Virtual January Series reaches 96,000 viewers globally


Photo courtesy of Joe Hayduk

Students helped out behind the scenes on the January Series.

Nearly 100,000 viewers from around the world attended this year’s virtual January Series during its 15-day span. Viewers watched from all 50 states and from 34 countries, with most viewers tuning in from Michigan.

In past years, daily attendance at the January Series averaged 4,000 viewers. Attendance at this year’s Series exceeded 6,000 viewers per day. Attendees were able to watch presentations live or view a recording available until midnight each day—a feature unique to this year’s Series. “With this new virtual format, we opened up the series to a whole new group of people to enjoy, in particular folks working during the day,” said Kristi Potter, the January Series director.

Student participation was markedly lower, however. “Since students weren’t on campus in December when we typically advertise and many of them were not on campus in January, there were definitely less students participating than previous years,” said Potter.

Extensive preparation went into each day’s Series presentation. Student and full-time workers began run-throughs at 10:30, including testing for graphics, videos, and practice Skype calls for microphone checks. Several student teams were split up into different rooms for COVID safety and communicated over headsets.

“Previous January Series were still carefully planned and coordinated by numerous people, but this year felt like in order to make things run as smoothly as possible, all of the departments had to dance with each other,” said Kaitlyn Rigdon, a member of the production team.

The Series wasn’t without technical difficulties, however. “On the day that we had Akbar Gbaia-Biamila, we had the worst mess up of this year,” said Joe Hayduk, a student worker for the Series. Gbaia-Biamila’s camera lost connection several times during his presentation, and only audio came through. “Luckily, the full-time workers are very professional as well as our speaker Akbar… He rolled with the punches and tried not to let it disrupt him.”

Many speakers commended the JSeries team for their effective technical maneuvering during the presentations. “One [speaker] went as far as to say that it was the best virtual event they’ve ever been a part of,” said Hayduk.  

Although 2021 marked the last year of January interim, the Series will continue to be held in January. “Next year will be our 35th year of offering these daily presentations, so it is a long-standing tradition that we value at Calvin,” said Potter. Viewers can expect the option to watch from home until midnight to continue in future series.