Planning a Chapter Event in the Time of COVID-19

  • Pacific Northwest Chapter Committee Tackles Challenges of Pandemic Planning
    • The following is a presentation of key concerns discussed at a PNW Chapter Fall Meeting planning committee session. The information will no doubt be valuable to other chapters and SIGs planning events during the pandemic.
    • The main question in this time of pandemic, of course, is whether an event should be in person or virtual or, perhaps, a combination of the two. Below is a list of pros and cons for each arrangement.
    • Pros: meeting new folks, establishing connections, building networks, socializing. All of these elements are essential to building community and a feeling of inclusion. In this time when chapters and SIGs are seeing a decline in activity and membership, it is important to feed community development. Some potential speakers who may express reservations about virtual presentations could still be considered.
    • Cons: the most obvious is the COVID-19 pandemic and the risks of transmission. Also, members may be feeling a bit of financial strain due to the pandemic as well and meeting in person may be a hardship. The difficulty of organizing meals is a big concern. With the necessity of social distancing and masking (assuming that these measures would still be in place), meeting at a restaurant could be prohibitive. Options may include catering, box lunches, etc. Finally, pre-event workshops and get togethers may not be possible.
    • Pros: makes a conference accessible to financially strapped members or members who are not able to travel comfortably. Removes the threat of COVID-19 transmission and, therefore, may increase attendance. Removes the expense and labor of meals organization. Pre-event meetings could be programmed virtually.
    • Cons: may exclude members who have difficulty with Zoom-type meetings or who don’t care for this type of communication. The organic mingling and connecting that happens at in-person events is inhibited by the format. Some presenters may indicate that they would not be interested in presenting virtually. Attendance is reliant on members’ compatibility with the technical format.
    • Pros: more members may be able to attend. There would be an option for participation for members who don’t want to socialize due to the pandemic.
    • Cons: the concern was that, with the less expensive option of virtual attendance, members would be encouraged to stay home thereby defeating the purpose of in-person planning. Also, the time and expenses involved with virtual production would be prohibitive.

Other variables that may influence any decision in this regard include: vaccination role-outs and rates of administering, lifting of travel restrictions (or re-implementation), threat of another fall wave of infections, the strength of the virus variants and their development through the summer.