In Praise of Conferences

Post COVID Learnings

Returning to the world of in-person meetings

Last week, I had the fortune to attend the Disaster Recovery Journal’s (DRJ) 66th Annual Conference, and I am in praise of conferences. It’s been over two years since I traveled, and it felt odd to be back at an in-person event. It was also excellent. Honestly, I had forgotten the value of networking and collaboration that makes meetings worthwhile.

Reflecting, it may seem odd to focus on what was once a standard occurrence. Not only does DRJ offer professional development opportunities, but other associations do as well. The Business Continuity Institute is offering their BCI World Hybrid 2022 next November. As with DRJ, they will offer a mix of in-person and virtual engagement opportunities. Next month, a group I have appreciated for years, Continuity Insights will host the 20th Annual Continuity Insights Management Conference in Louisville, KY. I’ll be sorry to miss that one, especially as my Business Continuity Resilience Insurance Network co-chair, Dianne Stephens, will be speaking. With the restrictions of the pandemic, it is incredible but understandable that we have yet to meet face-face. However, with COVID, many everyday things had to be paused.

Value of In-person learning

Why professionals go to conferences

So, I am excited that opportunities are abounding for Resilience professionals to get back out into the world to learn and mingle. Like many, I participated in virtual summits, webinars, and panels to stay tuned to industry trends. Those virtual opportunities also enabled me to dive deeper and increase my knowledge while continuing to gain on-the-job experience during the COVID response. I was even honored to present a few and join podcasts, like the panel I did with my Resilience Think Tank co-founders on Operational Resilience: The Relationship between Risk and Resilience for Clear Risk.

For example, I recently completed the BCI’s Incident Response and Crisis Management Training Course. Not only did I refresh my learnings, but I was auditing the course as a skill-building exercise for other members of my team. I have an excellent appreciation for instructors like Senad Cehajic, who pivoted to take a classroom course on the web. These and other recent experiences are well worth the investment, expanding my knowledge–which I am bringing to my daily work. For me, this is why my colleagues and I go to conferences. 

Value to Resilience Program Management

The challenge of budgets

Sure, some people slack off at these events, and yes, there is some downtime and fun. I am in praise of conferences, though, because they always give me the space to think, focus, and even dream about what could be. I rarely get that time at the office. The value is not only in the connections made with old and new colleagues but even the small moments of learning how to phrase or leverage newly discovered skills are incredibly helpful. Even better are what I call Nikola Tesla Moments when it seems the planets align, and I make significant or original breakthroughs to existing challenges. Or, it can be discovering new ways to explain, advance, or align resilience programming.

However, at DRJ Spring this year, there was talk of how many companies had removed or rolled back travel budgets during COVID. It makes sense that companies removed unnecessary expenses during the pandemic. Many wondered if those budget line items would return. If they don’t, it will be a disservice to the field. I’m passionate about lifelong learning and not sitting on my laurels. Hopefully, as we learn to live with COVID, companies will reinstate their commitment to advancing their employees and programs. 

Resilience In Action During COVID

Agility and the power of the pivot

As with the conference vendors, practitioners became masters of the pivot in 2020. Now, we are moving programs beyond COVID and into the future state. There’s a lot of talk about new or next normal lately. The reality is that none of us know what it will be until we get there. For now, events like DRJ or DRI International’s 2023 conference will expose us to leading experts in risk and resilience. Not only will we get the chance to speak and grow together, but industry meetings will give us windows of opportunity to imagine what can be. 

What I see on the horizon indicates the rise of resilience. Whether your business leverages organizational, operational, or a unique hybrid aligned to your company culture, COVID taught us being reactive is not enough. Instead, we must be forward-looking, strategically thinking ahead to steer through the pandemics’ remaining choppy waters. Sadly, the road ahead has choppy waters, but embracing resilience gives us remarkable plasticity. Finally, participating in conferences also enables increased learning, development, and knowledge-sharing across the industry. No other venue achieves that today. 

Knowledge Sharing Is Powerful

Committed to learning and educating

With that, I’ll leave you with the opportunity I had to moderate a fantastic panel of dedicated leaders at DRJ Spring 2022. If you are like me, you appreciate the variety and depth of learning conferences offer. I, for one, will continue to support them–in-person or virtual. I encourage you to watch all of the keynotes but check out my keynote Crisis Communications that starts at 2:41:00.

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