Author: Donna

Conference and COVID-19

(From Feb Hearts Talk) by Tanya Kean, Events Manager

Everyone is hoping to attend RWA’s 30th anniversary conference at the Gold Coast in person, but as 2020 has shown us all, nothing is a sure thing and plans need to be flexible and adaptable to the ever-changing travel and social distancing restrictions.

As Events Manager I am faced with making difficult and often frustrating decisions based on guesswork, planning for an uncertain future and using information that is out of date as soon as I use it.  I know, I have never faced planning an event under these circumstances and I’ve got to say it’s not a fun experience!! In our 30 year history, planning for the conference has never had to factor in a global pandemic.

Under normal circumstances we would invite our international guests up to two years before the event, lock in our contracts at least a year in advance and have the workshop program rough draft ready eight months out from conference. Not this year!

The ‘what if’s’, ‘maybes’ and ‘I just don’t know’ and trying to untangle the knots of programming, amending contracts several times and inviting presenters that may not be able to travel is not what I signed up for! But, having said that I’ve found a new found ability to think outside of the box and a range of skills I never envisaged I’d gain as Events Manager. Not only do I need a plan B but also a C, D and E. 

2021 sees RWA achieve 30 years as an organisation, a milestone worth a spectacular conference program. I am determined the conference will be one that celebrates everything we have achieved in the past thirty years as well as look forward to the years to come. The big question is; how will that look?

I wanted to give members an update on where conference planning is currently sitting.

  • The conference planning team is very much working towards a physical conference. (I want to see my peeps!)
  • The Gold Coast venue has detailed it’s Covid safe plan, which states they must comply with the Queensland government policy of the number of people per square metre rule. Currently, this means we can have maximum attendees as per their room capacity. This may change and we may have to restrict numbers, details will be updated in the March issue of Heart’s Talk, when registrations are due to open.
  • The most likely scenario from government advice, (keep in mind, this is one plan and could change at any time) would be that local presenters will be able to attend as well as Australian and possibly New Zealand members. Local border restrictions notwithstanding.
  • Due to the Australian government advice that overseas travellers comply with mandatory 14 day quarantine even after the vaccine is rolled out, it is likely our international guests will not be able to attend the conference. The team is waiting until June 30 before making a final decision to allow any changes to government policy.
  • The conference planning team is exploring the possibility of replacing some of our international presenters with local presenters, in the event our international presenters are unable to attend.
  • Our international pitch partners have been contacted and we are in discussions regarding taking virtual pitches similar to the 2020 virtual pitch program. (via zoom etc)
  • There will be a Covid safe plan for all attendees. Mandatory masks and QR code tracking may be a possibility at registration!

So to recap, the 2021 Gold Coast conference is still being planned as a physical conference, but with a modified presentation format. Up until the first day of the conference, plans are likely to change, as Covid impacts those plans. Please bear with the team as we navigate through the changes and try to work through the process to ensure we have the best possible conference to celebrate this awesome milestone. 

PLEASE NOTE: The 2021 Gold Coast Conference as of 8 April 2021 has Early Bird Tickets selling and most scheduling complete. To get the latest news subscribe to this blog. Remember to update your Grenadine app so all scheduling is up-to-date.

Conference News | 10 Top Tips for A Kick-Ass Virtual Conference with Daniel de Lorne

In ConferenceInterview by RWA Blog CoordinatorAugust 4, 2020Leave a Comment

RWA’s annual conference is looking a little different this year—thank you, Miss Rona—as it moves from its usual three days of workshops to five, all on a virtual platform. Every conference comes with opportunities for networking and learning, and the virtual conference is no different. Running from 12 to 16 August, with over 41 hours of content available, here are our top ten tips for getting the most of the conference.

1. Register on WebinarNinja early

The 2020 conference will be run on WebinarNinja, an online program that is run through your browser (Chrome or Firefox preferred). You need to create an account to watch the conference live or on replay so go create one now (and I mean RIGHT NOW) so you don’t run into any problems on the day. Head to webinarninja.com to register.

2. Test out the webinar software beforehand

Once you’ve registered at WebinarNinja, take a look at the helpful articles they provide which can give you an idea of what to expect (or better yet find a free webinar and attend it before conference). Check out https://help.webinarninja.com/en/collections/1905103-attending-webinars for helpful tips.

3. Add the conference to your calendar

There’s nothing worse than missing out. NOTHING. So go ahead and add the sessions you want to see to your calendar. You can either do this manually using the conference program on RWA’s website or through WebinarNinja.

4. Limit your distractions

We’re all used to so-called multitasking, juggling multiple screens at once. Hands up who watches TV while playing on their phone (and their laptop)? I know I do! And afterwards I can’t remember any of what I saw. Do yourself a favour and cut out as many distractions as you can so you can make the most of this learning opportunity. 

5. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready

Prepare your space the day/night before the conference, which means having your desktop/laptop ready to go and charged, any pens and papers at hand and computer programs for note taking set-up. You might also want to listen to the conference through headphones to help limit distractions so make sure they’re handy and charged.

6. Make it social

One of the greatest parts of the face to face conference is the social networking you get to do, but just because you’re not with 300 of your besties, doesn’t mean you can’t have a similar experience. Jump onto social media or a Zoom/Skype chat with your tribe to discuss what you learned during the day and how you intend to put it into practice. This will help ensure your best chance of implementing it. (And the conference hashtag is #RWAus20.)

Having a cocktail with friends during a video call during the pandemic

7. Pre-plan meals, snacks and tea/coffee breaks

The virtual conference schedule is tight so you want to have everything ready to go so you don’t miss the start of a session. If you can, you might even want to relocate the kettle into your home office or wherever you’re going to watch the sessions so it’s within easy reach. Have a selection of snacks available and pre-make your lunch (if you can) so you’re not wasting time wondering what to have.

8. Don’t feel guilty

If you’ve registered for the conference but can’t attend a session you really wanted to see, don’t be hard on yourself. The replay is there as a backup. Equally, if there’s a session you’re not interested in attending, don’t feel like you have to go. This is your time and it’s precious so make the most of it. 

9. Enjoy the conference in your own time

We understand that life can get in the way and you might not be able to spend five days in front of your computer screen. That’s why you can watch a replay of many of the sessions up to three months after the conference. Once the replays are available, you will receive a replay link to access it. (Closed captioning will be available on all replays, however, may not be uploaded within the first week.) For the best success, schedule when you’re going to watch the replays NOW.

10. Have fun!

We’re all a bit sad that this year’s conference couldn’t take place in Fremantle (especially the conference team), however, that doesn’t mean the virtual conference can’t be an enjoyable and valuable experience. We’re looking forward to welcoming you to this jam-packed program and hope you have an awesome five days.

Tickets for RWA’s virtual conference are available to purchase through Grenadine. Visithttps://rwaustraliavcon.com.au for all the details.

Check out the full program on the new conference website at http://rwaustraliavcon.com.au.

The awards ceremony will be held on Saturday 22 August at 7pm.

An online shop selling conference swag and a digital bookstore will also be included. (Look out on social media and your emails for further details.)
We’re also thrilled to have the support of our sponsors including our gold sponsor Draft2Digital, and our silver sponsors Reedsy and Harlequin Australia. Their generous contributions to our conference are greatly appreciated.

For those of you worried you may not be able to catch all of the conference as it happens, have no fear! All sessions will be recorded and available to ticket holders for three months after the conference so you can watch the workshops at your leisure. You must register for the conference before the closing date to access them.

Visit rwaustraliavcon.com.au for full details on the conference, including how to purchase your ticket.