InterChange 2020 was a Virtual Success

Screenshot of attendees at opening session of InterChange 2020. Of 25 signed-in attendees, 14 have their webcams on turned on.
Virtual group photo of InterChange 2020

This year’s InterChange conference was held as scheduled, though not as planned.

STC New England’s annual regional conference was scheduled as a two-day, in-person event starting 24 April 2020 at our familiar venue in Lowell, MA. But with speakers already confirmed and tickets already ordered, the gathering COVID-19 pandemic forced drastic changes to the plan. After discussing options such as postponement or cancellation, the InterChange Committee (Lee Durocher, conference manager Steve Jong, Dallas Kennedy, David Lance, Sharon Metzger, Marni Nispel, Alyse Peak, and Tau Sheik) decided to keep the starting date but change the format to a one-day virtual event.

Instead of holding plenary sessions in a main room and presentations organized in tracks in breakout rooms, the conference was held as a series of online meetings. Marni and Tau served as virtual room hosts, managing the process and recording presentations in the two tracks, while Steve staffed the virtual common room for the opening and closing sessions, a lunchtime discussion, and chats during breaks. Almost all of the original speakers agreed to present virtually.

To kick off the conference, keynote speaker Ed Marsh shared “timeless tech comm tips,” followed by sessions from:

  • Stan Doherty
  • Patty Gale
  • Neil Perlin
  • Bernard Aschwanden
  • Velizar Demirev
  • Brett Peruzzi
  • Matt Reiner
  • Liz Herman
  • Deb Sauer
  • Viqui Dill
  • Liz Fraley
  • Lou Prosperi

During the closing session, John Garison was announced as the recipient of a Distinguished Chapter Service Award for sustained contributions to STC New England. Thanks to loyal sponsors Jorsek, MadCap, and Sonos, the traditional and popular raffle was still held.

Both the attendees and the speakers were enthusiastic about the conference format. Stan said, “I enjoyed myself the entire day. [T]he event was well-managed, thoughtful, and informative. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to join the event and be present there with such nice colleagues until I got in there. Felt awfully good.” Elizabeth Klisiewicz said, “I think it went over really well, all things considered.”

Chapter President and conference manager Steve Jong sounded relieved afterward. “It took a lot of hard work and creativity to make the conference happen. We couldn’t have done it without the efforts of the entire committee, the speakers and sponsors who hung in with us, and the attendees who took a chance on the new format.” What will the next InterChange look like? Keeping with the conference theme, Steve said, “It might not look like the InterChange of yesterday or today’s InterChange 2020 but a blend of both.”