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Virtual SuperPile’20 Conference – a New Challenge for DFI that Resulted in Positive Results


July 2020

by Bill Bonekemper

On June 18 & 19, the Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) hosted a virtual version of the SuperPile’20 Conference due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The virtual conference consisted of three hours of presentations each day that included question and answer interaction, lively panel discussions which utilized online polling, and a one hour online happy hour each day.  Also, DFI’s Women in Deep Foundations Committee produced a video titled “What is the geotechnical field?”, which was launched during the virtual SuperPile’20 event - click here to view the video

According to DFI Executive Director, Theresa Engler, there were (249) registered attendees, which was right on target with the (250) that the DFI team projected.  At the peak each day, approximately (170) registrants were online simultaneously as interest in certain topics dictated the volumes.  The happy hour segment saw a drop in the number to (35-40) as the timing was such that people were still on the company clock for this segment.  Engler commented that the happy hour was a lot of fun, as the registrants were organized into groups and Zoom was used effectively to play “bar trivia”. The comments from all were positive as people enjoyed the interacting and networking opportunity.

As of this article, about a third of the registrants have submitted feedback about the event, and the clear majority of comments are positive.  Engineers in particular were pleased with the technical topics presented, as they appreciated the ability to focus on the presentations without distractions as can happen when attending live.

The team at DFI had commitments from 50 exhibitors and 15-16 sponsors for the original live conference and nearly all renewed their support by either participating in the virtual format or staying registered for the St. Louis conference now scheduled for June 15-17, 2022.  According to Engler, the sponsors had to do some scrambling to come up with commercial-type presentations using videos and PowerPoint to deliver information to the viewers.  Between each speaker’s presentation, DFI used a “now a word from our sponsors” message to introduce the companies.  A review of the sponsors’ opinions about the virtual event revealed a positive feeling about it.  As would be expected, all sponsors commented that nothing can compare with the face time they get with having a booth for live interactions with customers and new prospects.

As with most everything else in this time of enormous uncertainty, the team at DFI is looking at the many conferences and seminars that are currently planned to try and figure out whether or not using the virtual solution will work for all parties involved. Certainly at the top of the list for consideration is the 45th Annual Conference on Deep Foundations, which is currently scheduled to take place in National Harbor, Maryland on October 13-16.