Shift to virtual meetings and conferences has its benefits for SME members

October 8, 2020

In September, SME communicated to its membership that the MINEXCHANGE 2021 SME Annual Conference & Expo and CMA 123rd National Western Mining Conference would be held as a virtual conference due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic.

During SME’s Midyear Meetings Sept. 21-25, more than 230 members and participants got a taste of what a virtual meeting might look like as SME Division, Strategic Committee and the SME Board Meeting were all held virtually. The ubiquitous 2020 phrase, “you’re on mute” was uttered more than a few times and the sound of dogs barking or landline phones ringing in the background interrupted a few meetings, but overall the pivot to a virtual meeting not only kept SME volunteers and staff safely distanced, it also allowed for business to carry on during difficult times.

"The 2020 virtual Midyear Meeting was certainly different than an in-person meeting, but it did still have some distinct advantages for the young professionals of SME,” said Drew Mason, a member of SME’s Young Leaders committee. “Many employers struggle with funding their young employees' attendance at the MINEXCHANGE and are even less likely to send them to the Midyear Meeting despite it being a great opportunity to get involved and influence the society. Having the meeting virtual allowed more members of the Young Leaders Committee and other young members of SME to participate in the Midyear Division Meetings. Despite the loss of the social events, the networking potential through active participation was still available within the virtual setting. It's not a perfect replacement, but in these strange times we all have to make the best of what we have."

Similarly, Leslie Watson, chair of SME’s Environmental Division found the virtual Midyear Meeting took a little getting used to but had positive remarks. “Attending the Environmental Division’s Midyear Meeting meant getting a little more comfortable being on video and, just as with an in-person meeting, the value of being engaged with colleagues,” said Watson.

Watson noted the virtual setting was cost-effective for her, commenting, “Not having to travel are advantageous, making it easier for people to attend the 2020 Midyear Meeting. What I missed was grabbing a cup of coffee, conversations on remodeling and books to read.”

On Oct. 20-21, SME will conduct its second conference in a virtual format when THRIVE begins. The two-day conference will focus on topics such as moving beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, financing for exploration and other operations and lessons learned in sustainability and mine closure.

Registration for that meeting is now open at