COVID-19 recently sent me to a place I didn’t really want to go. Virtual.
First off, understand that although I may spend many hours on my computer with programs I know, I am terrible at learning the technical aspects. Peter, my hubby, is very patient and an excellent teacher, but dealing with a senior with fibromyalgia fog is not for the faint of heart.
The first push virtually was WebX so that I could participate in church services and studies. Okay, that was not too bad.
Next, Zoom to do a wildlife talk for a group in London. The group was great, but Zoom was not a good experience as it was ‘bombed,’ interrupting the presentation with explicit, pornographic videos of humans, not even skunks! Everyone was upset and embarrassed. We all closed from the meeting and then signed back on and finished in peace.
During this same time I was very stupidly trying to learn by myself how to set up the computer to speak at a two-day virtual wildlife conference. What would have taken Peter at most a couple hours, took me days. I had to fill in a profile, a page on my talks, a virtual booth to give away my booklets, register, sign up for other sessions, who knows what else, and learn how to run my presentation with chat. Sometimes you have to admit defeat, suck up your pride, and ask for help. Peter and many others got me through it! I owe a great debt of gratitude to all!
How does an online/virtual conference work? Accelevent designed the program which in essence provides the rooms for live talks, meeting speakers and vendors, etc. PEPP Services (Personalized Event & Party Planning) knew how to arrange the virtual conference with all the little details we know nothing about, plus help speakers and attendees navigate the conference.
Heroes 4 Wildlife, a newly formed not-for-profit group, found the speakers and attendees and did all that a host group would do. Heroes was formed to help individual rehabilitators and centres in Ontario with financial assistance, specialized equipment, essential supplies, educational resources, networking opportunities, and public awareness. No support or funds are given from the MNRF.
A rehabilitator’s biggest need is to be educated, so we all jumped into the conference which had a reasonable cost, and we did not have to spend hundreds of dollars in travel, hotels, food, etc. The surprise was more than just Ontarians signed up! Speakers and attendees joined from six of the seven continents around the world. Why? Because much can be learned from Australians about animals injured and homeless due to bush fires in any country.
As is normal with live or virtual conferences, there were technical difficulties, but considering it was a new venue for everyone it went very well.
Heroes 4 Wildlife raised enough funds to provide Ontario rehabilitators with species-specific wildlife nutritional information. Their portion of the 50/50 draw is going to help a wildlife centre that lost everything, including animals, in a flood. What a way to start a group! I can’t wait to participate in their Great Canadian Wildlife Exhibition when COVID is over!
I have been contacted by conference attendees with skunk rehabilitation questions. It has been fantastic to meet and share information with people from across Canada, the United States, and even Italy!
I missed the personal networking and friendships we could make at meals, breaks, and in classes at a live conference, but this virtual conference was a blessing for all of us around the world.
Heroes 4 Wildlife are my heroes!