Virtual Meeting Success: NAES Biennial Conference 2020

December 07, 2020
NAES gate2Every two years, The National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES) holds their Biennial Conference, the premier gathering of Episcopal school leaders and friends, and one of their most important member benefits. Heads of schools, administrators, chaplains and teachers of religion, rectors, board and vestry members, and faculty come to learn, network, and share. It’s conventional wisdom at NAES that when a member attends Biennial, they become members for long-haul. It's a make-or-break moment.

Biennial 2020 was supposed to take place over three days in San Diego this past November. The pandemic obviously upended those plans. So NAES, like most organizations, made the decision to take its meeting virtual.

The Challenge

How can the feeling of the Biennial Conference be created virtually? Biennial Conference is built to be intimate and meditative, providing education, community, worship, spirituality, and goodwill. How do you provide space for community and connection virtually that is reverent, but also exudes the palpable energy that the Biennial Conference is known for? 

NAES knew they needed to craft a completely unique virtual experience, infused with spirituality, that was able to live up to the high standards of the Biennial Conference. As a small staff association, NAES also knew that they needed to find a vendor that was a true partner, able to provide top tier customer service to their team and also their members, to craft amazing meeting journeys for all attendees.


Selecting the BeSpeake virtual meeting platform for Biennial Conference 2020 was an easy decision for NAES. After vetting several platforms, NAES knew that BeSpeake could provide an unparalleled experience for their members through a beautiful, completely custom design, and rich opportunities for attendee interaction and connection. As a long-time partner of Matrix Group, NAES also knew that the BeSpeake team would treat the event as their own, providing exceptional care and service from start to finish. 

The BeSpeake team and NAES worked together to craft a conference experience that was thoughtful, feature rich, and provided opportunity for real, meaningful connection and conversations. Biennial Conference 2020 offered:

Unparalleled educational sessions
  • In all, NAES offered 29 educational sessions over two days. Each day featured a keynote speaker and many breakouts throughout the day.
  • The daily plenaries featured a variety of speakers, rich graphics, some pre-recorded content, and beautiful transitions that all added up to highly produced, visually beautiful sessions.
  • Nearly all of the sessions were live. Yes, NAES braved the world of live, working with Matrix Group broadcast engineers to train speakers, create immersive programs, and involve the audience during the presentations and Q&A sessions.
Networking events and workshops, providing opportunities to connect, engage, and share with peers, through:
  • Morning Coffee Sessions. Attendees were dynamically added to video chat rooms with up to 7 other people, and were provided with a prompt for conversation. Each day began with attendees meeting new people!
  • Affinity Group Lunches. On the second day, attendees were able to join breakout lunch sessions with other attendees who had similar job roles, such as Heads of School, Chaplains & Teachers of Religion, Early Childhood Directors, Diversity Practitioners, Rectors, etc., to share knowledge and build and strengthen relationships.
  • Models of Worship Breakout Workshops. Attendees were able to join breakout rooms to discuss models of worship, and were dynamically grouped by their school level: lower, middle, and highschool. 
  • 1-2-1 Meetings. Attendees were able and encouraged to schedule one on one, or small group conversations, via video meeting rooms to connect with their peers.

Worship services to gather attendees for praise, thanksgiving, and celebration. NAES is ultimately an organization that helps schools have a strong Episcopal identity, and achieve their mission of educating students through the lens of Episcopal beliefs. Biennial featured:

  • Live meditations and prayers.
  • A conference worship experience that included pre-recorded sections of the liturgy combined with a live preaching segment.


Biennial Conference 2020 was a huge success. Attendees raved about the experience, saying that they felt like they were a part of the Biennial Conference - woven into the fabric of the event and not just passive attendees. NAES members came away feeling uplifted, reinvigorated, and more connected than they have been since the start of the pandemic. 

One Head of school was moved to send NAES staff an email after the conference:
“Words fail to express how uplifting, inspiring the past two days have been for me personally. The quality of all the speakers was extraordinary and enriching! YOU did it!  Congratulations on the first virtual NAES Biennial Conference.  Although I missed all the personal fellowship that happens at Biennial, this Biennial exceeded any expectations any of us might have had coming into it!”

JonathanCooper NAES"I am so glad we were able to turn to our long-time digital partners in the production of this conference" said Jonathan Cooper, NAES Communications Manager. "Not only did we know we were working with a group of people we trust implicitly, we knew that the focus and dedication of Matrix Group's staff was going to be critical to the success of the event. The fact that BeSpeake integrates seamlessly with the MatrixMaxx AMS — meaning that attendees can seamlessly register, attend live, and watch recordings through a single sign-on — made it the easy choice!"

“It was an honor to host the NAES Biennial conference in BeSpeake this year,” said Matrix Group CEO Joanna Pineda. “We've helped NAES promote Biennial to their members for so many years. This year, we got to host AND attend it. The NAES staff did an amazing job of crafting a conference experience that was varied, immersive and ultimately really satisfying. I loved the keynote sessions and even attended one of the Morning Coffee sessions and met some great members.”

About the National Association of Episcopal Schools

naeslogoThe National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES) is an independent, 501(c)(3), voluntary membership organization that supports, serves, and advocates for the vital work and ministry of nearly 1,200 Episcopal schools, early childhood education programs, and school establishment efforts throughout The Episcopal Church. NAES advances Episcopal education and strengthens Episcopal schools through essential services, resources, conferences, and networking opportunities on Episcopal school identity, leadership, and governance, and on the spiritual and professional development of school leaders. By serving those who serve Episcopal schools, NAES seeks to foster excellence through association. Learn more at

About Matrix Group International, Inc.

matrix_logo_incMatrix Group is a leading digital marketing and consulting agency in the Washington, D.C. area specializing in web design, development, AMS (MatrixMaxx), virtual meeting platform (BeSpeake), integration, branding, mobile and e-marketing services. Clients hire us to solve these challenges: Increase member or stem membership decline; increase member/customer retention with a compelling set of web, mobile, social and AMS offerings; reach new audiences with a clear brand; and increase staff productivity by integrating various back office systems. Learn more at