Is there a theme to the 2020 VIEA Economic Summit?
The theme of the 2020 VIEA Economic Summit is the same as past years – ‘The State of the Island.’ We made the decision very early on in our process, back in March, that we would not explicitly make the summit about COVID. But if there was ever something telling us how important it is for us to be pulling in the same direction, it’s the pandemic.
What themes have appeared through planning?
This year one of the themes that has emerged is the aid of the public realm. We have a session on communities, the challenges and opportunities that they’re observing [Community Challenges and Opportunities – COVID]. There’s another one called Changing Our Ways, which is about improving the relationship between municipalities and developers. It’s Good to Produce Goods is about that tug of war between commercial zoning and local production.
Has the pandemic reinforced some of VIEA’s pre existing priorities?
It actually has. All of our initiatives are showing themselves to be even more important now. For instance, the entire reason for the Island Good brand is to raise consumer awareness about local products, to increase market share and demand so that we could build a climate where more products are produced on the Island. The pandemic exposes the challenges we have depending on global supply lines, and increases everybody’s understanding that local foods and local products are important.
Why is it especially important to have this conference this year?
It’s always important to bring the stakeholders together to make connections, network, learn more at a grassroots level about what is going on in the Island – who is doing things that are interesting and where the challenges are.
What were some of the considerations you took into account in choosing a format?
From our annual surveys we know that people who attend the summit value the quality of networking they have access to. We spent a lot of time and energy on determining which platform to use to keep the quality of interaction strong. We’ve been keeping our digital providers feet to the fire to make sure that we created optimum opportunity for people to interact and to engage.
How will the 2020 VIEA Economic Summit provide networking opportunities?
We’ve worked really hard to replicate the in person experience in the digital environment. Conversations are critically important so we’re including a Q&A with every session, we’ve created a follow up to every presentation [roundtables] so that people have an opportunity to go deeper with the moderators and panelists. We’ve created a marketplace where sponsors and exhibitors can schedule one-to-one meetings and host chat sessions. Anybody attending can reach out and set meetings with other attendees.
What are the benefits of having a digital conference?
We really attempted to space things out. Knowing that it’s difficult to sit at a desk all day was a consideration. When the conference was in person each summit session would be 90 minutes, with an hour long presentation followed by 20-30 minutes for questions. Now each talk is an hour long and we have left breaks up to three hours between each so people can choose to do work in between, or take a break or do some networking. Another benefit is that the content of the 2020 VIEA Economic Summit will be accessible for a year to anyone registered.