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Global Business Forum conference in Banff goes ahead with COVID-19 adjustments

The Fairmont Banff Springs in Banff, Alta.
The Fairmont Banff Springs in Banff, Alta. fairmont.com

An organizer of the 21st annual Global Business Forum in Banff on Thursday says she’s proud of the work her committee has done to present a “hybrid” event this year where half of the attendees will be in the room and the rest taking part online.

But vice-chairwoman Lois Mitchell says there’s no intent to ever duplicate the format in future years, noting the reason the annual event was created was to bring influential people from around the world to meet face-to-face with Alberta business leaders among the majestic Rocky Mountains in the historic Banff Springs Hotel.

The invitation-only event is expected to have the same number of attendees as in previous years, about 180, but only 90 are allowed in the conference centre ballroom under hotel restrictions designed to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

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Mitchell, who recently completed a term as Alberta’s lieutenant-governor, says the rest of the guests will be able to watch the speeches and take part in question-and-answer sessions through online live streaming of the event.

Guests attending in person will have to wear masks unless seated and will have their temperatures taken before entering the conference centre. Only three people will sit at each large table to allow social distancing.

Most of the 25 presenters have been unable to travel to Banff from their offices in places like San Francisco, New York, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Mumbai, and will be giving their presentations over the internet.

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“I’m a huge believer in people having to interact with people and it’s hard to do that when you wear masks or you’re online. It’s not the same kind of communication,” said Mitchell.

“Everything is built on seeing people, talking to them, watching their non-verbals, so no, it isn’t something we’ll ever want to do again. We’re doing it because we feel like it’s the right thing to do and we want to show people it can be done.”

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She said it’s been difficult but necessary to turn away many people who have faithfully attended the conference for years, adding those who can come are “excited” to attend an event after months of avoiding human contact.