Women in HVACR Celebrates Successful (Virtual) Annual Conference, Themed “Lead Forward”

On Wednesday, September 9 and Thursday, September 10, 2020, Women in HVACR hosted its 17th annual conference which went virtual for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women in HVACR President Karen DeSousa presided over the conference.
Women in HVACR President Karen DeSousa presided over the conference.

Led by President Karen DeSousa, the conference featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions, roundtable networking opportunities, and post-conference hangouts, all on a colorful, beautifully displayed, and well-organized platform. In keeping with true Women in HVACR style, attendees were also shipped their branded “swag boxes,” featuring promotional items such as t-shirts, mugs, message boards, and hand sanitizer from some of the conference sponsors.

On the platform, conference attendees had the ability to answer live polls about the conference, view the schedule of events and link to presentations, view resources such as presentation slides, visit and learn more about the many conference sponsors, and complete session surveys.

Most impressively, participants were also able to virtually connect with one another via private chat, an ongoing social feed “wall” where participants could publicly communicate, a photo gallery where attendees could upload and share photos during the event, and the ability to share virtual business cards by adding contacts.

The platform’s atmosphere was conducive to not only networking, but also friendly competition. As attendees navigated the hub, they were able to earn “points” that could be viewed on a leaderboard within the platform. At the end of each day of the conference, the top two most “engaged” participants were awarded gift cards for their participation.

In addition to the social and educational aspects of the platform, participants were able to take notes within the platform and bookmark pages that were significant for them. Soon after the conference, all attendees will be given a “packet” with all of their saved information so they can continue to network and take action on what they learned.

On day one, keynote speaker Kristen Brown gave an engaging talk, “Charged Leadership: Energize Your Work and Life.” On day two, keynote speaker Lee Ann Piano guided participants on how to “Accelerate Your Influence & Impact Change.” Both speakers fostered participation with attendees via live chat by asking questions, specific calls to action, and even requests to post specific photos in the conference photo gallery. The inspirational keynotes encouraged attendees to harness the power of their strengths in order to make a greater impact, both in our personal lives and in the world.

Other presenters for breakout sessions and roundtable discussions included Erik Wytrwal, Marcia Christiansen, Erica Leonor, Angie Snow, Danielle Putnam, Renee Joseph, Colleen Keyworth, Susan Archer, Lauren Roberts, David Richardson, Sarah Hammond, and Jennie Bryan, many of whom represented the hardworking board of the Women in HVACR organization. The board has been one of persistence and innovation throughout this planning process, and they all carried huge pieces of the conference on their shoulders in preparation. As is customary, in a true act of humility and graciousness, current President Karen DeSousa gave a heartfelt thank-you speech to her personal Women in HVACR mentor and Immediate Past President Danielle Putnam as she presented her with the WHVACR traditional crystal gavel.

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