Like many events impacted by COVID-19, JETAA Canada Conference was held virtually, taking place on September 19 2020. This is the first virtual conference held by JETAA Canada.
Unlike a normal year, where one of the seven Canadian chapters would host the conference, the Canada Country Representative, Matt Kaiser, organized the event for 2020. As usual, there were 2 delegates from each of the 7 chapters, as well as the 3 US Country Representatives, and staff from CLAIR New York. Because of the online format, however, anyone from the chapters was welcome to join in, and the Chair of JETAA International, Nathalie Ng, was able to participate as well.
Scheduling was a challenge, as Canada has 6 time zones (and let’s not get into Daylight Savings Time). Running from late morning into the evening Toronto time, it was a very early start for the British Columbia and Yukon chapter, followed by a rather late evening for those participants from the Quebec / Atlantique chapter. But the great advantage of a virtual conference is the accessibility, which contributes greatly to addressing the problem of chapter members not having sufficient access to everything that goes on at a conference if the official chapter reps fail to report back effectively.
Challenges due to the pandemic
Participants shared concerns, challenges, and the biggest achievements of each chapter, such as:
how to connect with returning JETs and maintain engagement with members during the pandemic
how to host in-person events safely when it becomes possible, including legal issues
Achievements included a number of successful online events, and even some limited efforts to get together in person. A major success arising out of this difficult situation is participation by chapter members who had not been active for quite a while but who were willing to join in to the online activities.
There are some good things which should be continued after the pandemic passes. One of these is the adoption of virtual executive meetings, which have been found to be more efficient than in-person.
Along with this, each chapter is also trying to apply new technology to management and event planning as they switched to working entirely remotely as a team. Tools such as Zoom, Slack, Trello, Canva, and the suite of Google products were adopted in order to function at all in this environment, but have been found to allow everyone to work far more efficiently. There had been efforts over the years to utilize new technology, of course, but the pandemic has forced an aggressive effort to fully integrate these tools into every aspect of chapter activity.
During a discussion of tech, each chapter shared the kinds of apps and platforms they are using and their recommendations, so the CanRep can create a tech stack including the several dozen tools mentioned, for everyone to refer to. It’s hoped that these new platforms, apps, and habits will not only facilitate more effective communication and collaboration across the Canadian chapters but also with alumni in the US and the larger international community.
Besides these Canadian discussions, CLAIR talked about GiA procedures and the new option to make reports using Google Sheets, the US CoRs gave an update on their activities and the situation with Canada’s southern neighbor, and Nat spoke about JETAA-I.
It was a long but worthwhile day, and the chapter reps and speakers finished up with an online CLAIR Reception. Hopefully, we will all be able to gather in person again in 2021.