Friday, May 21, 2021

Missed Opportuniies

 We are slowly emerging from the Great Ordeal. Human groundhogs are finally poking their heads above ground and beginning to peer around. Restaurants are loosening restrictions. Masks are "suggested" rather than required in my favorite branch of the Fort Collins library. 

I have four Zoom presentations scheduled for June. Additionally, the Western Writers of America conference will be held in Loveland which is just sixteen miles from Fort Collins. For me, the highlight of the event will be when Kathleen O' Neal Gear and Michael Gear receive the Wister Award.

The Gears have been my friends for years and have inspired countless other writers. Their spectacular rise to the ranks of best-selling authors has come from innate talent and incredible persistence. They are both dedicated archeologists. Kathleen has produced over two academic articles and has been awarded medals from the Department of the Interior for her work in conservation.

A number of friends will attend this conference. Some I have known many years. Others are relatively new. 

There are a number of conferences I will skip. In fact, since I write both historical novels and mysteries, I could attend a conference every single week. 

Yet, I'm struck by the missed opportunities by organizers of in-person conferences. Women Writing the West had a spectacular Zoom conference last fall. It was dazzling. I'm still amazed at the organizational work done by Pamela Nowak, the conference chair. 

Every single event, panel, and presentation that would have been included in a live conference was scheduled for the Zoom event. Keynotes speeches, breakout rooms, everything. The formatting depended  on logistical training, clear instructions to participants, dedicated moderators, and most of all Nowak's inspirational flexibility. 

The registration fee was lowered. There were no expensive hotel fees. The end result was a surge of  registrations by people who normally could not attend. Membership increased. Best of all, this convention resulted in a profit rather than the usual projected loss. 

Sadly, too many organizations are rejoicing over "returning to normal" without integrating the new approaches that worked during the shutdown. Conferences are very expensive. Hotel and travel fees alone are prohibitive to the bulk of the membership. 

We should not ignore the opportunity to integrate the lessons learned during the Great Ordeal. Try combining a Zoom approach to events with in-person participation. 


Ellen said...

Yes!! In my life prior to quitting and hitting the road with my hubby as a full-time RVer (and writer of mysteries based on this unique lifestyle), I was a staff member at a professional trade association where I oversaw educational events around the country. My background was online learning before I took that job and I was always trying to convince my boss (the association's Executive Director) and the board of directors they needed to do more online events. This was back in 2005-2009. Even then they took the easy road, rather than the robust alternative delivery you mention in your post. I've always believed that, when done correctly, online events can be as engaging as live events, sometimes even more so, with more participation and connection overall.

Had I a more reliable online connection through our travels, I'd be signing up for these online conferences all the time! Thanks for your post on this topic!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Thanks Ellen. I can't help but think there's some kind of a hybrid model we should look in to.