The Pandemic aside, PaperWeek Canada 2021 is taking an innovative approach and will proudly present its very first virtual edition of this event.
Greg Hay, Executive Director of the Association hosting the event, PAPTAC, took some time to share what the 2021 edition, to be held February 8-11, 2021, will look like…from the comfort of your office!
Paper Advance: The pandemic has shaken up the corporate event world. How did you come to decide to hold a virtual conference?
Grey Hay: In its 107th year, PaperWeek took the opportunity presented by the pandemic to reinvent itself. We ‘took the industry’s pulse’ and quickly confirmed it wouldn’t be possible to organize an in-person event. But, there was a lot of interest in pursuing with the event in a virtual format, so we decided to go for it, and to revolutionize the way we do things.
PA: How did you manage to plan the event in such a way that it still offers participants a place to gather and connect?
G.H.: The most important thing for us was to keep the networking component, which is so important for our participants. This was our starting place; to make sure we offered a real online conference and not just a series of webinars, as we are seeing more and more. To facilitate interaction between participants, we developed a tailor-made platform for PaperWeek, on the Teams application.
PA: What will a typical PaperWeek 2021 day look like?
G.H.: Like every event, there will be three components : presentations, the tradeshow, and networking. The presentation component will include technical sessions, expert panels and roundtables. The platform we developed in collaboration with a partner, will allow speakers to interact with one another, and also for people to ask questions, to truly maximize their experience. For the trade show, we really decided to jump in to the virtual adventure with both feet. Participants will be able to meet suppliers, who will have a kiosk set up in their facility, office or laboratory depending on their location. The participant will be able to click on a supplier’s icon to start a discussion. We recognize this is a new way of doing things, and that we need to prove ourselves and that it can work, but roughly 15 innovative companies have already reserved their kiosks. In terms of networking, PaperWeek registrants will be able to see who is online, and to start a discussion. This will help break the ice, and pave the way for other targeted, one-on-one discussions in the virtual lounges we’ve provided for this purpose. It will be a great way to meet industry professionals, particularly for people just entering the industry.
PA: Do you expect to attract the same number of participants as previous years?
G.H.: Industry has responded very positively. I’ve been really impressed, because I didn’t know what to expect, and I believe mill participation will be more important this year than any other. On the one hand, the conference will be more accessible; it will cost less to register than to pay for a trip to Montreal (registration costs $375), and participants will be able to take an ‘a-la-carte’ approach to the sessions, perhaps taking a few hours out of their day to learn, instead of taking four entire days away from their work.
PA: In terms of content, what can we expect from PaperWeek 2021?
G.H.: For the 5th year, the BIOFOR component, which focuses on the bioeconomy, will be an integral part of the program. The Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, Pierre Dufour, will open the session. The opening panel of PaperWeek Canada is not to be missed; it will focus on the impacts of COVID-19 on forest management and the sector’s recovery strategy, and will be moderated by Véronique Proulx CEO of Manufacturers and Exporters Quebec, and include Kevin Anderson, Vice President of Canfor, Eric Ashby, Vice President of Domtar, and Jean- François Tremblay, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada. And, as always, there will be technical sessions featuring papermaking, tissue, best management practices, energy efficiency, and more.
PAPTAC is a Canadian-based non-profit organization, dedicated to improving the technical and professional capabilities of its members worldwide, and to the advancement of the pulp and paper industry.
PAPTAC carries out its mission by providing forums in which members may identify present and future technical issues of importance to the industry. These matters are dealt with through the Association’s technical communities, conferences, courses, webinars, technical publications and, as appropriate, in collaboration with other organizations. www.paptac.ca