Conferences in the Face of Covid

Screenshot of the NCLM virtual conference, CityVision.

This week, I was fortunate to be able to attend the NC League of Municipalities CityVision Virtual Summit, their online answer to their normal annual conference, cancelled because of COVID. I was able to hear speakers on diverse topics, including communication and emergency management, economic development for municipalities, and leadership and management during times of transition, fear, and uncertainty. The League did an excellent job of reimagining their conference content in an online format, including Zoom presentations and panels and pre-recorded lunch and learn modules that allowed attendees to learn more about very specific topics.

What stuck with me the most after attending the three-day event was that despite the incredible work that governments are doing to try to mitigate the effects of the virus, there is so much that we cannot control. Certain uncertainty, which Dr. Jim Johnson of UNC Kenan Flagler spoke about, is going to be the state of our society for the foreseeable future. Of course, this is not new; the uncertain is a part of life itself. However, the coronavirus has made this uncertainty more pronounced and powerful.

So how do we cope with this certain uncertainty? There isn’t really a clear answer. There are preparations we can make to avert a similar crisis in the future. There are relationships we can build and priorities we can reconsider in order to determine what our communities need right now. But really, we must learn to be flexible, forgiving, and empathetic in this time of severe, communal stress. And until we can all sit in slightly uncomfortable chairs and watch PowerPoints on projection screens again, at least we have virtual professional support and togetherness, thanks to Zoom and a little imagination.