“The last day of online Vegas”: Wipfli National Training Conference closed Friday

Oct 19, 2020

Wipfli leaders clicked “end meeting” on Friday, October 16 to close the 21st Annual National Training Conference, which was held virtually for the first time in conference history. The conference was originally planned as a live event in Las Vegas but transitioned to a series of virtual meetings due to the pandemic.

Attendees earned professional development credits for their participation, just as they would in person, by responding to online polling questions.

“We missed seeing and connecting with you and catching up with old friends,” Wipfli Partner Denes Tobie said. But, Wipfli knew the conference must carry on — just as nonprofit leaders have done.

“We’ve been inspired by our resilient clients and business owners who have figured things out,” said John Hemming, Partner in Wipfli’s audit practice. “A lot of organizations have adapted and overcome the challenges of the past few months very well and will even be better for it. Nonprofits are going to make an even greater impact in their communities because of what they went through during this pandemic,” Hemming said.

Help through trying times

Many of the conference sessions focused on traditional nonprofit challenges, like workplace communication, cost allocation and strategic planning. But the pandemic put a new twist on old problems. COVID-19 dominated a 90-minute leader-to-leader panel discussion on Friday, where Wipfli leaders responded to attendee-submitted questions.

Panelists shared their thoughts on remote audits, employee compensation, fiscal regulations, Head Start monitoring, cloud-based computing, CARES Act money and board engagement. While these issues are timely right now, Wipfli Manager Lisa Corbeille said many pandemic-induced practices are here to stay.

“Remote work will stick around. Some compensation twists will also stick around,” Corbeille said. “Things that are working will be here for the long-term, especially if they positively affect recruiting, retention and engagement.”

New, virtual perks

The virtual conference format introduced a few new perks. Session recordings are available on the conference app through October 30 for anyone who missed an event, for example.

Cristina Ramirez, program manager at Le Jardin Community Center, said she watched a recorded session because of a conflict during the live event. Ramirez said the content was valuable and she appreciated the comradery among the presenters. “I felt as if I were privy to a frank and amiable conversation among friends because your humor, warmth and candor made it that way,” she said. 

Wipfli intends to bring back the live conference format, hallway chatter and in-person networking next summer. Planning is underway for the July 2021 event in Las Vegas. 

Additional resources

The new normal: The ultimate guide to reopening (e-book)

4 ways to manage employees and reach your goals

Take your remote workforce to the next level

How to recruit, train and manage virtual workers

Nonprofit Benchmark Report shows staff concerns

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