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The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the eve of the originally scheduled 2020 Water Quality Association (WQA) Convention & Exposition. The association quickly pivoted to provide an all-virtual educational and networking event in 2020.
Now, with the 2021 WQA Convention & Exposition — scheduled for July 28 to July 30, 2021, both in Las Vegas and virtual — on the horizon, WQA is combining lessons from 2020 with an eye towards the future in the upcoming event. Aptly so, following a turbulent 2020 for many, this year’s show theme is “Imagine.”
WQP Managing Editor Lauren Del Ciello asked Toby Thomas, WQA president, what the association has in store for this year’s convention, how it will look different from past years and what hot topics will be a driving force.
How Will the 2021 WQA Convention & Exposition Look Different?
Lauren Del Ciello: What can attendees look forward to at the 2021 WQA Convention & Exposition?
Toby Thomas: More than anything, we are looking forward to re-establishing those important face-to-face interactions and getting members more involved in the critical work of WQA. This is our first major live in-person event since the Mid-Year Leadership Conference in September 2019, so we cannot wait to see old friends and forge new partnerships.
We are going to take full advantage of the virtual platforms we have used to such success in the past months to bring our virtual attendees onto the show floor and into our live sessions as much as possible. We are ready to move past the pandemic and into a great future for our industry and our association.
As always, our convention will feature education sessions, a busy and exciting expo, wonderful (and safe) networking opportunities, leadership awards presentations, and opportunities for you to get further involved in this industry and your trade association. Plus, this year we will share insights from our latest Consumer Opinion Study.
Del Ciello: What safety protocols will be in place?
Thomas: We are committed to hosting the safest possible event for all attendees and exhibitors and will follow measures based on the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and WHO, as well as local governmental requirements. These guidelines include, among other measures:
- All attendees, staff and exhibitors will be masked.
- The Expo floor has been expanded to accommodate social distancing in aisles and general spaces.
- Everyone participating in our in-person event is required to sign WQA’s COVID-19 Policy & Release upon registration and to undergo a quick health screening when entering the Convention Center each day.
- Hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the Convention Center and Expo Hall.
We know our attendees are concerned about our health and safety measures, so we have them spelled out in greater detail under the “COVID Guidance” tab on our convention website, wqp.org/convention.
Hot Topics at the 2021 WQA Convention & Exposition
Del Ciello: What do you anticipate will be some of the hot topics this year?
Thomas: We are excited to be releasing results of the bi-annual Consumer Opinion Study at this year’s convention and helping our members see how they can use this information in educating consumers and marketing their products and services. We are also hosting education sessions on proposed federal and state water initiatives, technical topics like tap water contaminants and how to treat them, discussions on ethical business practices in action, and a discussion on crisis management lessons learned from the pandemic.
Del Ciello: How long has the Business Boot Camp been running and what can attendees hope to learn there?
Thomas: This will be our third Business Boot Camp, and we could not be more excited about the great lineup of experts, both within and without the water treatment industry, who are offering their tips and tricks for taking your business to the next level. Boot Camp is a full-day intensive workshop on topics such as recruiting, retention and leadership. It is an opportunity to get away from the day-to-day tasks of running your business so you can focus on your business and its future. Dealers are invited to come to Las Vegas a day early to attend Boot Camp July 27. More details are available at wqa.org/bootcamp.
Del Ciello: What professional benefits does the convention offer?
Thomas: Our education sessions offer a variety of top-notch education and training on technical, research and business operations topics with many providing the opportunity to earn Continuing Professional Development credits toward your recertification. The expo allows you to see the latest products and services in water treatment and make contact with manufacturers, suppliers and service providers who can help your business grow. The Consumer Opinion Study gives members great insight into the needs and wants of potential customers and help you grow your customer base. Various networking opportunities allow you to meet and get to know your fellow water treatment professionals and work together for the betterment of the industry.
Del Ciello: How will the show floor look different this year?
Thomas: The show floor has been expanded so exhibitors can spread out a bit and we can accommodate social distancing in aisles and general spaces. Hand sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the Expo Hall for exhibitor and attendee use. Signs explaining the health and safety procedures are located throughout the exhibit hall to be sure the experience is as safe as possible. However, we will still have all the great exhibits, product demos and interactions you are accustomed to getting at the annual expo.
How to Virtually Engage With the Event
Del Ciello: How can professionals get involved if they are unable to attend in person?
Thomas: Register to attend the 2021 WQA Convention and Exposition virtually so you can:
- Attend the Opening General Session and key education events by live-stream, which will allow you to interact with other attendees, ask questions or simply watch the sessions from your computer or mobile device.
- Access the same quality of continuing education you would have seen and heard in-person at the WQA Convention & Exposition at your convenience and even earn Continuing Professional Development Credit.
- Attend the Virtual Exposition, which will be open 24-hours a day to make appointments and find new business connections. An interactive floor plan will allow the virtual audience to browse the exhibitor list, search by product and participate in giveaways.