Associations Offer Virtual Field Trip and Tour Options During Conferences

Local field trips and facility tours were a standard offering at most in-person conferences before the pandemic. But thanks to technology and creativity, associations are still making them happen in the virtual environment.

Pre-COVID, it was fairly common for associations to offer attendees the option to go on field trips and offsite tours during their conferences. Not only were they a good way to get attendees out of the traditional conference setting, but they also gave participants the chance to see the industry in action and exchange ideas with colleagues.

The good news is that these trips and tours haven’t been completely lost in the virtual environment. In fact, a number of associations have found creative ways to keep them going. Here is a look at a few of them:

Seasonal celebration. The California School Nutrition Association’s 68th Annual Conference kicks off virtually next week. For one of its evening events, CSNA is celebrating spooky season by hosting a Virtual Haunted Pasadena Tour. Attendees will wander through the Playhouse District and Old Pasadena to “discover the sordid side of the City of Roses.” Stops include castles and courtyards, mortuaries and theaters, and shuttered shopping malls.

Design showcase. For its January 2021 SHIFT Student Conference, the International Interior Design Association Texas Oklahoma Chapter is offering virtual tours where attendees will visit top design firms, get a look at completed projects, and see products in showrooms. Students will be randomly assigned to groups, each making three virtual tour stops.

Attendee-sponsored field trips. In a unique twist, the American Water Resources Association is asking attendees to submit their own 15-minute virtual trip for consideration, and AWRA will select five to add to its 2020 Virtual Annual Water Resources Conference program.  There are even prizes involved: Attendees will vote for the best field trip host, and the winner gets a $250 gift certificate, while the second-place host gets a $100 gift certificate.

Industry in action. As part of its September Annual Conference & Meeting, the Illinois Recycling Association offered attendees a behind-the-scenes look at one of its member companies, GDB International. During the 45-minute tour, people were able to see the inner workings of the paint recycling facility. The American Concrete Pipe Association did something similar for Concrete Pipe Week 2020 when it gave participants the chance to virtually tour three concrete plants.

A look at local history. Even though the Oral History Association couldn’t hold its annual meeting in Baltimore earlier this month, it still wanted to bring some local history to the virtual event. One way OHA did this was by having a historic preservation nonprofit, Baltimore Heritage, develop five virtual tours of some of the city’s neighborhoods. Topics included “LGBTQ History in Baltimore’s Charles Village Neighborhood” and “Slavery and Emancipation in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon Neighborhood.”

What type of virtual field trips or tours have you offered during your recent online conferences? Please share in the comments.

A scene from the American Concrete Pipe Association’s Concrete Pipe Virtual Tour. (YouTube screenshot)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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