An Update to the Community: Why the Fall Forum Will Be Fully Virtual
As you've probably heard by now, our 2021 Fall ESOP Forum will now be exclusively an online event. While this news is disappointing to all of us who were eager to reunite with the ESOP community in person, we’re very excited for the Forum’s virtual shift and all the ways we’ll connect in our online format. Both of us were excited to travel to San Diego: As the NCEO’s board chair and CFO of member company Realityworks, Mary was planning to lead a team from Realityworks and was also looking forward to having face time with service providers and other ESOP peers. Loren, among many other things, was looking forward to meeting some of the new NCEO staff in person for the first time!
As stewards of the NCEO, we wanted to take a moment to lay out the circumstances that led to the shift to a fully online meeting as well as relay all the reasons to participate in the Forum.
This news won’t be a surprise to many of you. An increasingly contagious variant and worrying transmission and hospitalization trends have created a great deal of uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that many places are considering a return to earlier lockdown and public health mandates. Projections from various universities and scientists for the next few months are exceedingly grim. All of the above, combined with the fact that NCEO events routinely bring in attendees from all over the country, arriving via plane to be in a relatively confined space over a prolonged period, made it all but a statistical certainty that someone attending the Forum would be exposed to and possibly contract COVID-19. Beyond the safety concerns, an in-person meeting wouldn't provide the value that our attendees have come to expect, with strict distancing measures forcing us into sparsely populated breakout rooms, largely devoid of the energy that makes these meetings so vital. We have a responsibility, above all else, to provide a safe learning environment for our attendees and by extension their communities. Gathering in San Diego was no longer possible.
Thankfully, this shift to a completely online Forum is more of a minor setback than a major disruption. The 2021 Fall ESOP Forum was always going to be a hybrid event—that is to say, we were already preparing for an online event, and this shift gives us some time to focus all of our efforts on making the virtual event as strong as possible. We have a long history of online events, dating back to when we started our webinar program more than 15 years ago. The theme of this year’s Forum is evolution and, suitably, our online events have evolved into a well-developed and integral part of the NCEO’s offerings. As the first employee ownership organization to put on a large virtual event (our April 2020 annual conference), we know how to move quickly.
This year’s Forum will build on our years of expertise to provide top-notch educational and networking content that meets our attendees where they are, both literally and figuratively. We’ll have over 40 sessions across four tracks, and multiple ways to connect with your fellow attendees, either over a beer from an employee-owned brewery, or in a roundtable discussion about your preferred ESOP topic.
All of this is made possible by having a nimble and hardworking team, led by our event director Jordan Boone. Her steady guidance and quick thinking have made the virtual pivot as painless as possible and, what’s more, her inventiveness and collaborative spirit have created an engaging online event that will provide attendees with the tools to make their ESOP thrive.
We invite you to register by August 31 to get the reduced early bird price. Though we’ll yet again miss the chance to reunite in person, we’re excited to safely come together as a community to learn from and celebrate all that makes employee ownership so vital.