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Vail Symposium: Keeping the conversation going

Dale Mosier
Valley Voices

Vail Symposium, like all the other organizations providing interesting programs to large audiences in the Vail Valley, has had to make significant alterations to its approach to events in response to the COVID-19 virus and its impact on the community.

Fortunately, Vail Symposium was already working on the strategic objective of recording our programs to share with our audience members who could not attend the program in person. As the virus spread, we quickly realized there was a need to go virtual. The debt panel on March 5 was our last live program. Our next speaker, Alina Polyakova, was willing to fly to Vail, but we presented the program virtually; we knew we needed to make changes to what was left of the winter program.

As a result, we rescheduled a few programs and presented the remainder as Zoom webinars. Instead of our usual downtime during late April and May, we presented programs weekly when a lot of people were searching for thought-provoking content and virtual conversations. Significant modifications were made to the programs for our summer/fall season, assuming that it would be hard to get speakers to fly to Vail and our members would not want to come to a crowded room for a program. 

Our virtual programs have been extremely successful, with a great deal of behind-the-scenes efforts to not only produce the programs but improve technically each time. We’ve learned that we can secure some speakers that previously would not fly to Vail and we could put on panels or speaker/interviewer programs that previously were not logistically or economically viable.

A perfect example of this is the upcoming program on June 25 with Richard Haass, the head of the Foreign Affairs Council who is frequently on political hot topic news programs, and Jamie Metzl, a dynamic foreign affairs expert who has a strong following amongst our Vail audience. We also found that our reach has expanded: We’ve had viewers from all around the country and the world tune into our programs.

We have interviewed many of our frequent attendees and find that most miss the personal interaction of the live programs, but will not come back to a room of 150-200 people until there is a vaccine, a cure, or the state goes a long time without significant issues with the virus. This means our live programming will not be available in the near future, but we are planning for the time when we can welcome our guests back at a live program to enjoy the interaction with the speakers as well as friends and acquaintances that bring so much pleasure to the experience.

We would like to thank our donors and attendees who have supported us through this difficult time and we hope for the continued support over the next year as we adapt to, and learn to do better with, “the new normal.” I would particularly like to commend our staff for the creative and extra effort it has taken to accomplish these changes: Executive Director Kris Sabel, Program Manager Claire Nobel, Office and Events Manager Arzu Basyildiz and Marketing Manager Katie Coakley.

Dale Mosier is the chairman of the Vail Symposium Board of Directors. To learn more, go to http://www.vailsymposium.org/.


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