By Duane Gordon
This year (2020) has been a year like no other. This is also true of our annual Conference. Every year, ADDA gets together with CHADD and the ACO to hold the International Conference on ADHD. Well over a thousand people gather, physically, at a conference center – this year it was supposed to be in Dallas, Texas – to celebrate and learn about ADHD. As you can imagine, things did not go as planned.
Because of Covid-19, we held our first virtual International Conference on ADHD. Until March, 2020, our Conference Committee was busy planning for an event that would happen at a hotel in Dallas in November. Then we got the news.
What’s a Pandemic?
What’s a pandemic? What does that mean? What about our Conference? What do we do now?
Like most organizations, we were “flying blind.” But unlike most organizations, most of our volunteers have ADHD! Creative in an emergency? You bet. Pivot on a dime? In our sleep. Make it up as we go along? Piece of cake.
We anticipated some aspects of our Conference would translate well to the online world. Other elements, however, would be more challenging. But a challenge just makes us dig in our heels. Melissa Reskof, ADDA’s Conference Chair, gathered up all her best volunteers – ADDA members with years of virtual operations experience – support groups, Webinars, workshops and more – all run online for ADDA members around the world – and she went to work, along with volunteers from CHADD and ACO.
Life-Changing Live Events
The 2020 Conference was not the same. There were no hugs. There were no late-night parties – actually, that’s not true – there were still late-night parties, and people connecting over lunches and breakfasts – they just were done over Zoom. There was still that human connection the Conference is all about.
There were live events, where people gathered in a Zoom room, and conducted live support groups and interactive sessions. I’ve heard so many people share how life-changing those sessions were. ADDA support groups are always life-changing, but this Conference exposed a whole new group of people to the power of hanging out with people who just get you.
Deep-Learning Recorded Sessions
And there were recorded sessions. Even I wondered how a pre-recorded session would be different than hanging around at home watching Youtube videos. But it was… it was very different.
At the time of the event, the video appears. If you’re there on time, you press play and you and (who knows how many) others begin watching. You feel all alone. And then someone makes a comment in the chat. Then someone asks a question – hey, wait! It’s someone you know! You quickly start a side conversation interspersed with people’s questions.
Someone joins late, but they want to join in the conversation. Suddenly a comment appears in the chat, “Where are we in the video?” Someone replies and then hop ahead so they can watch and join in the discussion. Anyone with technical issues asks them in the chat, and other people pipe up with solutions. It was as friendly as any ADHD Conference I’ve been to in the last 15 years.
Then the speaker begins to answer the questions! You’re watching the speaker give the presentation AND the speaker is there live answering your questions in the chat! Once the video ends, you all join the live Zoom meeting for an interactive discussion with the speaker and the moderator.
Lots of Good News
So the International Conference on ADHD was different in 2020. Of course, if hadn’t been different, I think it would have been the only thing that stayed the same in this year we’ll never forget. The thing I appreciated most about this Conference was the reach.
ADDA is an international organization. We have active members in countries circling the globe. Time zones are a challenge, but one we’re used to dealing with. This first virtual Conference was far more accessible to our far-flung members than our in-person Conferences have ever been. I personally met people from India, Australia, Kenya, Argentina, England, Canada, Jamaica and more. Many more countries, and of course, every state in the United States, were also represented.
Many of our international members would never have been able to travel to our Conference if it had happened in Dallas. Many of our members here locally would not have been able to travel to Dallas. Booking flights, reserving your hotel, thinking of meals, ensuring you remembered to save up vacation and more make travelling to this Conference an uphill challenge for many adults with ADHD. I’ve heard from so many people who attended this Conference, for the first time, because it was virtual.
What Does the Future Hold?
I miss the hugs too, but whatever the Conference in 2021 looks like, I hope we keep finding ways to connect with ALL our members, wherever they are.
What did you love about the 2020 Conference? What would you like to see in the future? We’d love you to share your thoughts.