Virtual I and E Wows Attendees by Kate Vigneau

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Kate Vigneau
Photo courtesy of Kate Vigneau. PHOTO Kate Vigneau

NAFA’s staff and partners convert a live event into an online forum that did not disappoint.

NAFA’s Institute and Expo were scheduled to take place in Indianapolis last April. It was initially moved to September as a live event but by mid-summer, it was clear that we were not going to be able to gather in person. The challenge—convert more than 25 live education sessions, a large Exposition and a host of networking events into an online package that delivers the benefits of the industry-leading live event. Reviews from attendees of the virtual event, held 14-17 September, have been overwhelmingly positive!

The Hero Effect

I&E kicked off with a virtual keynote session entitled “The Hero Effect.” Kevin Brown delivered a powerful ‘feel-good’ message to inspire attendees to show up every day and make an impact. It was one of the best keynotes I have ever seen, and it set the tone for the Conference.

Canadians were well-represented at the event. One first-time attendee told me that they could never get permission to travel to the U.S., so the virtual format was perfect for them. The Canadian Legislative Update with Huw Williams was very informative and generated a lot of questions. NAFA’s SVP, Ray Brisby, CAFM, hosted “The Winner’s Circle” panel and Jakob Cormier, CAFM, from ARI offered a class on “The Eleven Essentials of Fleet Management” aimed at new fleet managers. Peter Nogalo, also of ARI, hosted a panel on “Integrating New Players in your Traditional Fleet Strategy.” Canadian attendees agreed that we missed our live Canadian Happy Hour but that we definitely would like to keep some aspects of the virtual event.

Now a believer

In many ways, the education sessions were the easiest part of the show to convert – most of us are accustomed to attending online classes on one platform or another. The Expo and networking events were a little more challenging. I admit to being skeptical of our ability to pull off an experience that would make attendees feel like they were there, but, after immersing myself in that virtual world for four days, I am now a believer.  When I ‘came home in the evening after being caught up in the bustle of the education sessions, expo booths and networking social hours, I was exhausted and felt that I had been away for the day. Using the chat box during and between sessions made it feel like you were talking to other attendees and sharing the experience. I may be a little biased, but when NAFA Past President, Bryan Flansburg, CAFM, sang Happy Birthday to me at the closing ceremonies (in front of 200 virtual attendees), I was impressed with the ability of the virtual event to make us all feel like a NAFA family.

Moving forward

What’s next for NAFA? Well, we certainly aren’t sitting on our laurels, enjoying the success of this virtual experience. We are launching our next virtual event “Essentials of Fleet Management – The Toolbox” in late October. Details are available at https://www.nafa.org/Events-Education/Events/Seminars/EFMS-Toolbox.aspx.

We are also launching the Call for Presentations for our 2021 I&E to be held in Pittsburgh April 12-14th, 2021.

We have learned a lot about making connections when we cannot physically be there. This is a feeling we need to create now more than ever before. To carry on the message from Kevin Brown, people need to figure out how to ‘show up and make that impact, even when they cannot physically be present. I and E 2020 helped hundreds of people feel like they “showed up” and made an impact

Lieutenant Colonel (ret’d) Katherine Vigneau spend 26+ years as a Canadian Arm Logistics Officer. A NAFA volunteer since 1999, Kate uses this experience to shape fleet education and professional certification. She is the Director of Professional Development for NAFA.

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