I have had the pleasure of working with Julie Butler and ICMA for the past two years. Julie was charged with extending the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) annual meeting to a worldwide government professional virtual audience. Police and emergency services are struggling with lower tax revenues and reduced budgets, upsetting their traditional processes, such as meeting the costs of expensive call centers. Due to revenue shortfalls many local governments cannot afford to send even one staff member to this important annual meeting. Ring a bell? You bet it does, this is happening everywhere and we’ve got to find ways to keep education and collaboration going during these tough times.
And we’re not talking about “light reading” content – the conference is stuffed full of critical educational and best practice sessions like:
- Investing for Retirement: Understanding Today’s Investment Environment
- Civic Engagement: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
- Sustainability Lessons from Small Towns to Rural Communities
I’ll be in Boston helping to produce 27 virtual sessions in all. The response to ICMA’s first virtual program was excellent and this year is looking even stronger. So while thousands of local government professionals are convening in Boston this weekend, others around the world will be joining in to take part in these important sessions including all the plenaries.
Julie deserves real applause for enriching the viewing experience by enabling virtual attendees to ask questions of the presenters in real time, download session handouts, tweet into a conference feed, and view the virtual exhibit hall with case studies of how other local governments solved similar problems. More than 120 governments from the U.S., Canada, and abroad have signed on to engage virtually in the conference and late registrations are common.
Butler started working with us after she realized that our decade of experience in designing and producing virtual conferences would enable her to pull off all the complexities involved and provide a meaningful experience to remote attendees.
Here’s the bottom line, friends: Democracy works best when there is more civic engagement, and when citizens from around the world can discuss, contemplate and share their knowledge about what practices they think works best. And virtual conferences, like ICMA’s, are playing a part in helping small organizations with big missions, reach out and fulfill their dreams.
So three cheers for Julie and ICMA!
Please take a look at the virtual ICMA conference for a great example of how a government hybrid conference runs, and to learn lots about how our nation’s local governments run, too – http://icma.org/en/icma/events/conference/virtual_conference/overview