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SIA Adjustments during COVID-19

To Webinar or Not, That is the Question: ISA Ontario’s Experience

Arboriculture in Times of Coronavirus in Perú

New England ISA Adjustments during COVID-19

Arboriculture in Colombia in the Time of Coronavirus

Coping with the COVID-19 Situation in Thailand

Current Brazilian Scenario and Implication during the COVID-19 Pandemic

WCISA: Creating Educational Opportunities during COVID-19

SIA Adjustments during COVID-19

By: Stefania Gasperini, component executive

At the end of February, Italy found itself dramatically exposed to the consequences of the COVID-19 which, until a few weeks before, had seemed a distant problem. On the contrary, it hit the country with devastating strength, causing unprecedented losses of life and economic mayhem. We were to change our habits totally, to fulfill with disciplined compliance the limitations and precautions laid out by the Italian government to slow down the spread of the virus and allow the healthcare system to strengthen and improve hospital procedures.

Following government guidelines, we at Società Italiana di Arboricoltura/ISA Italy Chapter (SIA) had to modify the ordinary association activities and stop any meeting in person. The first tangible effect was the postponement of the Annual General Meeting scheduled in April, which should have been foreseen, and the other being renewal of the Board (Executive Committee), the body responsible for managing the association. Secondly, we closed our office, as it is located in the Lombardy region, where the impact of the virus was greatest in terms of contagion and victims.

After the first shocking days, the current Board first put into practice the necessary measures to reorganize the secretarial activities to guarantee services to our members. Office activities were carried out by smart‐working, and to compensate for the physical closure of the office, a mobile phone number that operates during ordinary business hours was activated. These first choices guaranteed the continuance of ordinary activities and showed, as far as possible, the proximity of the association to the members.

The impossibility of the Board to meet physically did not lead to a slowdown in activities and decision‐making processes, thanks to the use of web conference services. Online meetings allowed the Board to meet much more often than before-with a weekly frequency, instead of a monthly one. Before COVID-19, the monthly meeting could be either in person or online, depending on the agenda, as some meetings in person lasted six hours or more (Italian style!). Of course, COVID-19 motivated us to be focused on the different points of the agenda in a more efficient way. After a few attempts, we decided to use GoToMeeting.

In March, numerous members, experts and friends of SIA were involved in the making of a series of videos on issues and topics dear to our association, addressing them with scientific rigor but at the same time with a knowledge‐sharing scope. The project was titled #pillolediarboricoltura (#arboriculturepills).  A different video was published daily-starting on 5 April and ending 29 April. The 24 self‐produced videos are now available on the association's YouTube channel, and we have received excellent feedback from both members and simple enthusiasts-racking up to 160,000 views by now!

The enthusiasm found after this first educational activity and a new awareness that the development model pursued so far had to change profoundly, prompted the Board to organize a series of high‐quality training webinars. The number of requests to participate and the response of perceived enthusiasm led to the need to choose a better-performing web conferencing platform, GoToWebinar, which allows the organization of events up to 500 participants, to manage registrations, monitor direct participation and send personalized emails.

In the logic of open discussions and promoting our association, some seminars were open to everyone and not only to our members. It is important to highlight that all speakers and teachers contributed free of charge, and no costs were charged to the participants. The aim has always been scientific dissemination and closeness, at a time of social and work difficulties. At the moment, there have been four webinars: decay fungi, the certification system, tree risk assessment and, the last, tree renewal (held by Francesco Ferrini; over 300 participants).

The exponential growth of the webinar participants, the benefits in terms of visibility and the number of members for the association, prompted the Board to plan other meetings on a weekly basis, which will continue until July. Furthermore, the positive experience suggests that this training model can also be maintained for the future, when the emergency is over, to encourage participation in training webinars on a national scale.

