Letter from the President: COVID-19 and this year’s Joint Conference

April 7, 2020

Fellow planners:

It’s safe to say that daily life could hardly be more different now than it was back in January when I last wrote to you. The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic are unlike any that we’ve experienced. I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during this unprecedented time.
I wanted to provide an update on this year’s Joint Conference with APA Washington, and how we’re approaching planning our annual event in the age of coronavirus and social distancing. To be clear, our top priority is the health and safety of our members, staff, and guests. Our challenge is how to plan an event six months from now in the midst of a situation that’s developing by the day.

Here’s what we know today: we will be delivering some sort of professional development event this fall, and we’re planning it jointly with APA Washington. Beyond that, there are many unknowns at this point. Our goal is to hold an in-person event in October, but clearly that may not be possible. Our emphasis going forward is to develop a conference plan that’s flexible and able to pivot with the circumstances.

We’re proceeding with soliciting session proposals, with a small but important adjustment from prior years: we’re asking session organizers to tell us whether their session is ready to be delivered remotely if we need to do a virtual conference. We’ll be asking our program committee to develop schedule options for either format and work with session organizers to ensure that our program is ready to adapt if necessary.

We’re also looking at other aspects of the conference plan: we’re evaluating platforms that improve access to conference materials from computers and smartphones and we’re exploring technology-enabled alternatives for conference staples like mobile workshops and happy hours. And obviously, we’re examining different budget and registration alternatives for in-person and virtual events.

By doing this work now, our intent is to plan a conference that’s flexible and can pivot to respond to this evolving situation. We’re doing similar thinking for other aspects of OAPA’s programming — see our blog for more details on our business planning in the age of COVID-19. 

We’re committed to being transparent throughout this process, and I’ll be reporting back to you as we know more about our plans for the Joint Conference. Our focus is to serve members in a way that’s most responsive to the situation, ensuring everyone’s health and safety. If you have ideas, comments or questions about our approach, please reach out to me at president@oregonapa.org.

Please be well, stay safe, and I look forward to seeing you (physically or virtually) this fall.

Aaron Ray, AICP
OAPA President