2020 STC Virtual Summit Recap

The 2020 STC Summit was different than years past — this year there was no travel to a new city, no dinners out, and no late nights at the hotel bar — but what we got more than made up for that. In the switch from in-person to virtual, the number of attendees went down, but those of us who attended had a blast! Just over 400 people attended Summit over four days to take in more than 90 education sessions, 2 keynotes, the virtual expo hall, live music from several artists, trivia night, a virtual escape room, tech comm story time, networking lounges, honors ceremony, bookstore, and a fantastic afterparty. In addition, attendees chatted on two Slack channels, organized impromptu Zoom meetings, and have kept the excitement going after Summit with virtual game nights, a Slack channel for crafters, and more networking than ever before.

How did it work?

The virtual summit, which took place May 17–20, utilized an online conferencing platform called Engagez. Sessions were presented in three ways:

  1. Traditional live presentations, with chat and Q&A taking place live and in the Zoom chat.
  2. Prerecorded “simulive” talks, where the presenter was logged in and present in the chat to answer questions in real time without interrupting the flow of their talk
  3. On-demand talks where attendees could watch a prerecorded presentation with no interaction with the presenter.

In addition to the sessions, the platform provided:

  • An expo hall where vendors could chat with attendees and offer raffle prizes. It made it hard to pick up swag, but each visit to a vendor entered you in a drawing for free admission to next year’s Summit.
  • A networking space where you could view profiles of other Summit attendees, see who else was online at the same time as you, and view a map of where they were in the world.
  • A place to provide feedback on individual sessions and the conference as a whole.
  • Access to conference proceedings, slides, speaker resources, and continuing access to all the talks until August! This is a huge benefit, given that normally you’d only get the slides from talks you couldn’t attend. This way, you get to watch the presentation as well.

Phylise Banner and her team did an exceptional job to make this a fun and engaging conference by including all kinds of extras to help mimic what would happen during a real Summit.

Each morning began with a Zoom breakfast meeting where people could get to know one another, talk about their experiences at the Summit, and make plans for the day.

Morning sessions were followed by lunchtime networking lounges. These were optional and you could join one of three Zoom rooms: General conversation, hosted by Kelly Schrank and Kelly Smith; Job Seekers Lounge hosted by Jack Molisani; and the Coaching and Mentoring Lounge, hosted by Andrea Ames. These casual lounges allowed people time to meet new people and socialize.

Special events

The Honors Celebration on Monday night welcomed our new Fellows and Associate Fellows, honored the winner of the President’s Award (Alyssa Fox), and congratulated the chapters and SIGs that won awards. Afterward, we were treated to a live concert by the Dill Pickers! STC’s own Viqui Dill, her husband Keith, and son Jim gave us a fabulous concert from their front porch while local friends gathered (in a properly physically distanced way!) in the driveway to cheer, clap, and wave signs. Following the concert, there was virtual Jeopardy-style trivia. After two intense rounds, the winner was Jayme Sagan, who won free admission to Virtual LavaCon.

Tuesday’s sessions were followed by live music from Murphy Bug and Evan Cline and a virtual escape room challenge. I didn’t take part in this, but from all accounts it was a hard one!

Wednesday was a shorter day and we didn’t want to leave. An impromptu after party was quickly pulled together and we spent another two hours together drinking champagne (some for real and some just virtually) and discussing the summit. It was a much better way to end things than waving goodbye as we dragged suitcases out to waiting taxis!

Keep the conversation going!

In this new normal of ongoing lockdowns, it’s more important than ever to stay in touch with our friends and colleagues. Thankfully, technology makes that easy.

During Summit attendees joined two Slack channels for chitchat, networking, and fun. These are open all year round and are still going strong after Summit. Join us!

  • STC Communities currently has 54 members and channels discussing community events, program ideas, and upcoming virtual programs, among other things.
  • STC Summit Attendees currently has 46 members and we discuss jobs, STC’s new diversity and inclusion group, technical topics, crafting/maker space, and much more.

There’s a lot of overlap between these two channels, and outgoing president Ben Woelk mentioned that STC will be creating an official Slack channel soon.

My take

I loved this format! I love attending Summit in person, of course—it’s the highlight of my year—but since we couldn’t travel, this really was the next best thing and it WAS fabulous. If you get a chance to thank the organizers, please do. They worked hard and it showed. The education sessions I attended were great and the keynotes were fabulous. And best of all…

You can still attend!

If you didn’t sign up for this year’s summit, you did not completely miss out. The entire Summit was recorded, including all the sessions and Q&As. You can now purchase an on-demand pass to the STC Summit content, which includes more than 90 education sessions, two keynotes, the virtual expo hall, and conference proceedings. The recordings are available until the end of August.