Outlook Winter 2020

By Rose Epperson on Monday, December 28, 2020

Outlook Winter 2020: Darn good lemonade.

You know they say, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.… If there was ever an opportunity to test that theory, it has been in 2020. We definitely had a whole bushel of lemons handed to us last spring, just weeks before our annual conference, but with some creative thinking and a really great team of volunteers and staff, we pulled it off!

The 86th Western Chapter ISA Conference and Trade show took on a whole new look with our virtual platform. We only had about four weeks to get up and running once the decision was made to “pivot”. I want to thank Ryan Pendleton, from my team, for digging in and persevering through what turned out to be a darn good event.  Of course, we had a few bumps in the road, but we were able to bring a wonderful array of programing, both educational and social, to the over 250 attendees who joined us online.

We had an incredible program thanks to our program committee of Dennis Swartzell, Zeno Acton, and Rick Gessner. 90% of our original speakers from April continued with us in November. By going virtual, attendees will have had the opportunity to watch all concurrent sessions – which has always been a sore spot in a traditional format. I was not familiar with our keynote speaker, Joanne Marchetta, prior to the conference but let me tell you … I became a big fan. My big take away from her was looking at things from a “landscape scale” perspective. She told the story of the Tahoe basin, where there are multiple agencies responsible for the land across two state lines. She explained the concept of Landscape Scale Conservation. “Landscape conservation is about bridging division. It brings together fragmented thinking, fragmented people, and fragmented landscapes together across geographic sectors, jurisdictions and cultures to safeguard the earth.”  She reminded me that connections start with listening - and are built on trust. She also stressed the importance of telling your story and sharing the common goals and measurable results of collaborative work.  It was powerful for me. I hope to meet her someday, IRL (in real life).

Our lemonade, if you will, was sweetened by a flexible Conference Committee and understanding Board of Directors. Due to the uncertainty of gathering regulations, we put the conference on hold in April, thinking perhaps life would get back to normal at the end of the summer. Then summer came and went and we were still hunkered down. Our local committee, led by Bruce Barr and John Crandall, really rallied when the decision was made to move to a virtual platform. Heidi Kratch and Rod Hollenbeck created two fantastic tree identification walking tours (on video) for the event. The entire group participated in the event and interacted with attendees from all over. It was as if they adopted a mindset of “if you can’t bring the people to the Reno/Tahoe basin let’s bring the Reno/Tahoe basin to the people” - and they did. Great local speakers gave attendees a taste of what working in the area was like as well.  We brought the outside in with Timmy Womick and the TreeCircus’s Wednesday morning program for children (of all ages). Conference attendees were invite to “bring their kids to work”. I loved how Timmy, along with Grayson Keating, adapted the program to the virtual stage and hope that we continue to share the message of “What Trees Give Us” in this format until we can get our assembly programs back in the schools throughout the chapter.

  Any good lemonade tastes darn good over ice. Our “ice” was the social side of the conferenced. I mean seriously, it would not have been true Western Chapter conference if we had not built in some fun.  From daily “morning breath” yoga experiences with Helen Stone (chapter president from 2007) and a wine tour and tasting lead by our beloved Bruce Hagen, to our exceptional fun and games with California Releaf, there were great opportunities to gather outside the educational program. Kudos to Rita Franco for her efforts in taking the Britton Fund Silent Auction online. We had a few bidding wars going on which made the event a lot of fun and raised over 2,500.00 for the fund. Added bonus:  we discovered a great program to take our auction to a wider audience in the future.

We really could not have taken the leap to the virtual platform without the support of our sponsors. We were fortunate to have secured ample backing to assist as we brought on the new virtual venue. And speaking of support, Suzanne from the chapter office was successful in bringing most all of our exhibitors with us as well…of course, it would be impossible to have the equipment on display through your computer which made for some tough decisions to back out for some of our friends and colleagues. We look forward to when we can gather with our outdoor equipment vendors in the future.

Although the live conference event has ended, the fruits of our labor continue. Attendees can replay missed sessions and continue conversations started online. My team is sorting CEUs, sending auction items to the highest bidders, and starting to plan our next event. We are busy with Tree Risk Assessment Qualification course planning and continuing the search for venues to host our small, essential trainings and exams. We continue committed to your professional growth and have some great online programing in the works for 2021 (and hopefully some great face to face events as well).

As this wild year comes to end, I wish you all a safe, healthy new year. Me? I think I will pour a big glass of lemonade, sit a spell, and reflect on all the good we managed to accomplish in 2020.  Counting our blessings.

Cheers to trees,