All activities were promoted through the association's social media which, in response, saw a significant increase in followers. The Facebook membership page has gone from 6,460 to nearly 8,000 followers. Satisfactory results were also acquired on Instagram and Twitter. Meanwhile, the association's Telegram channel was activated with over 150 contacts. Eventually, having made the 2017 and 2018 issues of the association magazine Arbor available (usually the magazine Arbor is only accessible online to members) favored the increase in website visits (200 visits per day).  We also promoted, in the first days of the lockdown, a fundraiser to support the hospital of the city of Bergamo. In a week we raised about 4,000 dollars in favor of one of the hospitals most affected in terms of human lives taken by the virus.

In this period, moreover, the collaborative relationships with other associations belonging to the world of arboriculture, in particular with the Italian A.A. Arborist Association and with Assofloro, of which the SIA has been associated for three years, have been strengthened. These collaborations have allowed us to constantly inform our and their members on the COVID-19 extraordinary guidelines and safety work, providing interpretation tools and clarifications on the various governmental new laws. Despite the complexity of the moment, SIA made every effort to keep its commitment unaltered.

We can say that many things have changed in these months of forced slowdown. We had the opportunity to understand the irrelevance of many behaviors and attitudes that we previously considered essential and to re‐evaluate gestures, interests and relationships that were often previously sacrificed in the frenzied haste of everyday life.

Climate changes and the pandemic have let us know that we can save ourselves and grow if we manage to share knowledge and if we rely on science. In this period, SIA has invested efforts and resources to fully grasp these teachings and put them into its association activity turning the crisis into an opportunity, and starting from our motto “one tree at a time,” we have tried to create a forest of environmental awareness rich in cultural biodiversity!

To Webinar or Not, That is the Question: ISA Ontario’s Experience

By Rebecca Lord, component executive

COVID-19 hit so quickly. When I was asked to evaluate WHY ISA Ontario had decided to launch into online programming for our members, I was baffled. It was kind of an “auto-pilot” thing, not something we had the opportunity to ponder for long!

In February, we were fortunate to have our Annual Conference & Tradeshow with 650 attendees. At that time, no one had COVID on the brain since Ontario had only two reported cases of COVID-19. Little did we know that our lives were about to be flipped upside down, and our annual gathering was likely to be the last in the style and comfort to which our attendees had grown accustomed.

Within two weeks, “physical and social distancing” had become part of our common vernacular; masks, Lysol wipes and toilet paper were sold out everywhere, and the “COVID-19 Lockdown” had become a growing and disrupting part of everyone’s life. We were staying put, like it or not.

In 2019, ISA Ontario had moved to GoToMeeting as a platform for Board meetings to accommodate those Board members who were unable to attend in person. So, when COVID-19 hit, we were already quite comfortable with meeting online and had even been discussing some online learning options. We planned to survey our members to get their thoughts.

When our industry had not declared to be “essential,” we had realized that arborists were at home and were desperate for learning and CEUs. We really wanted to offer our members an added benefit during this period and NOW was the time; the Board agreed to press forward.

We quickly set up a committee that was chaired by the Communications Chair and comprised our President, the Chair of the Education Committee, the Chair of our Safety Committee and the Executive Director (ED). The ED was charged with finding a platform that we could utilize to get this project off the ground.

As we already had GoToMeeting in place, I knew that GoToWebinar was going to be a possibility as a platform. To compare, I was looking for a platform that would:

  • Be easy and intuitive for participants to navigate;
  • Allow ISAO to download and submit a participant list for CEUs;
  • Could easily accommodate 500 participants, with the ability to grow, if needed;
  • Allow more than one presenter and more than one organizer;
  • Have the ability to play a pre-recorded presentation during a live presentation;
  • Be able to engage participants with polls, handouts, etc. to increase attentiveness;
  • Could facilitate a live question-and-answer portion; and
  • Be able to analyze the metrics on individual webinars.

