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Proven strategies to level up your next event!


Labor of Love for the AFL-CIO: Virtual MLK Conference

Virtual Conference Case Study

Strategy | Platform Setup | Coaching | Production





The Challenge

As 2020 drew to a close, we were approached by the Washington, DC-based, 12.5-million-member American Federation for Labor – Congress of Industrial Unions (AFL-CIO) to pull off a high-stakes event that would kick off 2021 with renewed hope and enthusiasm. AFL-CIO is the country’s largest federation of labor unions, representing 55 national and international labor unions. The event, titled, “From Protest to Power: When We Fight, We Win,” was part of the federation’s annual tradition known as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference, which coincides with King’s birthday on January 15. Extenuating circumstances shortened production timelines more than we care to tell. They had us at “hello.”

Our Solution

We practiced what we preach about freeing up our clients (from event tech needs) to be their best. Under-resourced and cramped on timeline, we helped pull together the necessary formula: Weekly and on-demand calls for status, coaching and calm. Individual and group training for speakers. Dry runs. Tutorials for chat monitors. Automated, on-the-hour email updates and text messages for attendees. A mix of prerecorded and live stream. …The launch of an enterprise-level platform with accompanying custom mobile app would be worth nothing without polished content and readied spirit.


The AFL-CIO brought their best. Over 2,800 attendees registered for a two-day (Friday/Saturday) program that included speeches by AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka (UMWA); Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight; and NAACP president, Derrick Johnson. At the midpoint of each day’s programs was a networking session, facilitated with multi-layered interactivity. This included an in-event chat function, and an “Open Hallway” where attendees could chat publicly, individually, or in groups. Attendees could also see which unions were present, and initiate “ice-breakers” with individuals or chat with the union as a whole. A social media wall powered with filters and hashtags and live chat in each session were filled with comments, likes, emojis and pictures.

The program had festivity in spades, with poetry readings and an unprecedented cover of Katy Perry’s “Roar.” The full-length, labor-lyricized track — lip synced by multiple labor matrons from as many locations — was recorded and produced on day 2 of the conference, two hours before it aired. All mainstage sessions included an in-picture American Sign Language interpreter, even alongside up to five panelist frames. Mainstage was winged by concurrent issue forums on everything from COVID vaccines to labor’s role in recent elections. We ran with the production strategy for a closing awards ceremony that honored numerous women including a lifetime achievement award to AFT Secretary-Treasurer Emeritus Dr. Lorretta Johnson, who spoke movingly. Replays of each day’s sessions were uploaded to Youtube and the event lobby. They continue to be a source of engagement — with over 1800 social replays since the event — and inspiration for the diverse communities of workers who rely on the AFL-CIO’s mission. 

What We Did

01Speaker Coaching

02Graphic Design


04Production Strategy

05Live Technical Support

What the Attendees Had to Say...

"Everyone, thank you for your work in this MLK Conference. This was just awesomely done."

Shelia P.


"This virtual conference warms our heats and shows us the way forward."

Julienne F.


"Thank you for making this happen for all of us from Professional Aviation Safety Specialists."

Monika W.


The best AFL-CIO conference I have ever attended! Thank you so much to all the presenters and to all my sisters and brothers who Zoomed in! When we protest, we take the power so that when we fight, we WIN!”

Bob Z.

"Great leadership brings forth a great conference!"

Monica D.


"Keep moving! Thank you for a great virtual conference!"

Jaladah A.


“I'm grateful to participate this year... virtually! I wouldn't have been able to travel.

Kevin A.


"I agree with you, Kevin A. I would not have been able to attend this conference in person. Thank you for the virtual opportunity!"

Kelley A.


"Thank you, everyone! Awesome conference!"

Chip H.


Premium Livestream Production

We mixed live and pre-recorded video (including this mini-documentary) with live ASL (American Sign Language) into a custom designed background with animated lower-thirds, intro slides, animated countdowns and more.

Remix Music Video

Day 2 kicked off with a labor rights remix/cover song of chart-topping “Roar”, by Katy Perry featuring event speakers and other Labor Organizers.

Awards Ceremony

Stacey Abrams joined live to receive an award for her historic work with Fair Fight Action and Fair Count. Our producers welcomed her into a live backstage just minutes before she went on screen. Split screen images while the host announced the winners, cuts to live or prerecorded acceptance speeches (that all looked live).

Open-Hallway & Private Union Messaging Groups

Attendees could exit the mainstage into an “open hallway” that was optimized for networking: People could connect in a public chat room (separate from the livestream chat room) or individually with direct messaging.

Social Buzz About the Event

District 141 Communication Graphic Artist Eric Price submitted this for use today
Any conference with brother @Tefere_Gebre in attendance is one I’d pay big money to be at! This brother is a REAL ONE! @AFLCIO #MLK #MLKConf #1u
Congrats Dr. Lorretta Johnson @LorrettaJohnson on receiving the “At the River I Stand” Award at 2021 @AFLCIO MLK Conference From Protest to Power, When We Fight We Win! For your 54yrs commitment to the fight & struggle that has strengthened the labor movement. #MLK #MLKConf
Day 2 of @AFLCIO MLK Civil and Human Rights Conference is off to an amazingly, powerful, positive start 🔥🔥🔥
1/15 & 1/16 at 11 AM ET/ 8 AM PT!
Register for the AFL-CIO 2021 MLK Human and Civil Rights Conference tomorrow and Saturday here: https://cvent.com/events/2021-af...
Workers need to work together to fight against racial and economic equality!
Live NOW in the @AFLCIO #MLKConference, the one and only @staceyabrams receiving the At the River I Stand Award for her historic work with Fair Fight and Fair Count.
Join other union members taking part in the AFL-CIO's 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference on Jan. 15 and 16. We will gather virtually to strategize about the continued fight for economic and racial justice. CWA Vice Presidents Claude Cummings and Margaret Cook will be speaking at the event. The conference is free and all sessions and trainings will be held online so that everyone can attend safely. Sign up to take part here: http://www.cvent.com/.../event-summary...
Powerful start to today’s ⁦@AFLCIO⁩’s 2021 MLK Civil & Human Rights Conference where ⁦@lizshuler⁩ outlines how women of color were THE most reliable voting block in 2020. Much is owed to these women. Thank you for your powerful words this morning. ⁦@NYSAFLCIO

CRM Integration

The ball was already rolling on conference registrations through AFL-CIO’s existing Cvent platform, which accommodated their needs and was linked to their constituent database. So we mapped registration data from Cvent into groups on our event platform using custom fields. These groups allowed us to categorize registrants accurately by the union they represented, to give them an opportunity to reconnect with their fellow union members, and to show the event organizers which unions would have a presence at the conference.

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