The city of Montgomery, AL has historically hosted the Air Force Technology & Cyberpower conference (AFITC) – with as many as 6,000 people attending and adding to the city’s income. City administrators estimate that the event’s annual economic impact is more than the total expected pandemic-related shortfall in the city’s 2020 budget. This year, however, the conference will be virtual, but the city is still finding ways to benefit from the event.

Looking to the future, the conference will include presentations from representatives of Montgomery’s private tech and startup businesses, a local innovation hub, and local venues of interest. The mayor, the County Commission Chairman, and the president of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce President will also speak.

“We have four days to affect strategic messaging to 40,000 people,” said retired Brig. Gen. Trent Edwards, who leads military and community development efforts for the Chamber. “We can still host the conference.”

Conference organizers say that the virtual environment has required new security concerns so that the Air Force’s senior leaders could hold conversations securely. Sessions will be available on demand, and the days of the event are shorter and stretched out over a longer period of time to avoid “zoom fatigue.”

It is expected that future versions of AFITC may incorporate some of the changes that were put in place for this year’s virtual conference –  including the shorter days and a heavier emphasis on sessions that are live-streamed or available on demand – opening the conference to more types of businesses.

“That’s where the smart money is,” Edwards said. “Everybody gets a front row seat.”