We primarily evaluated Zoom, Demio, WebEX and GoToWebinar. After weighing all the options, we selected GoToWebinar, as it had all the features I needed, and the price included GoToMeeting. Within two weeks, we had purchased the software, learned to use it, scheduled and promoted our first webinar and had hosted it…. all without leaving the home office! It helped to have a super team for product support; I viewed many of the GoToWebinar tutorials to maximize the functionality of the platform, and I asked lots of dumb questions!

Our webinar committee decided that for the first four webinars, we wanted to tackle the theme of risk in arboriculture, and we had a pretty good idea of local speakers from whom we could enlist help.   Topics identified were:

  • Critical Inspection of Working @ Heights PPE;
  • Planning for Jobsite Success: The Importance of Tailboards and Having One that Works for You;
  • Red Flag Fungi; and
  • The Theory of Aerial Rescue.

The main consideration for ISA Ontario was to be able to offer the webinars free of charge to participants-at least during this time. We understood that many arborists were not working and likely could not afford to pay for online learning. ISA Ontario would pay for the cost of the webinar platform and we would offer it as a benefit to our members. (In the meantime, we have been restructuring our website to have a member portal so that we can archive these recorded webinars for viewing by members.)

Three of the webinars were recorded in advance, as the presenters were concerned about their rural internet connections not being able to transmit for an entire hour.  GoToWebinar handled this superbly, and we were able to have the speaker online for a LIVE Q&A after their presentation. We even had Canada assist us by offering a prize giveaway to one lucky attendee, which has gone over brilliantly!

All four presentations came off without any issues. The survey option that is an integrated feature of GoToWebinar proved that it had been a great success. Members and non-members alike loved the format, found it easy to use, and were very impressed that we could get it up and running so quickly.  Metrics confirmed that we had 493 people attend the four webinars, and there was a 79-percent attentiveness rating (how much they paid attention or navigated away to another screen). The survey response was 67 percent. We had many multi-session attendees with details on their activity and industry.

Survey results showed that, among other things, most people felt that the one-hour time slot was the right amount of time and that the webinars were “excellent” or “very good.” We also received much feedback about other types of webinars participants wanted to see and the difficulty levels for the delivery of that information.

As it turned out, our four webinars over the four weeks took us to the end of our COVID-19 lockdown. In mid-May, arborists in Ontario were permitted to return to work. We will continue our webinar series – but monthly (instead of weekly) and with a new different start time, moving from 10 a.m. to 8 a.m.

All in all, the voyage into the world of online learning has been a really positive one for ISA Ontario. It has been very well received by our membership, and they have appreciated the support during a difficult time.

Arboriculture in Times of Coronavirus in Perú 

By Céller Carbajal Ramón, component executive

As in other countries, Peru is experiencing 100 days of compulsory social isolation before returning to our normal activities. In this, there is an acknowledgement, by the medical community and beyond, of our strong need to spend time outdoors for physical or recreational activities with friends or family, or just stroll through a park or walk on the beach. Emphasizing more now than ever before that urban green spaces and trees are beneficial elements in terms of public health and individual and collective physical and emotional well-being. However, despite this awareness, the important role of these spaces for public health has not yet been considered or prioritized.

The Asociación Peruana de Arboricultura y Forestería Urbana (APA) and its associate members have proactively participated in talks with various groups of public and private media on the benefits of urban trees linked to public health, biodiversity and recommendations for the responsible and safe use of green spaces, in the post-quarantine period. Of course, it comes with the understanding that use of these open public spaces must be done in a safe manner and following the government's recommendations.

The national declaration of emergency services, unfortunately, did not include the maintenance of green spaces and urban trees as essential, instead directing efforts to everything related to the cleaning of roads and public spaces, implementing protocols for specific cleaning and disinfection. Given this, the gardens and trees in different cities have not received the same water supply and maintenance as before, expecting a negative and in some cases, even fatal physiological response.

Fuente: Habla San Isidro - Facebook. Oropéndolas Park, San Isidro, Lima.

