of meetings and memberships. “For an organization of musicians, virtual meetings present a challenge. How would we create an immersive virtual environment for attendees to interact and experience music?”
With limited resources, a small staff, and close to two hundred conference sessions planned, ASTA had to be strategic in selecting a partner to help them produce the event. While the virtual event market overflowed with vendors focusing on bells and whistles like attendee avatars, ASTA stayed focused on what mattered: delivering meaningful content to members.
That meant finding a partner capable of providing a high level of support during event production. Blue Sky eLearn swiftly set itself apart from the competition.
“Blue Sky’s team understood and focused on what we were trying to accomplish,” said Hoopes. With a crack audio visual (AV) team, premier tech support, and design resources readily at hand, Blue Sky eLearn would empower the four ASTA staff members to produce an amazing event on their first attempt.
Time was short and there was a lot of work to be done. Blue Sky eLearn and ASTA dove into planning a virtual conference. Initially hoping to sustain the structure of the in-person conference, the team quickly realized that budget and bandwidth constraints required them to get creative and streamline the event.
The collaboration with Blue Sky eLearn was successful right out of the gate. Idea sharing was a foundational element of the event planning, and the Blue Sky learning and development team worked hard to realize ASTA’s vision for the conference. “We were thrilled with the end result,” said Hoopes. “We were able to build a unique virtual experience that we were confident would engage and delight attendees.”
While the visual elements of the event were being designed, focus turned to resources and scale. Instead of eleven individual sessions running simultaneously, they reduced the number to five. They pre-recorded the content, giving the team more confidence in content quality and reducing risk of potential issues associated with live streaming. Even though the sessions were pre-recorded and could have been offered to attendees all at once, ASTA and Blue Sky eLearn produced a mock-live experience. This allowed the speakers to answer questions and engage with attendees via the live chat while their pre-recorded presentation played.
“Our members were thrilled by the conference,” said Hoopes. ASTA members were able to easily navigate the experience and find the content that was right for them. Live chat provided greater access to speakers during the event and even made it possible for the Blue Sky eLearn AV technician to interact with attendees while managing sound for a Moxie Strings concert.
The overwhelmingly positive response to the conference contributed to ASTA’s decision to make Blue Sky eLearn’s Path LMS™ their dedicated eLearning platform. Already comfortable with the technology after the event, members can now experience conference content year-round and have become more engaged as a result.
What ASTA Had to Say
“Blue Sky eLearn was the right choice for us, 100%, and we’re excited to continue to partner with them. Blue Sky made it possible for our four-person staff to produce a conference with 150 sessions. We are incredibly thankful for that experience, and I know we picked the right company to partner with.”
— Susan Hoopes, Director, Meetings & Memberships at ASTA
- Stage 2021 conference virtually
- Quickly pivot away from an in-person event already in production
- Create virtual environment for attendees to experience music
- ASTA used Path LMS as a hub for much of the virtual event content
- The platform offered an easy way for attendees interact and find conference sessions
- Blue Sky eLearn’s virtual events team helped produce all of the live streaming and pre-recorded events
- ASTA’s team of four conducted 150 conference sessions over four days
- Attendees were able to easily navigate the event and experience all of the content
- Members loved interacting with the speakers and having the ability to connect with them after the conference
- Path LMS is now ASTA’s dedicated eLearning platform