APA WA Fall 2021 Conference a Success!

Conference Logo: Two crossed compass arrows with a green outline of Washington and Oregon states, a green silhouette of a pine tree, and APA in green text. Bordered by a blue ring with the text "Growing Together Virtually 2.0"

Chad Eiken, AICP | Conference Co-Chair

This year’s Washington APA planning conference was held jointly with the Oregon APA Chapter from October 13-15 and was once again entirely online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The conference was titled “Growing Together – Virtually 2.0.” While the committee had held out some hope that the conference could be held in person in Vancouver, by summer it was evident that due to COVID-19 restrictions and a surge in cases, an in-person conference would not be possible. Instead, the committee decided to build on the success of the 2020 conference which was entirely remote.

As in 2021, the conference committee worked to create an online conference experience that felt like a conference and not just a series of webinars. Through the use of Zoom Meetings software and Whova (event & conference app), the conference sessions were easy to find, materials could be accessed, and discussion rooms could be created. Another benefit of the online format is that the sessions are available to be viewed by people who registered for a full year, which allows them to check out sessions they didn’t get to see “live” as well to increase their AICP credits. This year the committee was able to add 8 more sessions than in 2020, which resulted in a total of 33 sessions.

This year, the committee selected three keynote speakers who each brought a unique perspective from ‘just outside’ the planning profession. Cupid Alexander, Assistant Director of Housing for Austin, Texas, opened the conference with personal stories of growing up in a black community in North Portland where access and opportunity seemed elusive, and he connected his lived experience to the field of planning with a call for planners to understand the impacts of plans and to be more aware of whom they are planning for. Joe Salvo, Ph.D., retired Chief Demographer for New York City, provided an engaging and humorous talk about the importance of understanding the population characteristics of the community you are planning for and how it is changing. Lastly, Ellen Dunham Jones, Professor of Urban Design at Georgia Tech University, led a talk on the last day of the conference about how innovative plans are retrofitting suburbia in more equitable and sustainable ways, with many examples from across the country. According to the post-conference survey, the keynote speakers were among the most popular sessions people attended.

A total of 482 people registered for the conference, which again exceeded the expectations of the committee. Attendees included 194 people from Oregon, 279 from Washington, and 9 from other states.

The joint conference appears to have been a financial success, based on preliminary figures. The financials, though not yet finalized, show estimated total revenue from the conference after expenses should be about $67,000. As previously agreed by both chapters, the revenue will be evenly split between Oregon and Washington APA Chapters.           

A post-conference survey was sent to all attendees and the response rate was good. Most of the responses were positive in regard to the conference format and content, but there was also ample feedback on areas that can be improved upon, such as navigating the Whova conference app.

The following feedback describes attendees’ overall impressions of the conference:

Attendee Survey Statement Agree/Strongly Agree Disagree/Strongly Disagree
The content of the conference was informative and timely 95% 1%
The keynotes were interesting and worth attending 89% 2%
Overall, the speakers and panelists were informative and well-prepared 97% 1%
The Whova conference app was user-friendly and easy to use 66% 1%
The Zoom interface was user-friendly and easy to use 80% 4%
I prefer the conference being virtual to being in-person 23% 48%


Next year’s Planning Conference is scheduled to be held in October (in person, fingers crossed) with Vancouver as the host city since the 2020 and 2021 conferences were also initially supposed to be held at the Hilton Convention Center in downtown Vancouver but had to be held online. Planning for next year’s conference will begin early next year, so stay tuned for opportunities to get involved.