In this situation, the participation of the majority of the members associated with the APA, who actively work in the management of the trees and the public and private green areas, has been vital to spread the message about good arboriculture practices and the benefits of proper management throughout their respective work centers. Like other managers of the maintenance service of public parks and gardens in various municipalities of Peru, they continue to work hard to conserve these spaces and keep them green and clean for the benefit of our communities by prioritizing, according to their budgets and logistical capacities, the execution of basic maintenance tasks during the COVID-19 quarantine.

Similarly, APA members have participated in the creation of the "Protocol for the Care of Green Areas and Urban Trees" of the Metropolitan Municipality of Lima, which established actions aimed at maintaining green areas and urban trees in the city of Lima, in the context of the state of national emergency declared by the serious circumstances that affect the nation as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 in our country. The aim is to conserve, protect and preserve the green areas and trees in the province of Lima while observing the necessary hygienic practices that allow workers to perform their work in a safe way, avoiding the contagion by COVID-19, before, during and after their assigned tasks.

However, ideally, this initiative should be replicated at the national level-both in the maintenance of public and private green areas and urban trees, since more than 75 percent of the public and private arboriculture sector is carried out by micro-companies or by informal agents who have had difficulties in continuing to carry out their tasks, in addition to not receiving adequate assistance or supervision.

Finally, it is time to take a break to reflect on the importance of having a green infrastructure with healthy, safe and accessible gardens and trees. Let us not miss this opportunity to return to and enjoy nature and its benefits, responsibly adopt the recommendations for use, protect our family and together overcome this pandemic, which is in our hands our well-being and the well-being of our planet.

New England ISA Adjustments during COVID-19

By Heather Leff, component executive

COVID-19 has meant change for most of us supporting the arboricultural industry. Before the pandemic, we thrived on seeing our area arborists at conferences, trainings and educational events. A pruning workshop meant station participants would rotate through where arborists would share tools and techniques to glean the most knowledge by receiving instruction and then immediately putting it into practice.

In New England, we have been promoting learning via webinar when in-person training was not possible. We have done this through area partners like Urban Forestry Today and international partners like the TREE Fund. But when COVID-19 put a hold on any in-person learning, the New England Chapter ISA was forced to pivot.

Current chapter leaders, President Heather Green and Education Committee Chairperson Brian Salas, knew they wanted to provide more virtual opportunities. The educational opportunities came to us via Mark Duntemann, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist, through his company Natural Path Forestry in Vermont. Mark was offering a series of classes that were packaged to include the webinar technology and maximum class sizes for a very reasonable price. Mark had been teaching TRAQ for the chapter for many years; his reputation as an amazing instructor preceded him. Green and Salas agreed this would be a good way to dip our toes into the webinar hosting pool.

We decided to create a trial run, with just one webinar and see how it was accepted by our members. The class was scheduled for May 21. I created event budgets that were quickly approved by the Board of Directors via e-vote. Budgets included pricing of $30 per member and $65 per non-member; we offered a coupon code for 20 percent off for this first webinar to members only. On May 1, with the Board’s blessing, I put together the registration and an aggressive marketing strategy posting the webinar to our website and our Facebook page as well as emailing it to all of our contacts, including all other ISA chapters.

Seventy-eight folks registered for the webinar, just five from outside of New England! For all of our educational opportunities, we offer member and non-member fees; the non-member fee includes a one-year chapter membership.

Overall, we felt that the event was a large success for the chapter. We sent a survey to all of the participants, and the general feedback was very positive.

We hit some stumbling blocks with the CEUs offered for the webinar, but we worked these out in cooperation with ISA. Specifically, we learned that a quiz cannot be offered in conjunction with a live event to gain additional CEUs. We are working on a recorded version of the webinar that we will host on our website for members only on our new “Webinar Central” page.

