One month ago, the Academy Team executed our first ever Virtual Summit. You may remember reading about the topics and speakers from our Virtual Summit in one of Steve Hartnett’s earlier blogs. I’m here to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what can happen when a group of fully-committed individuals put their heads together with a common goal in mind.
One month later and I’m still in awe of what our team was able to do. To give you context, we were planning to hold our 2020 Spring Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in late April 2020. We start working on our Summits more than a year in advance. We were five weeks from holding our conference when we announced to our Membership and VIP Guests that we were going to move our Summit to a virtual platform.
Instead of panicking, our team stepped up. I’m not singling out our Event Team, I mean every single person on the Academy Team. Our Web and Online Services jumped in and set-up calls with Zoom Representatives to register the Academy with their Virtual Meeting platform, while others shared their expertise from prior Academy positions and previous jobs to lend a hand in any way they could. Our internal Academy Speakers changed their topics to be more timely in light of the pandemic. Most of the session materials were already completed and ready for distribution to our Membership prior to the onset of the pandemic, but without complaint, the presenters reworked their presentations and handouts or started fresh. We conducted dress rehearsals with our guest speakers so they could become familiar with the technology.
We researched ways to connect on camera and gave tips for on-screen attire. We practiced Zoom, oh my goodness did we practice on Zoom. We set-up meetings, we tried to break things or click on random buttons so we would know how to troubleshoot them. We asked Academy teammates from different departments to review instructions or do a test session with us. We played with settings, we re-learned features as fast as Zoom was rolling them out. We created tutorials and handouts for our Members to guide them. I saw emails coming in at all hours of the day and night as thoughts crossed our teammates’ minds when trying to relax, or get a few more things done in the evening hours.
My favorite part was watching how the Academy team interacted once the actual event began. We use the instant-messaging program, Slack, in the office to communicate with one another when we need a quick answer. One of our teammates suggested setting up a troubleshooting Slack channel so we could put all the questions or problems in one place. We added the team to this channel prior to the conference starting. I was on camera and kicked off the Summit introduction before handing it over to our President and CEO for their Welcome and Opening session. When I looked at the Slack troubleshooting channel, I saw pure magic. One Academy teammate asking how to solve a link issue for a Member, another responded lightning quick with the solution. A different Academy teammate sending over the phone dialing instructions while another confirmed a registration. Non-IT teammates troubleshooting wi-fi and connection issues like seasoned pros. This all was happening with positivity, smiley face emojis, and a number of, “awesome job, way to go,” type comments. Our team was having fun while running on all cylinders. We always talk about that special something that happens at Academy events. Our team is a big part of that magic.
As we wrapped up the Summit on a Sunday afternoon, I told myself to remember the feeling. It was a mix of emotions. Elation that we pulled it off. Exhaustion from being on camera while answering emails and questions behind the scenes. The strongest emotion was pride. Not pride in my own work, but pride in what the team did.
I’ll look back on this event as a defining moment in my life. A time when I was a part of a group of people who worked around the clock to deliver content to our Members when they needed it most.
There are always silver linings to difficult situations, and for me, the reminder of what an awesome team we have at the Academy is the biggest silver lining of the pandemic to date.
Director, Projects and Event Planning
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128