Digital conference planner reflects on agenda and process

Digital conference planner reflects on agenda and process

Frank Rizzo

Five ATCA members have been meeting on Zoom to plan the November 13-15 “The Next Normal” digital event since August. 

Conference Committee co-chair Frank Rizzo answers some questions for Martha Wade Steketee (ex-officio member of the committee for this conference) about the process they’ve run so far to get the show up and running, and the kind of show this virtual event will be.

You’re part of the ATCA conference planning team for ATCA 2020: The Next Normal. When did you decide that virtual would be the way to go?

It became clear early on that a live event would not be possible. We were daunted at first but then we got excited because we realized we could reach out to some major names who might not otherwise be able to do it in person.

The team is composed of experienced planners of past ATCA conferences. Your co-chair Lou Harry planned a Cincinnati regional meeting and the Costa Mesa April event we had to cancel; Jay Handelman has planned several past meetings including Winston-Salem 2019; Lindsay Christians planned and hosted Spring Green in 2018; and you and I co-chaired the November 2019 New York conference with Robert Sokol. How did your past experience help with planning this meeting?

We’ve all been to this rodeo before, so we knew what things worked better than others. Plus, we wanted to be in tune to the interests to the members at this very unique moment.

We’re living in a new normal, with Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms replacing the work we all have done in person in the past. We see shows on line, we meet online to work in teams. How has this newly acquired experience affected the planning and the end result for the November Conference?

I thought our Zoom meetings were the best planning sessions I ever attended. We really bounced so many ideas off each other in the spirit of making this conference something very special.

What are the new opportunities offered by holding our November meeting online? For example, more members might be able to join than we’ve ever had at past conferences, and a wider range of invited guests and presenters might be possible. There’s also a comfort in interacting from our own homes.

You can now tap into some of the most thought-provoking discussions about theater in this surreal moment in history — and do it in your pajamas at home with a glass of wine. 

— Interview by Martha Wade Steketee

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