How we created the world’s first virtual exhibition for UK Boarding schools (BESSA)
Case study: BESSA, the British Education and Schools Show in Asia
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, businesses around the world had to rethink customer engagement. Suddenly, digital transformation became an immediate need, instead of a good-to-have.
If your business was not online during this period, you stood a good chance of losing a way to reach new customers.
We received numerous requests to help clients old and new transition online. Business models that were once offline had to find ways to stay relevant and migrate online.
One of such request came from our client, Stephanie Cheah, the founder of Waypoints Pte Ltd, an education consultancy for UK schools.
Waypoints has been organising large school fairs under the banner “BESSA, The British Education and Schools Show in Asia”, helping families based in Asia connect with the most prestigious boarding schools in the UK.
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, BESSA has been transformed into a digital platform with a virtual exhibition hall of schools. The platform also complements future physical school shows that are organised when lockdowns are eased.
We spoke to Stephanie about her experience working with us, and how we managed to create an online platform for her BESSA live event at such short notice.
An Interview with BESSA
Web Imp: Can you share with our readers a quick background of BESSA?
Stephanie: BESSA is an acronym for The British Education and Schools Show in Asia. Since 2016, there have been carefully curated events for families in Asia looking at boarding education in the UK.
BESSA invites UK schools with a good academic standard across the board, excellent and modern facilities and stronger levels of pastoral care, given the distance between the UK and Asia. Our schools represent some of the most prestigious and competitively sought after schools in the UK.
At the show, attendees have the opportunity to meet schools’ admission directors face-to-face. A programme of talks allow parents to hear about topical issues in education from the experts. We have held many shows in Singapore and KL. This year, we were hoping to expand to Bangkok.
Web Imp: What were the goals of this project?
Stephanie: The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the education landscape with schools moving to distance learning, accelerating the use of digital platforms and forcing a re-thinking of how to teach.
In April 2020, I had the idea of taking BESSA online to keep families informed with the changes and as a conduit for open lines of communication.
Thus, I approached Web Imp to help design a platform for BESSA Live – this is the name we gave to the virtual schools show.
Web Imp: Why did you decide to work with Web Imp to implement your digital platform?
Stephanie: I went to Web Imp because they have always given me excellent service and I knew they would have the tools to embark on a project like this.
I have to admit it was a leap of faith because the BESSA Live platform was to be built from a blank slate, and I was aware that Web Imp had not done something like this before.
However, I had also explored working with other virtual event companies. They were unable to guarantee that the platform would be ready within our deadline for the show, so I decided to see if Web Imp could do the project.
Time was of the essence due to the UK schools closing in June for their summer recess.
Web Imp: Were there any challenges or problems that you faced during the creation of the live platform?
Stephanie: We had many challenges. These arose principally from the fact that we were building the platform from scratch and trying to understand each other’s requirements. On top of that, there was the time pressure to complete the project within 6 weeks.
Web Imp: Did we help you to overcome those problems? Can you describe how it was like working with us?
Stephanie: Yes, Rain Tan was our project manager and he did an incredible job throughout the project. He was instrumental in the success of this project in every way. In particular, he
- was an effective communicator between his development/coding team and us, as clients
- took the time to fully understand our requirements
- used pragmatism and street-smarts to propose solutions to any issues that arose
- went beyond expectation in providing support at critical points during the process
- always showed great patience and respect to our requests and requirements
Web Imp: What was the result of our implementation of the live platform? Was your online event successful?
Stephanie: The result was a successful event for us as clients, because our customers in turn (the UK schools) were able to participate in the virtual schools show.
Their feedback was that it was worthwhile coming on board. We had some issues with the video conferencing function (we used Zoom embed) but this was more of a function of the third party’s product limitations.
Web Imp: How has BESSA in particular benefited from our help?
Stephanie: We managed to achieve a rapid transition from being a purely physical school exhibition to having an online platform as well – not to mention that BESSA Live is the first of its type in the world for UK boarding schools!
Web Imp: Can you share some feedback that you’ve gotten from the live show?
Stephanie: I can share some feedback from the UK school participants, as well as some families that attended the show.
- “Thanks to you and your team Stephanie. Tech worked pretty well and I met a good number of families. Encouraged by serious interest. Well done on all your efforts!”
- “Thank you for all your hard work in setting up today’s BESSA event, and for your nimble-footed assistance with technology during this morning.”
- “Thank you so much for organising this event; I can appreciate how much time and effort must have gone into it, so please do pass on my thanks to your team as well.”
- “Well done on orchestrating Saturday – that was a mammoth venture which you pulled off with aplomb! It would have been good to have seen more families but I know you are looking into this and I will be interested to hear your conclusions. You should be very proud of yourself and your talented team!”
- “We have had very good feedback from the day so we’re very pleased. Thank you for all your efforts and well done!”
From visitors to BESSA Live:
- “It’s all a good experience. And certainly better than nothing in these restricted times” – A mother
- “I was impressed by Sevenoaks and Stowe meetings. Their staff were very professional and their meeting room too.” – A parent
Web Imp: We’re glad to help, and we’re happy that your event was successful. Thank you for this interview!
What did Web Imp do for BESSA?
Create a portal on a subdomain using WordPress CMS
We used WordPress as the content management system (CMS), so that different landing pages and user accounts can be easily created and managed. We integrated a live Twitter feed to keep users updated on timings, to mimic how it will be like in a IRL seminar.
School Booth landing pages
We created the ability for each school to have their own landing page. School pages featured information about the school, and included downloadable files such as brochures. There were 2 Call-To-Actions on such pages: one to join a Zoom meeting, and the other to their registration form.
Separate user accounts, user registration & login ability
School accounts can only be created by the Admin in the CMS. Participants can be created by Admin or via a prior invite.
Live Presentation via Zoom integration
Participants were able to join a Zoom meeting room for a live presentation right inside the website itself.
Participant details sent to appropriate schools
When a participant registers to join a presentation by a school, they will be added into a waiting room. In the meantime, the system sends the participants’s information to the school with the appropriate details.
Truth be told, it was a hectic and challenging project for the team at Web Imp.
We had to figure out on the fly how to implement many of the integrations, while working within a tight timeline. We pushed ourselves to help make the show as successful as possible.
We foresee more businesses looking into livestream events as an alternative, so we are also glad to have sharpened our skills in this regard.