Stay Connected to the Industry
Originally published: 03.01.21 by Pete Grasso
One year ago, I was getting ready to pack my bags and head to St. Louis for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) annual convention while keeping an eye on the news about the growing number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. and the world.
As more and more states began implementing restrictions on large gatherings — and the NCAA cancelled March Madness! — I began to have doubts about my trip to St. Louis.
Sure enough, a couple of days before my flight, ACCA was forced to cancel. In the coming days and weeks, the country essentially went into lockdown.
Other organizations were also forced to cancel in-person events last spring and as we progressed through summer while COVID-19 cases continued to rise, many events planned for the fall were also in peril.
One by one, fall events either cancelled, postponed or smartly switched to a virtual, online model. Would this become the new normal for industry events?
The industry’s biggest annual event, the AHR Expo, initially planned to postpone from January to March this year, before scrapping plans for the show altogether to concentrate on the 2022 event in Las Vegas.
Here we are one year later and ACCA, which had initially planned to focus on this year’s March conference in New Orleans, also made the decision to cancel yet again and prepare for an in-person convention next year.
Instead, I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on a virtual ACCA Board of Directors meeting where a thorough update on the organization’s strategic plan was given and Rosenberg Indoor Comfort was awarded the ACCA Residential Contractor of the Year.
It’s interesting to see how organizations have tackled the obstacle of the coronavirus pandemic, especially when it comes to events.
Last September, after holding out hope for an in-person event, Service World Expo reluctantly changed course and went completely virtual. The result was, in my opinion, something to be applauded. Over the course of a few days, attendees logged on to view virtual education sessions and network with one another.
Later this month, the National Educator and Trainers Conference will also be completely virtual. Instead of spending just a few days in person, the conference will release new classes over the span of 12 days from March 15-26. Not only that, but sessions will be available to registrants for 120 days following the conference.
“While we would prefer to be meeting everyone in person, the pandemic allowed us to rethink how we could provide more content than ever before,” says Howard Weiss, executive vice president for ESCO, which manages the conference.
ACCA has also launched a new virtual course series, Rise to the Top, which provides members with knowledge and skills that they can put into action when out in the field, helping clients.
The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), which normally holds its annual convention this month has also gone virtual.
The Virtual Education Conference (VEC), Essential Learning for Unconventional Times, will take place March 22-25. The four-day educational experience will feature top quality education seminars, a virtual exhibit, MCAA’s annual business meeting, student chapter competition, safety awards, scholarship presentations and the annual changing of the guard.
As the organization says, it’s “a different experience, yet the same quality of education.”
Looking ahead to the fall, I see many in-person events planned in the industry, and a few virtual ones as well. My sincere hope is that everything goes on as planned.
One thing is certain, however, and that is no matter what, you can continue to learn and stay connected to the industry. If we’ve learned anything in the past year, it’s that there is always a way.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see more virtual learning opportunities implemented by various organizations, either as a permanent replacement or a supplement to in-person events.
The quality of virtual programs that were put on during the past year has been incredible. Imagine what an organization can do when they have the resources and time to plan for such an event in advance!