Working, and Looking Forward to, A National Hybrid Conference
Nate Natale, Vice President of Education & Events
Thursday, November 19, 2020
 

Well, here we still are, hanging in there during the most uncertain times many of us have lived through. There does seem to be some light approaching and last week’s promising news of an impending vaccine has us all looking forward to the day that we kick open the doors to society. No one that I have talked to in recent months, personally or professionally, is looking forward to anything more than getting together with friends and colleagues.

Our industry’s get-together, the National Home Performance Conference and Trade Show, is scheduled for April 12-15, 2021 in Austin, Texas. We expect, and are planning, to be there in person in April; however, we will also have a virtual component. Given the state of the world and the uncertainty around what it will look in April, this year’s national conference will be a hybrid of both virtual and in-person events. I’d like to share what that will look like.

Why the Hybrid Model?

As your industry association, BPA is committed to serving the entire industry. It’s our annual gathering. It’s where we learn, connect, and grow.

Across the industry, there will be differing levels of comfort with traveling and gatherings. We are offering a hybrid model because want to make sure that all of you have an opportunity for a national conference experience in 2021—whether in Austin or in your living room.

Details for In-person Attendees

Let’s start with details of those planning to attend in person in Austin. Everything we are doing in the planning phase puts your safety first. We are working with the Hilton Austin and the Austin Convention Center on several floor plans that have a full six feet of social distancing. These floor plans cover a variety of capacities (25%, 50%, and 75%) so that we are prepared for all possibilities in April. To be clear: our floor plans and capacity will not simply be about what we are allowed to do but what is best for you and your safety.

The specific protocols that will be in place come April can’t be completely predicted, but there are some things I can share with you know. We will have touchless registration in place, the conference will be paperless, hand sanitizer stations and hygiene reminders will be prominent, all meals will be “grab and go,” CEU scanning will be done at a safe distance, and we expect to have preregistration for sessions as well as repeating some popular sessions so that more people can participate. In addition, we will incorporate all best practices for events as recommended and/or mandated by the CDC and Austin Public Health at the time of the event.

You can check out the Hilton’s Clean Stay Plan and the Austin Convention Center COVID-19 Response to understand their approach to events at this time.

We are in the process of acquiring a significant amount of additional space at the Austin Convention Center (accessed from the Hilton by sky bridge) to accommodate more of you and to do it safely. However, even with our increased square footage, there is a high likelihood that demand for registration will exceed our maximum capacity. This is not a selling point I ever wanted to use, but if you intend to come to Austin, registering early is a good idea this year.

For those of you who come to Austin, come flexible. This will truly be a “we are all in this together” adventure. Bring your tablet, your laptop, your headphones, something comfortable to sit on in case you need to stream a session that you can’t get into…this is going to be different. But we’ll be together, and at the end of the day, you will be able to go out with friends for BBQ and live music during the best time of year to be outside in Austin.

Details for Virtual Attendees

The virtual content will be available as a standalone registration and will be included with each in-person registration. One reason that we are including it with in-person registration is that we are working to integrate the two experiences for a true hybrid conference.

The virtual content will be delivered in three different formats: on-demand, live-streamed from Austin, and live from the homes and offices of presenters who can’t travel.

We will be working with many of the presenters who are coming to Austin to offer on-demand versions of their sessions along with their in-person presentations. In addition, the number one reason a proposal doesn’t make it onto the agenda is that we are space constrained in person. We envision having content that is exclusively available on-demand. The hybrid model gives us an opportunity to offer you more content than ever before.

As for live content, we are working to have 1-2 tracks streamed live from Austin to the comfort of your own home. Our goal is to have a mix of the most popular content across the various interest areas represented on the agenda streaming live. This is an exciting new feature for us and one of those things forced by pandemic that I think will change how we approach things post-pandemic.

We also plan to have exclusive live streaming content through the virtual platform. As with the live from Austin content, this is a way to connect our virtual and in-person attendees. For example, say there is an in-person track on Smart Homes, but the presenters for a must-see session couldn’t make it to Austin. Instead of replacing that session in-person, we will have a virtual session be part of the in-person track. Those who want to watch from Austin can do so in their rooms or around the venues.

So, that’s the plan…for now. With that in mind, please note that *everything you have read is subject to change. The purpose of this post was for you to gain a basic understanding of what we are working on, which is a hybrid conference model. The details are bound to change (hence the asterisk), but I hope you get the picture and are as excited as we are to be looking forward.

In-Person Registration is Now Open!

Click here to learn more and complete your in-person registration for the 2021 National Home Performance Conference. Virtual-only registration will open soon.

We’ll see you in Austin or online in April 2021!

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