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Due to the ongoing concerns about COVID-19, the Summer Conference took place on Zoom webinar this year, and the upcoming Fall Conference will follow a similar format as a virtual event. Despite not being held in-person, the Virtual Summer Conference was a wonderful, well-attended event with some timely expert speakers. Feedback from participants has been very helpful to the Meetings department as we start planning the Virtual Fall Conference October (6-8).

During the virtual event last month, keynote speaker and former Chicago Bears player Dan Hampton gave an address about leadership and adapting to change, which was well received by those who provided feedback on the event. We also heard from a panel of experts about managing manufacturing operations and customer connections, which was full of practical, actionable advice. Lisa Sterling talked about how to best manage remote workforces and reintegrate employees back into the office when the time comes. Experts shared financial relief program terms for companies and individuals in both the United States and Canada, and a crucial economic outlook was offered for both countries as well.

For this virtual event, we had 144 new participants, meaning FGIA experienced a greater reach into the industry. One of the “hidden blessings” in all of 2020’s uncertainty is that those who don’t often have the means or time to travel were still able to attend our event. A larger reach meant FGIA was able to connect with more people virtually, and we will continue to stay engaged in-person later. On that note: one important thing we heard from feedback is that, while virtual events are a nice alternative, in-person events will not be going away -- industry professionals are eager to get back to them in the future.

From the Virtual Summer Conference, we learned what works and what is a challenge when it comes to running a virtual event. Based on the feedback we received from participants, breaks of 15-30 minutes after every session worked well so folks can get some work done in between. For those planning, or considering planning, a virtual event, we recommend having a designated person to run your technology smoothly. Our staff was fortunate to choose this approach to achieve great success.

For the Fall Conference, we are working to include more interaction between participants. Not only will we expand our online happy hours, we will offer technical content – association business, new technologies, design trends, etc. and roundtable-type discussion sessions.

Thank you to our virtual event sponsors, especially Platinum sponsor Quanex Building Products. For more information or questions about the upcoming Virtual Fall Conference, please feel free to email