Meet National Student Pride, the UK's largest LGBTQ+ student event that used Hopin to go global

Meet National Student Pride, the UK's largest LGBTQ+ student event that used Hopin to go global

Taking pride in virtual

National Student Pride is the UK's largest LGBTQ+ student event, annually bringing together nearly 2,000 students from more than 170 global universities. It's an exciting, weekend-long festival featuring talks and debates with inspirational activists, student parties, and the UK's largest queer-inclusive recruitment fair. Past speakers and performers include Sir Ian McKellen, The Pussycat Dolls, and Will Young.

For its 2021 edition, National Student Pride decided to pivot to a virtual festival. This shift presented a big challenge for Festival Director Ollie James Parr and his team of volunteers. They had to figure out how to translate all the joy and energy of the physical festival into an engaging virtual experience.

To overcome this challenge, National Student Pride turned to Hopin. The decision to go virtual helped pave the way for a fantastic agenda of speakers, and offered the flexibility to book pre-recorded interviews with high-profile celebrities like Stephen Fry and Alan Cumming.

Ollie and the team also got creative with Hopin’s customization offerings, bringing in a design agency that made artistic use of the platform's 'Dark Mode.' The result was a fun visual experience that aligned with National Student Pride's branding. This attention to detail kept attendees engaged from the moment they started to interact with the festival online.

The National Student Pride team sold sponsors on the virtual format by offering them new and dynamic opportunities to connect with attendees on Hopin. This helped them land sponsors like Clifford Chance, EY, Clyde & Co, Creative Assembly, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Lloyds Banking Group, and Santander.

"We're very fortunate that our sponsors were won over by what was available on Hopin and the opportunities they would have, not just in terms of meeting students at the career fair, but also in terms of the brand recognition and the branding usage across the site and event." – Ollie James Parr, Festival Director, National Student Pride
2 drag queens standing on confetti-riddled floor at National Student Pride event
2 drag queens standing on confetti-riddled floor at National Student Pride event

"Despite the switch to virtual, our content kept the same energy and excitement as previous years. We had panel discussions. We had drag queens. We had Nick Grimshaw pole dancing. We had a quiz with Lorraine Kelly, Tia Kofi, and Lawrence Chaney. We had lots of really interesting people." 

Sheena Carmichael
Senior Producer, National Student Pride

Content is queen

National Student Pride expanded the festival from its usual weekend format to a week-long virtual event. The content fell into three categories that reflected the key goals of National Student Pride as a non-profit.

Inform and inspire: Panel discussions on Black Lives Matter, mental health, women's rights, and trans love informed attendees on some of the most pressing LGBTQ+ issues of our time. And intimate interviews with guests like Stephen Fry, Paris Lees, and Daniel Howell offered plenty of inspiration.

Entertain: Attendees were entertained through a diverse range of events and activities. Drag aerobics, meditation with lululemon, drag bingo, gender-diverse cabaret, a voguing workshop, a trans+ makeup masterclass, and a quiz show hosted by Lorraine Kelly were some of the interactive virtual experiences included in the festival.

Connect: Regular coffee mornings gave attendees the chance to connect in a friendly, informal environment. Plus, the career fair provided networking opportunities with employers dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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National Student Pride's favorite features

Here are a few of the Hopin features Ollie and his team used to make the festival a success:

  • Customization – By tailoring the design and language of the event to their community, National Student Pride created a virtual environment that felt safe and easy to navigate.
  • Chat – Attendees could engage directly with speakers during panel discussions and presentations, enriching the experience for all.
  • Sessions - Through clever use of Sessions, National Student Pride was able to host immersive, engaging experiences like a live podcast recording and a voguing workshop.
  • Expo – This feature gave sponsors like Creative Assembly, Ernst & Young, and MI5 the opportunity to speak directly with students during the career fair via virtual expo booths.
  • Networking – The one-on-one and group-video networking features of Hopin allowed attendees to connect in a fun and personal setting, eliminating physical barriers while maintaining human connection.
  • Analytics – Detailed reporting on attendee demographics and engagement gave National Student Pride plenty of insight into the impact of going virtual for the first time. Sponsors could also easily measure ROI via downloadable reports on booth attendance and engagement.

"While we always stream National Student Pride, going virtual this year meant that it was a genuinely interactive experience rather than just a livestream. So attendees were able to actually get involved instead of just watching what they were missing out on."

Sheena Carmichael
Senior Producer, National Student Pride

An even more inclusive festival

The team at National Student Pride was elated with the results of their first virtual festival. The average attendee NPS was an impressive 8.2, and feedback from students highlighted accessibility as a key benefit to going virtual.

"There was an appreciation that a virtual event like this removed many barriers to people attending. When it's in person, you have to consider transport, accommodation, and even actually just being there because that requires an attendee to be comfortable in a scenario like that, and they might not be out yet. That was one of the major bonuses of hosting it virtually - removing those barriers of access." – Ollie James Parr, Festival Director, National Student Pride

People from around the world attended, showcasing the improved accessibility of the event. With a reach that extended beyond the UK, the festival had 232 registrations from the United States, 50 from Germany, 44 from India, 36 from Russia, and 365 from the rest of the world.

Feedback from sponsors was also very positive. Post-event follow-ups with companies like Amazon, Santander, American Express, Kraft Heinz, KPMG, and GSK featured praise around how easy it was to connect with attendees during the event.

Sponsors appreciated the simple user experience of their Expo booths and were impressed with the fun ways National Student Pride used Hopin to drive brand exposure and engagement. Kraft Heinz even ended up trending in the event chat after Tayce, a “RuPaul's Drag Race” contestant, confessed her love of baked beans!

Once the dust had settled on a whirlwind week of virtual experiences, Ollie’s team started thinking about National Student Pride 2022. Inclusivity is a core pillar at National Student Pride, so keeping the festival as accessible as possible is vital.

With that goal in mind, the organization plans to switch to a hybrid format for future festivals. The National Student Pride team will use Hopin to get the best of both worlds and connect even more LGBTQ+ students across the UK and worldwide.


Average attendee NPS


Event registrations


Expo booth interactions


Event turnout

"There are many benefits we will be able to take from our experience of hosting on Hopin, and keep when we move back into a physical environment so that we can do something that works for both. That's what we're going to consider the most for future festivals; how can we make the event even more accessible."

Ollie James Parr
Festival Director, National Student Pride

Lots of virtual audience buzz

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