The world has changed because of an invisible virus, and the Society of Plastics Engineers has been forced to change too, by making a quick pivot to "Antec 2020: The Virtual Edition," set to begin March 30.
The event will have a large numbers of technical papers — an Antec hallmark — and big-name keynote speakers, all remotely presented, which will be a major challenge for the Danbury, Conn.-based SPE.
"It's a big undertaking, but one that is consistent with SPE's mission and Antec's purpose," SPE CEO Patrick Farrey said. "Even though we lost the in-person part of our meeting this year, we were able to quickly shift and still deliver the amazing content component for which Antec is known."
The traditional 2020 Antec was to happen in San Antonio March 29 through April 1. But SPE officials canceled the conference a little more than two weeks before the event was scheduled to happen. The society is charging SPE members $195 for Antec: The Virtual Edition. Non-members pay $395. There is no charge for students and SPE emeritus members. An all-access 10-pack is available for $1,000.
Farrey said two-thirds of the registered San Antonio Antec attendees have signed up for the virtual version.
The online Antec will kick off with a welcome speech from SPE President Brian Landes, who will give a live, remote presentation from his home in Michigan. Landes is technology leader at Dow Chemical Co.
Landes will be followed by keynoters Dow CEO Jim Fitterling and Tom Salmon, CEO of Berry Global Group Inc. They will address the virtual Antec audience individually, then answer questions from moderator Don Loepp, editor of Plastics News. The CEOs are founding members of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.
Because of heavy interest in that session, it will also be available for free on SPE's YouTube channel.
Farrey said all keynote speeches will be done live, including Fitterling, Salmon and the nine other keynote sessions that were scheduled for the original Antec in San Antonio.
The virtual Antec will include more than 160 technical presentations.
"All speakers will present 'live,' remote from wherever they happen to be," Farrey said.
During the live presentations, attendees can post questions on the meeting platform chat. The moderator will pose the questions to the presenter, time permitting.
The Antec content will be recorded so members can watch later. People can contact the presenter directly, SPE said.
Antec 2020: The Virtual Edition kicks off on March 30 at 10 a.m. Eastern time and will run until May 5, with presentations set for each Monday-Wednesday.
Here is the weekly schedule: Monday mornings have two keynote presentations each week. Monday afternoons will feature technical breakout sessions. Tuesdays and Wednesdays will have technical breakout sessions in the morning and the afternoon. Each technical session will include six presentations.
"Because the technical sessions are not running concurrently, it will take us about six weeks of this schedule to deliver the amount of great content we have available," Farrey said.
Mark Spalding, 2020 Antec program chair, has been instrumental in SPE's quick move to a completely virtual event, Farrey said.
"Mark has had the support of the SPE Technical Program chairs, a list of folks too long to mention," he added.
Spalding is a fellow in Dow's packaging and specialty plastics and hydrocarbons group.
In an attempt to replace networking sessions and informal chats that are another highlight of traditional Antecs, "Antec 2020: The Virtual Edition will include some 'fun stuff,'" Farrey said. "Between sessions, and during the scheduled lunch break, look for some non-technical content for us to enjoy."
For information, www.4spe.org.