IIAR Annual Conference Continues with Virtual Platform

The International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration 2021 annual Natural Refrigeration Conference & Expo will continue with its virtual format, providing four days of technical knowledge, networking, and industry sponsored events for those involved in the natural refrigeration industry. The event first went virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year, with the cancellation of the in-person conference occurring with much more advanced notice, we were more prepared to try to deliver a conference that can feel as much like the traditional in-person conference, which will include the social networking events, the business meeting, and a keynote speaker along with the technical content,” said Trevor Hegg, vice president, product development, industrial refrigeration and water systems, EVAPCO Inc., and chair of IIAR’s Conference Committee.

IIAR had hoped to have its conference in person in California, but the pandemic continued to dictate events. “It wasn’t really a choice. California has been in a constant state of lockdown for quite some time. In early 2021 it became apparent that we would not be able to produce an event there in June,” said Eileen McKeown, vice president for marketing and sales for IIAR.

Gary Schrift, president of IIAR, said the association is still able to offer members quality technical papers and workshops. What’s more, there are several benefits to going virtual, including the ability to attract end-users who aren’t able to attend an in-person event. “I know many are anxiously waiting for the day we can meet in person again but one of the bright spots of the virtual conference is being able to deliver this content to more people that wouldn’t normally attend,” Hegg said. “Not having travel expenses associated with each attendee opens the door to a lot more members to hear and absorb the valuable content provided.”

McKeown agreed. “We will probably be able to attract new attendees who would never be able to come to our show to view our content,” she said. The conference will be offering multiple concurrent sessions. “All of the presentations will be available on-demand after an initial live presentation. If attendees miss a session, they won’t be able to interact with the speaker in real-time, but they can still ask questions in a chat session and the presenter can answer questions throughout the event,” McKeown said.

Several technical papers will be presented during the conference, and five will be done in Spanish. Attendees can receive educational credits for taking part in sessions, even if they review recordings later. “Our programs will be presented live once, they will be recorded and be made available on-demand in a way that people can communicate with presenters, which makes them available for continuing education units,” McKeown said.

Technical paper topics include Sustainable Use Cases for Ammonia as a Refrigerant in Residential/Light-Commercial HVAC, Considerations in Designing Industrial Refrigeration Systems for Full Vacuum, and more.

The three workshops are: From Dry to Hybrid: A 360 Degree View of Cooling Technologies, Defrosting Finned Air Cooling Heat Exchangers – An Optimization Based on Practical Experiences and Theoretical Research and Determining Leak Rates in Ammonia Refrigeration Piping. There will also be two panels, including an IIAR Research Panel and a Code and Regulatory Panel.

This year’s keynote speaker, Kevin Brown, will deliver a message about being a hero in less-than-ideal circumstances. “He will talk a little bit about what everybody went through during the pandemic and the past year,” McKeown said. Hegg said he is particularly excited to hear from Brown. “Having heard pieces of Kevin’s message and talking with him, he seemed an ideal speaker after what our country has gone through over the last year and couple months,” he said. “He is uplifting and inspiring, which will hopefully turn our thoughts and attention to the future, not the past.”

This year, IIAR has facilitated more interactivity with exhibitors, and they will be able to interface with attendees. “We will have Zoom meetings on-demand during exhibit hall hours, and we are going to use some gamification to get people to go to the booths,” McKeown said. IIAR is also offering lead retrieval and a full-service back-end experience for exhibitors. “They can upload content and videos and be available in the booth for an instant chat or an on-demand Zoom call with attendees. It is more interactive this year,” McKeown said.

When it comes to virtual events, McKeown said communication is critical. “You can never have too much communication in the virtual setting,” she said. Networking can be one of the most valuable aspects of an annual conference, and IIAR has created several virtual networking opportunities, including coffee breaks. “We’re giving away little coffee QR codes for Starbucks for people that come to those events, and we’re going to tie those to industry conversations,” McKeown said.

Hegg said this is an industry that is built on relationships. “A lot of members have special relationships with other members, especially over the course of 50 years,” he said, adding that he hopes attendees will take advantage of all of the interactive opportunities IIAR is offering. “The success of our in-person conferences is because people get engaged. There is no reason why a virtual conference can’t be just as successful, but everyone has to be engaged,” he said.

This year’s conference is also an opportunity to celebrate IIAR’s 50th year. “I don’t want to do the 50th year of IIAR any injustice. It’s impressive what this organization has done to support, grow and promote the safe and sustainable use of natural refrigerants,” Hegg said. “The staff is so dedicated and great to work with and the voluntary contribution of our membership is amazing.”

IIAR and the committee have focused on making this year’s conference like any other, Hegg said. “We’re hopefully going to get that feeling of an in-person conference,” he said. “We have to plan the conference differently and people have to plan to attend differently right now, but you can still make it worthwhile.” Register for the conference online at http://www.iiar.org.