AMUN Leadership on Adapting our Conference for COVID
The decision to make AMUN virtual was made by the Board, with advice from our Executive Office. “We still wanted to do a conference and use our expertise to host it virtually,” says Collin Bockman, a member of the Board, “if there’s a gap year, we risk losing schools’ interest.” Secretary General, Josh Adams, adds, “we wanted to create an equal opportunity for everyone to participate.” Leadership looked at about nine platforms before settling with Gatherly. “Most platforms don’t want to simulate a conference,” Josh pointed out, “[Gatherly] allowed the ability to freely walk around the room.”
There was a lot to consider as we transitioned to a virtual conference. It started out with when to make the decision. If the decision was made too early, going virtual could be considered unnecessary if the virus didn’t end up making much of an impact. Illinois’s COVID restrictions, the hotel contract, and insurance were also factors. But, even from the beginning, it was always about safety. “We were thinking about the safety of the people; we wouldn’t have held it in person even if the state allowed it,” adds Collin. The conference was also reduced in complexity- reduced representative count, shortened schedule, and an adjusted date all played into making the conference a success on a virtual platform. It would have been “too much work to do the conference exactly” as it is in person says Josh.
Interest and participation from schools was another consideration. There was a concern that there wouldn’t be enough representatives to fill the countries- issues with a virtual platform, different conference dates, and cancelled clubs/classes all part of the reasons for lower participants. Surveys were sent out to gauge the interest of hosting a virtual conference. Schools received communication from AMUN once the decision was made to go virtual, and after we were sure that we knew how to proceed with a virtual conference. After the announcement, AMUN hosted a number of AMA’s to allow participants to ask any lingering questions about this year’s conference.
That’s not to say that going virtual didn’t have its challenges. Secretary General, Josh Adams noted that, “there was less time between training and more work to accomplish during that time.” He is referring to the adjusted conference date, moved up from November to this late weekend in October. Staffers are typically trained during Labor Day weekend. The AMUN staff, filled with people volunteering their time, really worked hard to make this year’s conference a success. Enough cannot be said of the amount of time that everyone, especially leadership, has put in to ensure a quality conference.
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