Written by: ELA President, Rie Macchiarolo
Our annual conference is our biggest event of the year. Those of you who have participated over the years probably have many fond memories of the in-person conference experience that included full session rooms, pleasantly crowded lunch tables, and running into colleagues in the hallways or at exhibitor booths that you would only see at the annual conference. When the pandemic forced us to move the conference to be virtual, it was unclear when we would be able to meet in person again. After the 2021 and 2022 annual conferences, we could not ignore the benefits of hosting this event virtually.
Hosting this event virtually allows us to:
- Increase the accessibility of the content. Participation is made easier for people who have childcare responsibilities, work responsibilities, or physical needs that would otherwise make it difficult or impossible to attend an in-person event. In addition, many of the sessions are recorded and made available to registrants after the event.
- Reduce the carbon footprint of the event. A 2021 study shows that moving in-person events to a virtual platform can reduce the carbon footprint of the event by 94%. By keeping this annual event in a virtual format, we believe we can do our part in climate change mitigation by reducing the need for travel and the inevitable food/material waste that comes with an in-person event.
- Include speakers and participants from far outside the New England area. We are an increasingly more connected world – the actions of one geographic area or community can have an impact on and offer insight to another. To that end we are changing the schedule of the conference slightly, moving it later in the day for folks in Eastern Time to make participating from other time zones west of us a little easier.
We know that many of you have been looking forward to when we will gather together in person again. While that won’t happen at the annual conference we do plan to host our smaller regional events in-person or with a hybrid option. And keep your eyes peeled for spring and summer Eco-Tours that are in-person events where you can see the amazing work of our community in action.