Being a “COVID” President

By Lynne Prescott, CCLS, LPI President

After LPI’s February 2020 Quarterly Conference in Merced, I remember the excitement I felt driving home and thinking that the next conference would be hosted by my own association, where I would be installed as LPI’s 47th President, and only the second to come from Sacramento LSA. The stage was being set for a true “Sweet Home Alabama” experience, a tribute to my Southern roots.  The May 2020 Annual Conference Co-Chairs, Crystal Rivera and Corene Rodder, had been teasing and entertaining everyone for nearly two years with their antics and hilarious previews of a fun and memorable conference.

When the lockdowns began less than a month later, I, like the rest of the world, had no idea that a global pandemic was going to affect virtually everyone and everything about life as we knew it.  Suddenly it was not safe to gather in groups and the hotel where our Annual Conference was to be held could not guarantee our ability to hold the conference.  LPI’s Executive Committee determined it was best to delay holding the Annual Conference until a plan that was safe for everyone could be defined.

And so, it was that I was installed as LPI President on August 22, 2020, at a hybrid Annual Conference at the Stockton Hilton.  I took my oath of office wearing a face mask, standing over six feet apart from the rest of the Executive Committee in a ballroom large enough to hold 300 people, but restricted to less than 50.  All others viewed the installation via Zoom.  It was a simple, quick, and efficient installation.  I think I’m on pretty safe ground in saying that no other installation in LSI/LPI history compares to this one.

Many, if not most of you currently serving as your association’s president likely have a similar story – – installed virtually or in a hybrid setting, with pomp and ceremony giving way to practicality and the need to get on with the business of running the association.  The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that while ceremony and tradition are part of who we are, our priorities must shift. 

Being a COVID president means that any ideas you had about what your presidency would look like have gone out the window.  You have learned to put aside most notions about how things are usually done and made adjustments that meet your association’s needs.

Being a COVID president means you have become a virtual meeting expert (or close to it) almost overnight.  Words like “Zoom,” “share screen,” “mute,” “virtual background,” “raise hand,” “breakout room,” “polls,” and “chat pane” are now a normal part of your vocabulary. 

Being a COVID president means you are likely working from home and your work/life/association balance is more complicated than ever. 

Being a COVID president means your events are being held online rather than in-person, and creativity has taken center stage as you try to figure out how to put on the various programs, fundraisers, and social activities that normally make up your yearly calendar. 

Being a COVID president means that your voting and elections procedures have required amendments to bylaws and standing rules to conform to the conditions of virtual meetings. 

Being a COVID president means that connection with members has become more challenging but has also become more important than ever.

Being a COVID president means being brave and finding your voice, even when it shakes.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the silver linings and unexpected blessings of being a COVID president.  Because of the wonders of technology, I have been able to attend meetings, programs, and social events put on by associations from all over the state.  Any other time, I would never be able to travel to all of these events and visit with all these associations.  As a COVID president, I have had the privilege of connecting with more associations than I could have hoped. 

Virtual meeting platforms have also made it possible for more local associations to send their governors to LPI conferences due to the elimination of costs associated with travel, hotels, etc.  Additionally, the hybrid and virtual conferences have resulted in greater attendance by members who typically are not able to participate due to having to take time off from work for travel to conferences.

Recognizing the reduction in educational opportunities that would occur as a result of not being able to hold in-person conferences and workshops, the educational teams of LPI never missed a beat.  They have embraced online technology more than ever and presented an unprecedented number of classes and webinars over the past 12 months. 

The most important thing for me as a COVID president has been (and remains) the preservation of LPI and our associations, as well as meeting the needs of our members.  This has been the driving force and focus of my presidency, over and above anything else.  I am determined to not let the pandemic immobilize me or LPI.  I could not, in good conscience, look any of you in the eye (either virtually or physically) and disregard my oath or the faith and trust you have placed in me.  

Being a COVID president was not what I envisioned as I drove home from that conference last February, but I am immensely grateful for the lessons, the opportunities, and the honor of serving at such a critical time in our history. 

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