Susan Cramer – Virtual Conference Pioneer
by Irma Goosen | LD5, PM4
Connect The Dots
“Why don’t you use Morse Code to Connect the Dots for the Conference?” Her husband’s words while travelling somewhere near Florida in the USA on their 6-month sojourn, clinched the deal. Take another look at the flyer for the 2020 D42 Conference. Decipher the dots and look for the words connect and virtual.
Did you know? The ladybug was chosen to represent everyone. No gender, race or form and universaility as a symbol for luck and Spring. Who could ask for more?
After 6 months of virtual meetings and lots of planning, Susan and her team had the Conference (slated for Lethbridge, Alberta) set. Not only were the 7 core team members operating like a well-oiled machine, the venue, meals, keynote speakers, contests and awards were in place. Of course, small things might go wrong, but Susan and the team were ready to deal with those. At almost 85% of all planning in place, the 2020 Conference was in the bag!
From in-person to virtual
Enter a world-wide pandemic. Susan had to re-think everything. How do you create an event 300+ people could attend from a distance? She needed a new team. Not everyone was comfortable doing an online celebration. At the same time, an online venue presented new opportunities to revitalize some old concepts. In 11 short weeks, her team of 4 delivered District 42’s first-ever virtual conference.
Hundreds of hours and many meetings were spent on:
- Selecting a new core team – only Susan and Karla Kroeker were on both teams for the in-person conference in Lethbridge and the virtual conference. Marcy Field and Wendie Swirski joined in the fun.
- Finding Keynote speakers familiar with speaking online – in the end, the team repurposed 3 of the speakers chosen for Lethbridge.
- Creating a unique way to celebrate all Distinguished Toastmasters, including the first ones to achieve this milestone through Pathways.
- Finetuning the technical aspects with technologies new to the District – without the D42 Tech Team this would not have been possible.
- Choosing hosts for the event –Randy Maus and Gordon Grant entertained, educated and stuck to a strict minute-by-minute program.
- Rebranding the Of the Year Awards to the OTYs and showcasing both the District and Division winners. The “Oscar”-esque OTYs were hosted by Catherine Secundiak who gave an award-winning performance, dazzling us with her multiple wardrobe changes.
The list was stupendous, but Susan and the District 42 team created an event that set the bar sky high. More importantly, Susan became a pioneer for virtual conferences. Well done!