A Q&A with APHA's Anna Keller

Public Health Newswire spoke with Anna Keller, MA, about plans for APHA's first all-virtual Annual Meeting and Expo.

Q: For some people , the decision not to hold an in-person APHA Annual Meeting was understandable but disappointing. What are you saying to people who are still considering whether to attend the virtual Annual Meeting?

logo, APHA 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting and Expo, Oct. 24-28, Creating the Healthiest Nation: Preventing ViolenceA: Yeah, I get their disappointment — we were really looking forward to being in San Francisco. The public health community is facing incredible challenges because of the pandemic, APHA included. Add to that the urgent need to address racial injustice, and there might not have ever been a more important time for us to be talking face-to-face. But in the end, we’re really fortunate to have been able to shift the meeting online. I’m so grateful APHA will still be able to bring everyone together this fall, even if it is in a new way.

APHA has been hosting an in-person Annual Meeting since 1873, but in a lot of ways, APHA 2020 is a brand new event. We're not just taking what we've done before and broadcasting it — we're creating an entirely new format. Our whole team is really enthusiastic about this.

Q: What is APHA 2020 going to look like?

A: We've never hosted a virtual Annual Meeting before, which is a challenge. But it's also very, very exciting. In a lot of ways, we're starting from scratch.

We are working around the clock to create APHA 2020 — we'll have 1,200 hours of programming, with dozens of concurrent broadcasts available to replay immediately. We’re exploring best practices with other associations to figure out how we make our content easy for people to navigate, to view, to share and to interact with.

We'll be having many of the same events that people know and love, but with a new twist. We don't want this to be "as good" as an in-person meeting; it's going to be different, but better in many ways.

Just one example: for sessions going on at the same time, it won’t be a “one or the other” situation. You can watch one live and play the other later on-demand. If you want, you can watch every single session from the meeting, which is really cool.

Q: How will you make sure APHA 2020 will be a success?

A: We're using the best possible tech and bringing on new partners and experts to guide us. We're looking at best practices and learning from other organizations that have hosted successful virtual events this year to determine what works and what doesn't.

We're working to make sure we have stable, secure connections for participants. We're training our session moderators so they know how to use the technology — we're going to have a technology command center to coordinate everything and ensure it goes smoothly, and to quickly respond to any hiccups. We’ll need more tech, more hands-on work and more staff and volunteers than ever to make this happen.

We realize people aren't going to consume the information the same way they do in-person — we're exploring new ways to break up the programming with interactive activities like wellness breaks and participant polls.

Some people may say, "Well, there's no physical location involved here, no hotels, no travel" so this is going to be easier for APHA to pull off. But it's actually much more difficult. We are entirely up to the challenge, though!

When it comes to public health meetings, we are the experts. We're very fortunate to have the support of our APHA leaders and member groups, who have really embraced this and are working closely with us. We’re really excited for APHA 2020 participants to see all the fantastic things we have planned for them.

Registration is now open for APHA 2020. Find out more and read our FAQs now.