COMMON Cancels In-Person POWERUp Again, Takes Conference Virtual
September 22, 2021 Alex Woodie
COMMON announced last week that it has cancelled the in-person portion of the POWERUp 2021 conference that was scheduled to take place in Virginia Beach due to the Delta variant that is causing coronavirus infections to surge. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the show will go on as a virtual conference October 4-7.
This was the third time in two years that COMMON has been forced to cancel or delay its POWERUp conference. Like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown just as he’s about to kick it, SARS2 just won’t let COMMON actually hold an in-person POWERUp.
In March 2020, the user group postponed the annual meeting that was to take place the following month in Atlanta, Georgia. That meeting — along with the 60th anniversary celebration that was to accompany it — was rescheduled for late-August, early-September in Tampa, Florida. But the virus intervened again, and COMMON was forced to cancel the in-person show and replace it with a virtual show, which took place almost exactly a year ago.
With COVID vaccines available, the Chicago-based organization felt comfortable giving it another go, and cautiously scheduled the annual POWERUp conference to take place at a hotel in scenic Virgina Beach, Virgina, which has held several smaller IBM i events over the past year. But once again, the virus had other plans.
COMMON knew that there would be lower attendance in Virginia Beach, but it was determined to carry out the conference. Nevertheless, it prudently gave itself (and its vendors) a four-week cushion in which to make a determination whether to go forward with the show. With the Delta variant of the virus spreading rapidly around the country, the difficult decision was made on the Labor Day holiday to cancel it once again.
“It’s disappointing for all of us, but the pandemic environment has forced us to make this decision,” COMMON President Gordon Leary said. “After Early Bird ended, which coincidentally was the same weekend of Labor Day weekend, we looked at numbers of attendees, numbers of in-person exhibitors, numbers of in-person speakers, and daily requests from attendees wanting to switch to virtual, and made the decision that it was in the best interest of everyone’s safety to cancel the in-person event. It was a difficult decision, and we’re disappointed as well that this is the second year in a row that we’ve had to cancel the largest conference event in this community.”
Plus, IBM had not committed to sending any of its employees to the show, which likely factored into COMMON’s decision. IBM employees are largely still working remotely.
The Virginia Beach conference was always intended to be a hybrid event, with many people attending the 300 sessions virtually. In this respect, the shift to an online-only event will be much easier for COMMON to pull off than the last-minute, tumultuous changes that tested the mettle of COMMON staffers in 2020.
What’s more, the group has successfully held several virtual events over the course of the past 18 months, including COMMON Insight event in May 2020 that featured 150 sessions. POWERUp 2021 would have been the second hybrid event produced by COMMON following the NAViGATE event that took place this May in Columbus, Ohio.
The full gamut of 300 sessions will be streamed virtually during POWERUp 2021, and attendees will have a 30-day window to watch them (down from 60 days at the NAViGATE show this spring). During the show, attendees will be encouraged to engage online via chatrooms, sessions threads, and networking events. Exhibitors will be staffing the virtual expo, and the popular Passport to Prizes program will take place. There will be Birds of a Feather sessions, an opening session on Monday October 4 at 8:30 a.m. ET, and a closing session on Thursday, October 7, at 5 p.m. ET that features the magician Harrison Kramer.
Plus, this will be the first times that IBMers delve into the details of the latest Technology Refresh, which gave us IBM i 7.3 TR11 and IBM i 7.4 TR5 earlier this month. A quick glance at the POWERUp 2021 schedule shows a number of interesting sessions by IBMers like Barbara Morris, Steve Will, Scott Forstie, Tim Rowe, and others. All told, over 100 speakers are slated to present at the show, including many familiar names, and some new ones, too.
While POWERUp attendees won’t be able to enjoy the company of each other in the fresh Atlantic air, there is a consolation prize: You still get to receive some of the best IBM i education the world has to offer, as well as the ability to congregate and console each other online, as we have for the past 18 months.
According to Leary, those who registered for the in-person conference have a number of choices for handling their registration, “including switching to virtual attendance, refund, and transferring to POWERUp 2022 in New Orleans.”
There’s always next year.