The PCS User Group Meeting (UGM) is one the PCS staff and clients look forward to every year. It’s a time when everyone can get together and interact. Clients can get updates from staff and staff can learn what clients are struggling with or looking for in PCS products.
This year however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 33rd Annual PCS UGM went virtual and PCS staff weren’t quite sure what that might look like. Luckily, due to more than 30 years of experience, the meeting was virtually a success.
Angie Miller, Business Services Manager and Amy Kuhlmann, Project Analyst, took on the role of leading the operation and it truly would not have been as great of a result without them. “Preparing and putting on the UGM is always a big undertaking. This year none of us really knew what that would mean as we anticipated the switch to a virtual UGM.” Angie said. “For some at PCS, the effort reduced food and physical venue off the list; for some it was relatively the same, and for some it was a bigger effort to learn and manage a multi-day, multi-presenter, 6-time zone and hundreds of attendees virtual event. Oh, and to finish it off, make sure you record it all,” she added.
There was a lot of time and effort that went into the week leading up to the first day’s presentations, as well as during the presentation, and I’m not sure if clients, or even our staff knew what was all going on ‘behind the scenes’” said Amy.
The IT crew came in and wired the place for about 10 different workstations each capable of having a full setup for an individual presenter. Once that was all in place and a case of duct tape applied, we started testing out audio and visual tools. Added PCS backdrops for a more appealing visual and the room was ready to go.” Angie explained.
“Once all the technical stuff was in place, then came the scripted practice sessions. We conducted multiple dry runs, practicing everything all the way down to who moves the speaker phone to whom and when. A couple of us were behind the scenes managers, shall we say stage managers. They would be switching controls throughout as to whose screen was being shared when, bringing up poll questions, sharing results and playing transitional slideshows.” she said.
While staying safe was accounted for in all aspects of planning and production, meeting organizers still wanted to have a personal, face-to-face facet to the meeting. So, PCS came up with a solution, as they always do.
“There are definitely pros and cons to having a meeting in person as opposed to virtually, one being we missed being able to interact with our clients face to face. Our web cams allowed us to still have part of that interaction, which was nice, we have the technology, why not use it?” said Amy.
Because of the technology available, PCS was able to record all the sessions to use as future training for clients and their staff. “Because it was a live recording, we had to edit the non-stop recording for each of the four days and scale them down to individual presentations of each day. That was another sizable effort, but we hope it helps everyone share the sessions with others at their utilities or to just go back and review a piece of it again.”
Not only did this virtual format allow PCS to hold the User Group Meeting in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also allowed for people who had never been able to attend previous meetings due to travel, the opportunity to attend and interact. Based on results of the survey sent out after the meeting, this could very well be how we choose to hold our meetings from now on. More than 70% of survey participants said they would be interested in having future meetings virtually. “I think the meetings should all be virtual. It often doesn't justify for me to come to Iowa for just the IT part, for example. This way I can just attend what I need to see, without the expense or the drive. I think all user meetings should be in this format. I liked it very much,” one survey response read.
“It has been very gratifying to hear from attendees when they say they appreciated it, learned new stuff and shared recordings with co-workers.” Angie said.
As most of this year has been, the PCS User Group Meeting was a learning experience for everyone. It was also an opportunity to take away feedback and apply it to future meetings to tailor the experience to everyone’s needs and abilities.
Amy concluded “I’d like to extend a huge thank you for all the cooperation of our staff, but also those viewers who took time to listen and attend our sessions. They are the reason we put together such a production and we hope they were able to enjoy the overall experience and training we offered this year.”