Arboriculture in Colombia in the Time of Coronavirus

By Andrés Ochoa, component executive

In this rapidly changing situation regarding the COVID-19, arboricultural activities in Colombia, especially in the main cities, have been impacted less than other industries that have completely stopped. However, this is due to how most of the activities such as tree pruning and tree removal are legally supported or established.

Due to legislation in the country, some of the arboricultural activities, such as tree pruning and removal, are connected to most utility industries in responsibility and scope. In this context, for example, distribution companies must attend trees that have direct contact or close conflict with power lines. Water supply companies are entitled to care for trees located on river banks, creeks or other kinds of water bodies, including canals or water infrastructure. Finally, waste management companies have attached to their scope other green management activities, including tree intervention on public parks, streets, avenues or highways as well as grass mowing on these areas.

Chipping branches from arboricultural activities in primary lines near Bogotá, Colombia

With this in mind, arboricultural companies have been working during the pandemic as these utility services are considered essential work. This framework has allowed all utility contactors to be able to sustain the workflow, personnel and retain arboricultural services. Nonetheless, the pandemic restrictions and legal requirements by national and local government have impacted the job planning, scheduling, and costs related, as the number of jobs has decreased due to property owners having limited access during this time to crews, in addition to companies having to invest resources to comply with social distancing, sanitation and changes on work procedures.

At present, there is a lack of clear and detailed response and guidance from the Colombian government about arboricultural activities. To address this knowledge gap, the Colombian Association of Arboriculture (ACA) has taken a step forward to try and provide support and guidance to our members via regular emails and social media outputs. Following the general advice issued by the government, ACA has been giving guidance for those working in our sector.

This lack of direction from the government is primarily because arboriculture, as both an industry and science, is quite new in the country. Colombia has a deep forestry background, primarily in the 20th century, which led to a considerable legislation in this industry. However, this regulation spread out beyond the forestry boundaries and reached the urban areas creating the conception that forest engineers are the ones to manage urban trees as well. This situation has resulted in critical conditions, wrong diagnosis and incorrect interventions for the trees in the cities, particularly when forest engineers do not have the specific knowledge and training to manage the trees in these areas.

The absence of proper arboricultural legislation and recognition for the profession has a direct impact on the tree´s condition. Nonetheless, this has created the perfect opportunity for ACA to promote knowledge, best practices and mainly to advocate for the importance of credentialing in the industry for better benefits for professionals and our trees.

Even though this path seems hard with no support from the government, we have been getting a great response from young professionals that are eager for new knowledge and seek credentialing, our events, workshops and courses that we provide as main resources to cover the gap in formal education at universities and adequate legislation.

In this context, ACA has taken advantage of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. We have used online resources to be able to reach not only our members but also others beyond our country’s boundaries to transfer proper knowledge regarding arboricultural activities, as well as best management practices.

ACA’s goal, and dream, is to have a country with competence and trained professionals in charge of tree care, credentialing wide-spread and acceptable standards. We will continue working on this challenge at the national and regional levels, as the industry in Latin America is also growing at a great pace.

Coping with the COVID-19 Situation in Thailand

By Oraya Sutabutr, component executive

Thailand had its first COVID-19 cases in January 2020, and lockdowns in various cities began in February. Travel between cities from late March to May became somewhat restricted. We managed to do one volunteer project in Chiangmai, pruning Dipterocarpus alatus, just before the lockdown. Initially, we were concerned that most contract work for members of the Thai Arboriculture Association (TAA) would be postponed or canceled and the situation may lead to layoffs, etc. Nevertheless, the lockdown has primarily affected office-bound companies, schools, universities, department stores, sports, health care, entertainment venues and large gatherings In terms of the tree care industry. However, because much of the work is done outdoors and it is practically summer all year round here in Thailand, we are still able to do quite a bit of fieldwork. Much of the postponement has been tree care training programs with government agencies such as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Metropolitan Electricity Authority, and Nakhon Sri Thammarat Provincial Administration. With the gradual reopening of various provinces, we will resume some of the training in a month or two.

