Creating a Virtual “Seat at the Table” to Talk About the Triumphs and Challenges of Black Education

Forum One worked with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to conceive and produce the 2022 annual signature program. As a virtual experience, the event engaged audiences from across the country to participate in a social justice program designed for people to share insights over a communal meal.

The 2022 Seat the Table program examined “The Triumphs and Challenges of Black Education.” The sold-out event brought audiences from across the country to a uniquely-branded virtual experience to share a meal and create connections over dialogue—yes, we actually sent meals to all attendees via local caterers the day of the event!

A Seat at the Table is a signature NMAAHC program that critically examines social justice issues that impact the African American community. Participants observe a conversation on a select topic amongst an expert panel. After the conversation, diners engage in an interactive activity to consider challenging questions about race, identity, and economic justice over a meal. Through this program, participants can make new connections, exchange resources, and return to bond over the next meal. Most importantly, participants state how they will apply insights gained from having a seat at the table to their own lives.

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The Intro Video Set the Stage

The above video opened the event, presenting a narrative, visuals and music that were carefully crafted to set the stage for this powerful conversation. The video culminates by asking attendees to consider why inequities still exist for African American educators and students and how they may be part of a solution.

The event platform presented an exciting and unique branded experience. Attendees were assigned to a table, as visualized by the group of tables in the image above, where they experienced the event for the evening. The platform allowed tables to converse throughout the program without being heard by other tables or by people on the stage. Attendees commented how this was nearly like being in person at an event and made their experience more personal and collaborative.

The Brand Story Started Before the Event Began

As participants joined the event, they were welcomed with this narrative video with the words of Langston Hughes in his poem “I, too.” The event name, A Seat at the Table, is inspired by Hughes’s words in this poem:

When it was time for the program to begin, participants were introduced to the evening’s program—including a countdown for them to get settled and seated.

To inspire and set the tone for keynote speakers, participants were led through speaker introduction videos, which included contextual quotes and deeper details about each speaker.

To allow participants to pause and reflect on panelist discussions before diving into their group conversations, participants were able to view a reflection video to spark ideas and questions.

A Compelling Marketing and Promotion Strategy

An essential part of the brand and narrative of the event, the program required a compelling brand experience at the marketing and promotion stage. For this, Forum One created eye-catching, engaging social media and advertising assets.

Event Success is in the Details

Forum One partnered with NMAAHC staff to develop and execute the run-of-show. Within the platform during the event, our team cued videos and stage visuals, managed event-wide background music, and helped provide attendee support during the event.

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