By Adam Quandt
The show must go on. Much like nearly every other association in the boating industry, the Association of Marina Industries (AMI) was faced with a tough decision in its annual AMI Conference & Expo (formerly known as the International Marina and Boatyard Conference and Expo, or IMBC).
As the global pandemic continues, AMI made the decision to shift the annual conference and expo to an all-virtual format in early December 2020. While not the route the AMI team anticipated for the 2021 conference, they also realize that going virtual offers a variety of new opportunities to attendees.
Right off the bat, the annual conference is no longer limited to its usual two-day format, packing in as much as possible in a short time. The new, virtual conference kicks off with three comprehensive pre-conference training events beginning on January 27, 2021. The online event then takes place through February 17 — although the online access will remain available through the end of March — offering well over a month of education, networking and more.
“We recognize that our attendees are busy people, especially when they’re not leaving the marina to attend the conference, so we did everything we could to take all of the aspects of the in-person event and expand it into a staggered schedule to make everything more accessible to more attendees than ever,” conference coordinator Kayce Florio said.
Similar to the in-person version, education will take a major spotlight during the virtual event.
“All levels of education will always take place at the AMI Conference, we want to be friendly and provide learning opportunities to all levels of the industry,” Florio said. “However, there’s been a shift in the last five years in members wanting more leadership-level information. We have it all this year, from Marina 101 to high-level leadership education.”
Florio also noted that despite the virtual and remote learning format, there will still be plenty of opportunities for attendees to get involved with the content, including Q&As during the sessions, as well as breakout sessions lending themselves to smaller discussions.
After a few special pre-conference workshops, the education at the 2021 virtual conference officially kicks off with a keynote from Colette Carlson titled “YOU Management: Self Care Strategies for Successful Leaders” on February 3. Education and breakout sessions will continue into February 4 and then adjourn until picking up again on February 9-10 and again on February 16-17.
Understanding that attendees are in various time zones and have varied schedules, Florio noted that roughly 95% of the content will be recorded and available on demand to attendees immediately after a session occurs. All of the recorded content will also be available through March 31.
Also, similar to the in-person event, networking will be a key component of the virtual AMI Conference & Expo. From a virtual expo hall to connect with a variety of exhibitors to roundtable sessions and a fun-filled virtual trivia night, networking opportunities will be in strong supply throughout the entire virtual conference.
“We’ve done everything we can to give attendees a variety of opportunities to connect with each other at the same level they do at the in-person conference, attendees just have to login and take every opportunity they have,” Florio said.
Similarly, the in-depth virtual expo hall offers attendees ample opportunity to connect with any exhibitor they may want from the moment the conference kicks off through March 31. Using either the online platform or mobile — or a little of each — attendees and exhibitors can learn and share about new products and offerings, set up virtual meetings and connect in real time.
Florio said that there’s still plenty of time to register for those interested in getting involved in this year’s conference, whether as an attendee or exhibitor. For more information about this year’s virtual AMI Conference & Expo, visit www.MarinaAssociation.org.