Well, we did it again – and at the same time I hope we never do it again.
We just completed our third successful virtual DRJ conference: “Resiliency in a Time of Rebuilding,” our 65th conference, held in our 35th year.
The conference was originally scheduled to be held in-person in Phoenix, but the Delta variant had other ideas. (We’ll see you next fall, Phoenix.)
We couldn’t have made DRJ Fall 2021: A Virtual Experience happen without the assistance of our 997 attendees, 112 speakers, dozens of sponsors, and one amazing virtual conferencing platform.
The feat we accomplished is becoming so ordinary for DRJ, there’s a temptation to take it for granted, but that would be a mistake since objectively it’s a pretty extraordinary accomplishment.
I say this not on my own behalf but on behalf of the talented and dedicated team it’s my privilege to lead here at DRJ, as well as on behalf of our phenomenal attendees, sponsors, and presenters.
At DRJ, we strive to walk the walk when it comes to resiliency.
We had strongly hoped that with our fall conference this year we could shift back toward holding our events in person. When the Covid numbers started going back up our hopes for that began going down. Finally, we realized we were going to have to pivot back into the virtual space.
With the conference over, I can now safely say that our pivot was effective and the conference a strong success.
I just got my hands on the metrics. In addition to the figures mentioned above, I can report that at DRJ Fall 2021 Virtual had 82 sessions, 45 breakouts, 12 panel discussions, four workshops, one town hall, 12 solutions track sessions, 15 sponsor demonstrations, two sponsor speed networking sessions, and a trade show.
For our sponsors, we delivered one million banner ad views, more than 2,500 banner ad clicks, more than 800 unique booth visitors, more than 2,000 chat messages sent, and more than 4000 leads shared.
Those all seem to me to be pretty good numbers.
However, perhaps the stats I was most pleased and proud of were those relating to engagement. Our attendees, speakers, and sponsors participated in more than 5,600 public conversations and sent more than 5000 private messages.
I love it when our events help professionals in our field connect with their peers. Those connections are the heart and soul of our conferences. Making that happen in a virtual space is not easy. But when we have more than five times as many public conversations as we have attendees, that tells me our professional community is making a darn good show of keeping the spark alive in our field despite the tough conditions we’re all facing.
Our past three conferences have carried the unique stamp of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they also have part of a long tradition by DRJ of mounting our industry-leading, first-in-class business continuity conferences in the face of some daunting challenges.
At one of our earliest conferences – in Atlanta in the early 90s – a fire led to the evacuation of our hotel. We were able to keep going by setting up in a big tent nearby.
Hurricane Floyd did shut down our conference in Orlando in 1999, but in 2001 we ran a show four days after 9/11, for the benefit of the relatively few people who were able to make it – and in the spirit of carrying on in the face of even the greatest national adversity.
Does anyone remember the Great Southwest Blackout of 2011? That impacted us. We were in San Diego that September. We had to serve the attendees cold meals, but we managed to scrounge up enough backup power to keep the conference going.
And at our Fall 2019 event in Phoenix, seven pallets of supplies and equipment that we needed to mount the show – badges, conference books, you name it – ended up in a locked transfer station in Albuquerque. Due to a mistake by the shipping company, it was mixed up with someone else’s secure shipment and no one was allowed to access it. Thanks to our contingency planning, we were able to bring the show off so smoothly few people realized there was a problem.
Then along came COVID, and our history of keeping the conference going in the face of tough obstacles gained a few more chapters.
But if the conference we just concluded was a success, I am also hoping this our last virtual conference.
The other day someone asked me how confident I was that our 66th conference – DRJ Spring 2022: Resiliency Transformed – will be held next March in Orlando as planned. “That conference will be held in person come hell or high water,” I told them.
As good as our recent virtual conferences have been, and as much engagement and interaction as we were able to achieve, the fact is, there’s no substitute for getting together in person.
There’s nothing quite like bringing 1,000 BC professionals together in an attractive setting, away from the daily grind, to eat, sleep, and breathe resiliency. That experience promotes networking, professional development, and the showcasing of BC services and solutions – and the advancement of our field and the protection of our organizations – better than anything else I know.
To everyone who participated in DRJ Fall 2021: A Virtual Experience, thank you.
To everyone who is as excited as I am about getting together again for real, save the date and make your plans; DRJ Spring 2022: Resiliency Transformed will be held March 20-23 in Orlando, come hell or high water.
See you there.