What will they think of next?

Up until a month ago, that was an innocent question. Not so now. Ask that same query today and chances are it will send a chill down the spine of every person questioned.

Admit it. When “they” was mentioned, did you not immediately think of terrorists? It’s OK to jump to that conclusion. September 11 changed our way of thinking and our lives.


International Service Leadership, Inc. (ISL), is taking a different approach to this unsettling future. The large training and consulting association — which calls itself “for contractors, by contractors” — plans to put on what it is calling the industry’s first-ever online (or “virtual”) convention for its members in mid-November.

“ISL has been gearing up to offer online training and virtual workshops and conventions,” said Glenn Whelan, ISL media director and trainer. “The events of September 11 encouraged us to move more quickly with our first online convention. With people less eager to travel, the virtual event seemed like a perfect solution.”


If you are thinking this is high tech stuff…well, it is. But, as ISL marketing manager Melissa Cofer assured, “It is being presented in such a way that if you can move and click a computer mouse, you can enjoy the informative, fun, and creative environment.”

Picture this: A general manager of a contracting firm sits down at the computer and, with the mouse, clicks on an e-mail link. That link (and hundreds of others throughout the United States and Canada) connects to the conference home page.

“From here,” explains Whelan, “they can immediately access the event schedules at a click of a button. With each event description on the screen will be a short description of what will be covered, who will be the topic speaker, what times the topic will be discussed, and any other pertinent information.”

Whelan said ISL will honor traditional live conferences, but with an unconventional approach. On-screen links are to be labeled “General Sessions, “ISL Updates,” “Breakout Sessions,” and “Net-working.” There’s even supposed to be a “Keynote Speech” button.

“Using cyberspace allows ISL to have thousands of people attend the event,” he said. “After all, their participation will directly affect their company and personal success.”

According to ISL, the content will be accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all online. ISL president Bill Efird is naturally pleased all systems are “go.”

“This e-conference, brought directly to our members, will offer them a terrific opportunity to involve all of their coworkers in a life-changing event, without the expenses and inconvenience of travel and missing work. Our ISL members should use this as a tool to enlighten their entire staff on the professionalism of the hvac industry, and specifically the member firm.”


For those who are from the old school (and you know who you are), ISL said it will offer two more familiar formats to complement its cyber conference. First, ISL performance coaches plan to conduct several teleconferences to guide members through the site, offer expert advice, and conduct Q&A. And for those who prefer good ol’ print materials, ISL will send its unique “Convention in a Crate,” which contains print versions of the information.

Concerning the travel-less conference next month, Efird noted that this venue “will never be a substitute for the live ISL conference, with all of its networking, motivation, and implementation help. But, it certainly is a good tool to aid the ISL member in inspiring, motivating, and uplifting his entire team at one time. We are excited to be offering this as one more cutting-edge ISL program.”

What will they think of next?

Ahh, wait a minute. Let’s rephrase that question…

To sample the virtual conference, interested companies should contact Janie Waters at ISL’s Brentwood, TN office (800-585-4452) or e-mail a request for information from the association’s website, www.islinc.net. Skaer is editor-in-chief. He can be reached at 248-244-6446, 248-362-0317 (fax); skaerm@bnp.com (e-mail).

Publication date: 10/15/2001