2021 TWS Annual Conference to be held virtually

After thoughtful analysis and deliberation, TWS Council has decided to conduct the 2021 TWS Annual Conference virtually. This decision reflects our responsibility to protect the health and wellbeing of the Society, our members, conference attendees and the general population while still serving our mission. It also reflects a realistic assessment of the feasibility of travel for many of our potential attendees.

Council also evaluated the potential impacts our members would experience if we proceeded with an in-person conference—and the benefits of deciding to go virtual sooner rather than later—including:

  • Uncertainty about health risks to members attending the meeting.
  • Effects that uncertainty will have on members’ ability to secure funding support and travel approval from their employers and universities while those organizations individually evaluate their willingness to send individuals to conferences.
  • The impact of travel restrictions enforced by members’ home states, Maryland, and Baltimore, which could include quarantine or testing requirements at each end—adding inconvenience, stress, and risks to our members.
  • Significant inconvenience and confusion for members related to submitting proposals to present. Uncertainty over whether or not presentations will be made in-person or virtually makes it more difficult for members to determine if they can participate as a presenter.
  • Uncertainty about local restrictions that impact our hotel/conference center and surrounding restaurants that currently reduce maximum capacity to 25%. As an example, this would limit plenary attendance to roughly 300, most presentation rooms to 20-30 people, and greatly reduce the booths in our exhibit hall. This could impact attendees’ ability to participate in sessions and events that are important to them.

Council also considered the impact this decision would have on our exhibitors, sponsors and partners who provide great support to the Society and our members. Their presence and activities at an in-person conference are different than a virtual conference, requiring different planning, lead times and financial commitment. With TWS making the decision to go virtual now, it will provide more planning time for them to determine how they can best engage with conference attendees and make their interaction more valuable.

An in-person conference requires contracted facilities and vendor relationships, some of which include financial penalties that escalate if we need to cancel the event. By making this decision now, TWS is upholding their responsibility to our members and keeping the Society financially viable and thriving—ensuring that we can continue to provide all of our valuable member benefits, programs and services.

Your health, safety and experience are our top priorities. No matter what the impact of the pandemic is next year, TWS will be ready to safely deliver the high-quality content and experience you’ve come to expect from our Annual Conference. In 2020, more than 2,500 professionals and students engaged virtually and the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. We also received many suggestions, so we’ve begun evaluating how we can include many of those enhancements to make the 2021 Annual Conference even better!

The new dates for the 2021 virtual TWS Annual Conference and additional details related to our calls for proposals, presentations, posters, registration date and costs, and more will be announced in the next few weeks. Keep an eye on your email, your eWildlifer, and twsconference.org for news and updates.