January 2020 was the last time the Iowa Chapter had hosted an in-person event. And that ended early due to a winter storm.
The long hiatus from face-to-face events ended April 15-16 with the Iowa HFMA Spring Meeting and Women’s Conference. It was a hybrid event, allowing members to attend either in person or virtually.
“It had been well over a year since the majority of us had seen each other in person,” said Joe Splinter, CPA, a partner with Eide Bailly and the Iowa Chapter’s 2020-21 vice president and programming chair. “With the hospitalization rate low in Iowa and most of us having gotten our vaccines, we decided it was time. With the virtual option, our members could choose which means worked best for them.”
Approximately 25-35 attended either in person or virtually both days for a total of 50-70 per day. Splinter said the Chapter was pleased with the turnout as it normally would have 75-100 people attend a pre-pandemic, in-person event.
Hosting in a post-pandemic world
The Chapter worked closely with the venue to ensure a safe environment for those attending in person. They used a larger-than-normal conference room, set for just two people per table. Attendees kept their same seat the entire day. Masks were required, and hand sanitizer was provided. Food selections included pandemic-friendly options such as box lunches, individually served snacks and bottled water.
“We also eliminated sponsor exhibits and, instead, displayed sponsor names throughout the day and went with a swag bag concept so sponsors could provide items for our provider attendees,” said Jenny Peterson, FHFMA, who planned the event with Splinter. Peterson is a decision support analyst III with CommonSpirit Health and 2020-21 Chapter secretary. “This allowed us to recognize our sponsors and still socially distance.”
Partnering with HFMA
In addition to the attendees who participated via Zoom, two speakers presented virtually. Splinter and Peterson worked closely with HFMA Chapter Relations to ensure the technology worked.
“We had a lot of support from HFMA National and couldn’t have pulled it off without our support from the Chapter Relations team,” said Splinter. “They gave us great advice, helped with the Zoom links and sent some mics for us to use.”
Engaging virtual attendees
One Zoom link was used the entire day, so virtual attendees could come and go as needed. Peterson said she particularly enjoyed interacting with virtual attendees and monitoring the chat box. She also noted one speaker was particularly good at engaging virtual attendees and getting them to turn on their cameras.
Encouraging other chapters
Peterson and Splinter urge others interested in hosting a hybrid event to step out of their comfort zone. “We had to start somewhere,” said Peterson. “We had to take a step and see how our members responded.”
Thanks to engaged Chapter volunteers, HFMA National support and venue flexibility, the response was positive.
“Planning and testing all the technology took more time, but it allowed us to proceed without any issues,” said Splinter. “Overall, we’re happy. Will we make some adjustments? Absolutely. But now we can say we’ve done this.”