Arborist volunteer day at Thammasat University on May 23, 2020

TAA is still a young organization-about two years old-so we have only one centralized organization. Members work in different provinces and many of us have full-time jobs other than tree care, so it has always been a challenge to get together in person. Therefore, even before the COVID-19 situation, we have relied on online platforms for meetings such as Line Application. Normally, we would also post ideas or projects in online chat groups for members to brainstorm about, and, then, usually, someone would volunteer to take charge.

Before COVID-19, we would gather for activities such as tree climbing competitions, chainsaw and climbing workshops, and we would host TAA meetings on those same occasions. We were planning volunteer fieldwork and tutorials, such as ISA Certified Arborist tutorial by Ponthep Meunpong, Ph.D. (ISA Certified Arborist, TRAQ assessor, and ISA Certified Tree Climber Worker Specialist). Since gatherings were banned from March through May, we have had to postpone some of the activities and switched to planning future events, translating material such as ISA’s Glossary of Arboriculture Terms into Thai and preparing other educational material.

Arborist volunteer day at Thammasat University on May 23, 2020

To come to these decisions, we held online meetings and made the decisions together but mostly with suggestions by Professor Meunpong and myself as TAA administrator. Our digital educational material will soon be available for free or at a discount for members. Recently, we applied for and have received a grant from the Korea Safety Health and Environment Foundation to create digital educational material on arboriculture in Thai and will conduct the project as proposed between now and October 2020. The material will be part of our ongoing project to create a Thai arborist certification which will include the written and skills tests. At the same time, we are supporting Thai arborists with the potential to take the ISA Certified Arborist test to prepare themselves during this time.

TAA has learned that to build a new, strong profession, we need a solid foundation in knowledge, standards, and teamwork. With or without COVID-19, we need to develop workers who are well-grounded in knowledge and skills. They also need to be supported by widely-accepted standards to make sure that arboriculture will become a well-respected profession that promotes safety and sustainability for workers, trees, lives and assets. This is why we are also focusing on drafting and institutionalizing standards for tree care, in conjunction with government bodies and educational institutes such as the Royal Forestry Department, Kasetsart University, and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. TAA is gearing up for a basic arboriculture certification program in the Thai language which will kick off this year. At the same time, we are carrying out training programs that will combine both online learning and field training (when possible) for government agencies such as BMA and MEA.

TAA members pruning Dipterocarpus alatus in Chiangmai in March 2020, just before lockdown

From this crisis, we have learned that we should always be ready to adapt to different working and learning conditions. With our limited resources, we should support and encourage members to do as much independent study as possible since it is not easy to take a break from full-time jobs or travel to training locations. TAA will continue to be a platform for members to interact, consult and cooperate as we build our young industry. Most recently, on 23 May 2020, a field hospital at Thammasat University, which had just discharged its last COVID-19 patient, needed help with tree pruning. The university has sponsored basic training for over 300 arborists in the past two years. In addition, many members were so eager to be outdoors after two months of lockdown and make their skills useful. So, more than 70 arborists showed up to volunteer, and it was a great occasion to touch base and to reassure one another that we will have the support of this network to advance arboriculture in Thailand. Hopefully, we will be lucky enough to co-host an FAO Urban Forestry Meeting in Bangkok early in 2021 and by that time we hope to present to the international arboriculture community some of the modest but steady progress made here in Thailand.

Current Brazilian Scenario and Implication during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Flavio P. Telles, component executive

Due to the impact of COVID-19, the Sociedade Brasileira de Arborização Urbana/ISA Brazil Chapter (SBAU) is currently discussing the development of a national urban arboriculture policy. Currently, what we have are municipal laws, even so, only in the capitals or in some medium-size cities. Many of them are good but do not affect all municipalities in the same state. The chapter has championed the creation of this national policy and has worked with managers and politicians to make it happen. On the other hand, we have advocated that university courses whose careers have an affinity with the theme, implement the training of professionals in this branch of knowledge.

