Pool Safely Child Drowning Prevention Campaign Takes National Water Safety Conference Online
April 15, 2020
5 Tips for Mastering Your Virtual Thought Leadership
Like most organizations gearing up to host or play a significant role at an annual industry conference, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Pool Safely campaign was disappointed to learn the 2020 National Water Safety Conference might be canceled. Travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 have upended a busy conference season and left many groups scrambling to postpone their programs or move events online.
The FINN Partners team has partnered with Pool Safely for a decade to raise awareness of simple water safety steps that can help prevent child drownings, so we were saddened by this news as well. The annual National Water Safety Conference, hosted by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA), is one of the biggest thought-leadership opportunities for Pool Safely. For CPSC leadership, it’s a chance to outline for the field how the government is successfully enacting a longtime bipartisan effort to a water safety community of nearly 400 people. The campaign also has the chance to exhibit its new educational materials and activities, and we turn networking sessions into strategic partnerships. These efforts are all part of our plan to help CPSC meet its goals for serving professionals in this important arena.
Knowing that the need for making these connections and sharing insights and resources is still there, we needed to quickly redirect these endeavors for our client. Upon hearing the news, we immediately contacted the NDPA conference organizers and offered our ideas and encouragement to help shape a virtual event that could still highlight keynote speeches via Zoom, online resources through a special website and a steady drumbeat of social media content promotion from all conference participants.
After much conversation and brainstorming, the NDPA leadership team decided to present #NDPA2020Online – the digital version of this year’s national water safety conference! The NDPA remarkably held the conference on its originally planned schedule (last week, April 6-9), and in record time collaborated with our team and CPSC to create a way for us to still showcase our materials via a virtual exhibit. And the Commissioner’s speech went on as planned by way of live online video streaming, complete with a platform for online Q+A.
Phew! After much pivoting and extraordinary teamwork, the new plan for virtual thought leadership focused on the #notonemoredrowning goal went off without a hitch (and maybe even included a Tiger King reference or two).
The experience yielded some powerful lessons. Here are the Pool Safely FINN team’s top five tips for mastering your presence at an online event:
- Revisit Your Goals: Although the conference would now be virtual, the FINN team recommended a touch base with CPSC and the NDPA leadership team to discuss its absolute goals for participating in the event and how to accomplish them in this new format. Through this process, we discovered that the Commissioner’s speaking opportunity was the top priority.
- Know Your Online Audience: We made sure to connect with the conference organizers about what was now expected on this front, both in terms of who was attending online and how many registrants we could plan on. These insights were especially helpful for ensuring an effective platform for the Commissioner’s keynote address and getting visitors to our online exhibit page.
- Pivot Your Messaging: With all the attention now on addressing the global health crisis, we knew the Commissioner’s speech could no longer only focus on traditional water safety messaging and Pool Safely campaign updates. We crafted updated talking points that focused on how families could stay safer in and around the water while spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, water safety experts predict a potential uptick in child drownings during this time, so it was critical for CPSC to address drowning-prevention steps parents and caregivers can take while sheltering in place.
- Test Your Technology: We are living in a Zoom world (cue Madonna’s “Material Girl” now…) The FINN team suggested to CPSC and the NDPA conference leaders that we hold a test run of the Commissioner’s speech so we could ensure he and his staff knew how to use the video conferencing technology. We also worked with NDPA to better understand how the Commissioner could expect to field online questions during the Q&A portion following his address. Our rehearsal led to a successful day-of performance!
- Remember Your Manners: This unprecedented and unconventional time is stressful for everyone, both professionally and personally. Switching the 2020 National Water Safety Conference to be online in only a matter of days was nothing short of a herculean task for the NDPA team, and the Pool Safely campaign is very grateful for their efforts to make the logistics happen so seamlessly. Their work included everything from answering our nighttime texts to making time to run our drowning prevention PSA video in between virtual conference sessions. Thank you NDPA for your partnership and for showing the utmost dedication to the campaign’s online conference success!