Pamela Boisvert is the secretary of synod for the diocese. The Anglican caught up with her to find out about the challenges of and successes that came with organizing the diocese’s first ever virtual Synod.
When did you decide to go ahead with planning a virtual Synod?
Our last Synod was in fall 2019. We were delayed in starting the major planning for Synod 2021 because we were still hoping we could go ahead with an in-person meeting. But as soon as we decided to have a virtual Synod, we had to get planning and get contracts signed. It was a whole different playbook. But our vendors; the professional event coordinator; AV Canada, the production company that provided the online command centre; and Data on the Spot, the company that provided the voting system, had already pivoted to online events, so that was a huge help.
How did you go about beginning to plan a virtual Synod?
We have a pre-Synod in each region. I handle those events, not the professional event coordinator, and the cost is usually quite low, just the venue and refreshments. But because the members also need to vote at those events, we decided to do the pre-Synod meetings using the same online event platform. It did mean the cost was much higher, but it meant we could use those meetings as a test for the online platform, voting system and call centre.
Did you already have an idea of how it would work or how it would look?
The professional planners could picture in their minds exactly what it was going to look like, but I really struggled to picture it. I hadn’t done a lot of virtual events during the pandemic. But I trusted the professionals and when we went to the rehearsals, I was pleasantly surprised. It looked really professional.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
The biggest challenge was that for a meeting of this size, there was no opportunity for our members to network, and that was a big loss. The platform we used just didn’t allow for it, so that’s something we need to look at going forward. We also used a call centre for members to call in for questions and discussion. This worked, but there were elements that could certainly be improved. So that’s also part of the experience that we need to think about for next time.
It sounds like it was enough of a success that you’re planning another virtual Synod next time?
Yes, we’ve already decided to go virtual for the next Regular Session of Synod. We did consider doing a hybrid event, but that involves more cost and risk. I think virtual events are much easier to plan in a sense, as you have much more control over the agenda. A lot of things were pre-recorded so you know how much time each segment will take.