Associations Tweak, Refine Early 2021 Virtual Event Offerings

With months of planning and executing virtual conferences behind them, associations are now looking at how to improve their event offerings in the new year. Consider these ideas from three associations.

Although there is good news on the COVID-19 vaccine front, it will still be a while until life returns to normal and large-scale, in-person conferences resume.

But now that most associations have at least one virtual conference under their belt, they are taking what they learned and the feedback they received from members to improve and tweak their early 2021 virtual offerings. Here’s a glimpse at what a few groups have planned.

Interactive National Calendar

Winter is typically conference season for organic farmers. That’s when they attend their in-person state and regional meetings. But that’s not possible at the start of 2021, so the Organic Farmers Association is launching the National Clearinghouse for Organic Farmer Education, which will highlight all the online education available to organic farmers across the country.

“OFA member-organizations have exceptional educational programs, and we’ve put all of these opportunities in one interactive national calendar,” OFA Director Kate Mendenhall told “COVID-19 has provided a few silver linings, and universal online education is one of those. Now farmers have incredible access to innovative organic farmers from the entire country.”

OFA hopes the calendar will help members see COVID restrictions as a chance to expand their knowledge.

“This is an opportunity for farmers to attend their regular conference and a conference they may have always dreamed about but haven’t had the time or travel budget to make it happen,” added OFA President David Colson.

New Events to Address Pandemic Survival

Aware that its members want to know more about how to effectively lead through uncertain times and new protocols and requirements for business aviation, the National Business Aviation Association is launching two new virtual events in the first quarter of 2021—the NBAA GO Leadership Summit and NBAA GO Flight Operations Conference.

“These new events will offer exciting opportunities for industry professionals to refine and rethink their business planning, and even their very definition of success, in a world upended by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NBAA Senior Vice President of Strategy and Innovation Mike Nichols, CAM, CAE, in a press release. “With these conferences, we are going to plan not just for working through the current crisis, but for leading out of it.”

Both events will feature enhanced networking and attendee engagement opportunities, including bonus content and resources from speakers; peer-to-peer learning opportunities with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion; and content specifically designed for emerging leaders.

A Monthlong Experience

This year, the American Counseling Association is transforming what has been a multiday annual conference into “a monthlong celebratory, community-building, and engaging virtual experience.”

Each week will have a different focus that encompasses the profession as a whole and addresses specific issues that counselors face. For example, Week 1, Self-Care Week, will promote the importance of the practice; Week 3, Skill-Building Week, will help attendees “cultivate new techniques and enhance current skills through advanced material.”

In addition, each week will include a different keynote speaker; education sessions with live Q&A; and daily 15-minute Quick Chats, where attendees can learn more about the counseling profession from thought leaders, ACA staff, and ACA volunteer leaders.

What did you learn in 2020 that you’re using to refine and improve your 2021 virtual events? Please share in the comments.

(tookitook/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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