Some of the main challenges that we must overcome are the need to increase knowledge of the importance of trees as well as the appreciation of the use of the right species and adapt to each region, due to our country’s continental dimension and a very diverse climate. These challenges must be pursued by everyone involved.

In Brazil, there are still few certified professionals, and as we do not have specific legislation that requires this credential. We have been working to provide better education to our communities, so that they may come to hire professional managers who are qualified to properly manage the trees.

In regards to performing effective arboricultural activities during this period, a small survey with city halls, utility companies, contractors and tree nurseries was considered essential. We received the following answers:

  • City halls continue to perform services with a decrease in teams since all those involved over the age of 60 or with comorbidities are on leave. They have inserted the use of masks and alcohol gel throughout the workday and are giving priority to risk trees. Planning teams are working remotely.
  • Utility companies have also introduced the same measures regarding personal protective equipment and have given leave from work to elderly workers. Planning is being done remotely.
  • Nurseries are working normally, but with reduced staff and have had fewer orders for seedlings.  Contractors have performed fewer services than usual, and many services have been postponed until next year.

Arborist Sydney Brasil, removing big fruits from Couroupita guianensis, in a private área thismonth in Rio de Janeiro.

I would like to thank the colleagues who helped me write this article by contributing in several ways: Luiz Octavio Pedreira, Pedro Mendes, Sérgio Chaves, Lucineide Teixeira, Agnus Bittencourt, Marcelo Deschamps, Mario Monteiro, Priscilla Cerqueira, Eduardo Olabarriaga, Gisseli Giraldelli, Marcio Del Pino, Tânia Castroviejo, Pedro Maia, Sydney Brasil, Marina Moura, Ronnie Costa, Ricardo Senges and Ronan Pereira.

WCISA: Creating Educational Opportunities during COVID-19

By Rose Epperson, component executive

At the Western Chapter, we had been considering offering a web series for some time and were in the middle of building out four potential virtual events for 2020. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic provided the push for us to launch early, and, to address the educational needs of our membership, we have increased our offerings to one session each month for the remainder of the year.

Fortunately, at the same time, we had a chapter member (who is well-known and a very popular speaker) offer to host a five-webinar series. The chapter managed the marketing and registration, and we had 1,472 total attendees.

Initially, our goal was to reach members who were not in the metropolitan areas of the chapter or who were unable to attend traditional learning events. Once we realized the impact of COVID-19 on live trainings, our goal shifted to bringing education to all areas of the chapter immediately. We thought it would give members something to hang onto and add value to their membership.

We had already used Zoom, and, to host the webinars, we needed to add the necessary bandwidth. It seemed to be the easiest technology (read: fastest to get going) for us. Staff presented a proposal to our Board to upgrade our current basic plan to a professional plan.

Since we already had developed a potpourri of four topics, we cast a wider net to our Board and committees to provide added content. We ended up with a well-rounded mix of programming to serve all facets of the chapter’s membership, including a session for Spanish-speakers.

As a result of hosting these webinars, we experienced an immediate impact on membership service. All feedback received indicated an appreciation for the quick response to the need for programming. Credential holders reportedly loved the opportunity to earn continuing education credits during this time, expand their knowledge and connect with others they might not typically have a chance to during our regional workshops and events.

As for lessons learned, Murphy’s Law was definitely present. Before each event, we had a practice session with the presenter – “walking” the process, working through bugs and such. More times than not, on the morning of the event, something did not go as planned – either a PowerPoint presentation would not load or the view was not as hoped. We learned to stay calm and work through each step with as much patience as possible.

To improve the effectiveness of opportunities such as this, I would recommend attending other programs to see how they work; work with presenters ahead of time to familiarize them with the system; have someone with the presenter who can assist with question-and-answer as the program goes (it really helps); “weed” out questions that can be answered easily; and most of all, be patient.