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Virtual Reflections: Staff Takeaways from our 2020 User Event

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Virtual Reflections

Virtual Insights, our first-ever online user event, left us with a lot to think about. Jared Cash’s Keynote Conversation on building a data-informed culture, the Deep Dive sessions on Construct and Predict, the Higher Ed User Discussion panel, and the questions our users submitted throughout the day brought many important ideas to mind.

The event featured a variety of viewpoints and perspectives, and likewise, our staff members each took something different away from the experience. Here are Rapid Insight’s staff reflections on Virtual Insights!

A Space to Connect

Lily Brennan – Data Analyst

The annual Rapid Insight User Conference is the one time of year that our staff and users come together face to face to collaborate, share ideas and experiences, and connect. Something I love about Rapid Insight is how strong our community is due to both our staff and our amazing users. 

The user conference is a time to celebrate that community, but with the pandemic keeping everyone at home this year, I was nervous that we would miss that opportunity. Could a virtual gathering really take the place of what we once had? 

I think our team, our presenters, and our community did an impressive job of creating a space to connect. Although there were no handshakes or glasses clinking “cheers” this year, the benefit to going virtual is that we could include those who may not have been able to make the trek to Maine for an in-person conference. 

So in that way, not only did this year’s conference allow us all to connect, but also to grow and to reach further than before. I hope that is something we can carry with us into the future. 

Circumstances Change, But Data Is As Important As Ever

James Cousins – Analyst Manager

As much as things are tumultuous, this event’s audience contributions and presenters validated that using data as a decision making asset is as reliable as ever a way to thrive. Prior to crises like pandemics, enrollment crashes, or recessions, data professionals gathered, cleaned, and analyzed data to understand their institution’s position and how to make the best decisions moving forward. 

In changing circumstances, many of our reports, business questions, and models need to change in order to adapt, but analytical thinking is the facilitating factor. While recent circumstances have changed more than any of us could have anticipated, the problem-solving mindset that benefitted people before is the exact mindset that people are using to navigate this new setting. 

In-person Or Virtual, There’s Plenty To Be Learned

Paul Trindall – Software Developer

Virtual Insights was my second user conference with Rapid Insight. I found that the virtual format was just as insightful as if we were all together in a conference room watching presentations. 

Though I have worked for Rapid Insight for over a year now, and work with Construct and Predict almost daily, I still find that there is plenty to learn. This was especially apparent while I was watching both Jon and Jame’s deep dives. Seeing them use Construct and Predict along with the audience participating throughout both presentations was very beneficial. 

I’m really looking forward to seeing the presentations next year (in person or virtually), as I am sure they will be just as helpful. 

Lily

Data Continues To Guide Us

Alisha Martin – Digital Marketing Strategist

My biggest takeaway from Virtual Insights was that despite the changes we’re all going through, data continues to guide us. Because my position doesn’t include working face to face (or, these days, screen to screen!) with users, hearing the sessions and conversations directly from the source made data’s importance more apparent than ever. 

I always walk away from our annual User Conference feeling inspired by the incredible work that our users do, but this year I also felt proud. Despite the craziness that 2020 has brought upon us, we found a way to work through it and make the best batch of lemonade we can. 

Replayability and Reach

Alex Ziko – Customer Success Manager

Virtual Insights was my fourth user conference, and in some ways, it was my favorite. The distance-orientated format allowed users the benefits of extracting useful information without the need to travel. 

An added benefit of the virtual format is that users can obtain a copy of session recordings and re-watch parts that may have been confusing, or replay content they found valuable and worthy of a second view. 

The largest missing piece compared with conferences of the past was the social component: meeting users at the check-in table on day one, attending social time after hours, and conversing with users the morning before the next day’s events started. There are valuable aspects of a shared long term and in-person experience that are difficult – although not impossible – to reproduce in a virtual environment. 

Overall, I thought the whole event was planned and executed very well. Specifically, I was impressed by: 

  • The smooth moments of transition between sessions
  • The lack of technical difficulties experienced by the guest presenters
  • The quality of the content, considering a complete reformatting in a short period of time

Valuable Insight And A Friendly Tone

Earl Sires – Digital Content Marketer

The purpose of a conference (virtual or in-person) is to build on your practical and technical understanding of your work while also benefiting from exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking. I hope that Virtual Insights struck that balance for our audience while also providing a tonal break from the intensity of the past few months through its friendly presentation style. It’s become clear to me during my time with Rapid Insight that we have a close connection with our users (thanks to our excellent support team) and I’m glad we were able to reinforce that relationship remotely.

I greatly enjoyed working with all of the presenters in the lead-up to the event, each of whom delivered valuable information to the audience. It was was intriguing to learn from them: to see what thoughts were on their minds, and translate those thoughts into prompts for discussion.

As the newest member of the Rapid Insight staff, I am still solidly in the learning phase, gathering information on how we can best serve our users. This event was a huge boost to my understanding of the needs our users face and the questions they want to be resolved. 

Ryan Orlando

A Special Event

Ryan Orlando – Senior Account Manager

I am really proud of Virtual Insights. Without the support of our guest speakers and friends, the countless hours from the Rapid Insight marketing and support staff, and the flexibility and backing of our gracious users, it could not have been as special as it was. 

Some key takeaways: 

  • I loved the feel our Keynote Conversation. It set the tone for the conference and set a precedent that a keynote need not be a monologue. It was an engaging and thought-provoking way to get the online conference started. 
  • I am glad that we could offer a slice of Rapid Insight University Day with the Deep Dive sessions. Good-Better-Best for Construct and Predict offered a little something for everyone. 
  • The panel discussion guests were authoritative, thoughtful, and realistic in their responses. 

A Breath Of Fresh Air

Jon MacMillan – Product Manager

As a long time support analyst, there are customers who I have had the pleasure of working with for nearly 8 years now. Getting to see them at the annual conference (and in many cases, meet them in person for the first time) is always a blast and is something I look forward to every year. While this year’s event wasn’t in person, it still felt special.

Our keynote set the stage well. It was very conversational while still offering a lot of great insight, which is something that I think we as a company align with. It was also really interesting to hear different perspectives from all of our panelists, who come from varied institution types and departments.

While we generally fit a lot more product training into the conference, limiting ourselves to only two sessions resulted in comprehensive training sessions that I hope users of all levels found informative and perhaps entertaining (mine at least).

The final session of the event was very similar to how our in-person conference typically ends: light-hearted sessions meant to build community and connection.

In a time of limited interaction, this was a breath of fresh air that I found rejuvenating. It is always great to hear from our users. It continually impresses me how much all of them care and how much they help improve our company and our products. It is truly what drives me to help provide the best products we can.


We hope that, as a Rapid Insight user, you found Virtual Insights to be as positive and beneficial an event as we did.

If you missed the event or would like to view any of the sessions again, click here! Please feel free to share the link with anyone who might benefit from it, Rapid Insight user or not!

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