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Forced Innovation, Accessibility & Virtual Conferences

Have you ever wanted to attend a conference but didn’t have the time or resources to participate? Maybe one lucky person on your team was chosen to attend, but you had to wait until they returned for a rundown on the sessions. Maybe you got an idea of what was happening via social media or daily digests. Still, the situation left you wanting much more.

Well, good news for you. The era of virtual conferences and meetings has arrived, necessitated by this seemingly never-ending health crisis.

COVID-19 is the driving force pushing more meetings and conferences online. Why not? You can enjoy the ease of accessibility from the safety of your home or office. No airport hassles. No arming yourself with PPE and loads of sanitizer for a cross-country trek. No worries about social distancing once on site.

Have you been a part of a virtual meeting recently, using tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or GoToMeeting? I’m guessing you have. Many people may have experienced some initial fear when using a new video technology platform. That quickly disappeared. Forced adoption has occurred and changed human interaction via video chat forever.

Do you believe that remote work is achievable when executed the right way? I sure do. Whether or not I’d like to admit it, I think COVID-19 will change the way businesses and schools will run.

Would you agree that online conferences are likely to become standard issue for school transportation industry professionals, at least for the foreseeable future? Why invest thousands of dollars in travel, hotel fees and food, when you can virtually achieve the same effect and still be home for dinner with the family? That said, there remain many pros to attending live, in-person conferences over virtual conferences, as the main thing this whole crisis has taught me is how much we all crave human interaction and connection.

I don’t think this new online experience will ever fully replace in-person relationship building or the hands-on personal experiences gained at live conferences. However, attending conferences remotely can provide a nice supplement to one’s professional development. Still, at some point, you simply get what has been termed Zoom fatigue. This is one major factor why in-classroom school is still best for kids, in my opinion. I see correlations between how children and business professionals learn.

In an attempt to flatten the curve, many school districts and businesses have restricted out-of-state travel for the remainder of 2020. In response, our team has created new online conferences, like TSD Virtual coming in the fall and the Bus Technology Summit on Sept. 21-24.

Our goal is to support the school transportation industry by offering comprehensive training that helps bridge the information gap for transportation professionals. Plus, our virtual conference platform helps facilitate the ability to connect peers and industry suppliers via a unique randomized networking function. It’s really exciting stuff, and I can’t wait to see it in action.

Virtual conferences offer attendees and presenters alike with options. We have asked some presenters to pre-record their presentations, to enhance the viewing experience for users. Other presentations are live for interactive Q&As. The greatest aspect may be that, if the live presentations don’t fit your schedule, sessions will be available on-demand. Come back later during the conference dates, say after work, to view the desired content or product demos.

Many conferences are also offering reduced fees for attending their virtual events, making them even more accessible. In the case of the Bus Technology Summit, it’s free to attend. Also, this new conference platform provides access to people with disabilities who may have found it challenging in the past to participate at any in-person conferences.

The accelerated adoption and acceptance of new technology is mind-blowing. I see the clear advantages of accessibility, and that is presenting a strong drive to evolve our company, conferences, content and brand. We are glad to have you our loyal readers with us as we take that journey into this new reality.

Editor’s Note: As reprinted from the September issue of School Transportation News.

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