Coming Together During Social Isolation: The Virtual Doll Convention
In response to the recent international health crisis, social influencer and doll entrepreneur Rachel Hoffman is producing a worldwide gathering to celebrate all things related to doll and Teddy bear collecting. This event, to be held entirely online on Facebook, is the fourth in the series. Like an in-person convention, the Virtual Doll Convention, or VDC, features lectures, seminars, programs, and interactive activities led by globally-recognized thought leaders and is attended by thousands of enthusiasts and collectors. It is usually held twice a year, in January and June, but Hoffman is holding a “bonus” one on March 25th-29th to elevate and engage the collector community during this unprecedented time.
Action Daily: Give us a brief history on the Virtual Doll Convention concept and its format. When did it start, how many have occurred, and who are your attendees?
Rachel Hoffman: The Virtual Doll Convention started from a need I noticed in 2018 in the doll and Teddy bear communities for a more personal form of virtual contact. There are many amazing content creators out there that post on Facebook and YouTube, but they were only catching the attention of a limited audience and were not receiving much visibility across the broad range of doll and bear collecting specialties. My idea was to leverage all of this great thinking, enthusiasm, and interest, and to create an event geared entirely to serve the online collecting community. VDCs are designed and produced for online attendees. Past VDCs have attracted thousands of attendees from over 100 countries. They truly attract a mix of every age, interest, and location imaginable, and I would suspect the upcoming event will be no different.
Auction Daily: Why did you decide to hold a VDC in late March? What were the signals that this was the right time to hold one?
Rachel Hoffman: Dolls, teddy bears, and hobbies, in general, provide an incredible amount of comfort. They are a way for us to escape, cope, love, dream, travel, and live happily indoors. And given the world’s state of affairs right now, we need these things in the forefront of our lives right now more than ever.
I woke up a few days ago with the overwhelming sense of what I needed to do during this time of uncertainty. I called on my colleagues in the community whom I have worked with before, and even several new ones, to create amazing content for this convention. They all answered the call and are working tirelessly to make something incredible. Someone asked me, “How can you afford to do this?” and I replied, “I don’t think I can afford not to do it.” I am a virtual convention creator, and right now, the world needs a VDC. I hope you will join us next week for “Beyond All Limits” – because that is just what doll and bear collectors are.
Auction Daily: The “usual” preparation time for a VDC is usually several months, but in this case, you are preparing for it in just a week. How is that possible?
Rachel Hoffman: Well, if you need something done, give it to a busy – and motivated – person! Over the past several weeks, I had been trying to figure out how to best serve the collectors’ communities as things in the world started to drastically change. My first step was to open up the first two Virtual Doll Conventions for public consumption at no cost; the evergreen content from these 2019 events were previously only available to paid registrants. By doing so, our community welcomed 425 new members. Then the news got bad, fast, and I sprang into action. Right this moment, the world is quarantined, but that doesn’t eliminate people’s inherent and human needs to connect and learn.
Auction Daily: How are collectors responding to your announcement about this “surprise” VDC? Are you having any issues getting contributors to step up to the plate on such compressed notice?
Rachel Hoffman: The response from all fronts has been amazing. “Thank you for giving me hope” was one of the emails I first received from a past attendee and it completely reaffirmed my motivation for this project. Not only is this an amazing escape, it is doing something in the sense that it is keeping people happy, motivated, and most importantly, in community with each other.
As far as getting the content, there have been no issues at all. My presenters ALL agree that this is what is needed in our community. On the morning I decided to produce a March VDC, I was on the treadmill and calling and texting my content creators. In 90 minutes, I had a complete, week-long convention plan in place… and spent an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill because I lost track of time and it was all so exciting! My experts have all dropped everything to help, and I am giving this event my complete attention. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a crisis situation, coupled with major determination.
Auction Daily: And finally, what sorts of trends are you seeing with collectors as a response to this worldwide health scare? Do you think that the VDC model can be used in other collectors communities?
Rachel Hoffman: We could never have anticipated a worldwide pandemic that would require people to isolate themselves physically from one another. However, we needed virtual events way before this happened, so I am grateful to be way ahead of the curve in that regard. I have learned so much from the past three VDCs that I can implement at our upcoming event, both from the tactical and strategic perspectives. I’ve received a ton of phone calls from people wanting advice on how to create virtual gatherings, meetings, and conventions for their clubs, organizations, and societies. My advice is pretty simple, and three-part. Create your own model, produce exciting content with good pictures and sound, and then make it easily accessible. There are endless platforms to create, broadcast, and utilize virtual products. The sky is the limit!
The Virtual Doll Convention’s “Beyond All Limits” will be held on March 25th-29th, 2020 exclusively on Facebook. The content will also be uploaded to Rachel Hoffman’s YouTube Channel throughout the week for those who do not have a Facebook account.
There is no charge to register or virtually attend the event. For more information on “Beyond all Limits” and the Virtual Doll Convention March, 2020 schedule of events, please visit www.virtualdollconvention.com.