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I’ve never attended a virtual conference: I’m not sure how it works!

In 2020, in person events have been cancelled worldwide. Travelling to be together for business and learning has been put aside. But never mind: we still have ways to meet from our computers and devices.

But, how, exactly? Do you need a special computer, or special skills? Can people see me? What about my privacy? Do I need to brush my hair?

Here at F.E.A.S.T. we are learning, too. Our 2020 FEAST of Knowledge conference is a grand experiment and adventure in which we are building the ship while sailing it!

We thought it would be a good time to share some fun facts about our event, and reassure you that yes, it is for you.

Do I need a special computer, or special skills?

Our virtual event can be viewed online from any device. You may have heard of “Zoom,” which is an online meeting platform? Well, we are using Zoom but in a “webinar” format. If you have used Zoom before it will seem familiar, but not exactly like your cousin’s baby shower, or your weekly office meetings online.

A few days before the event watch for an email from “Eventbrite” that will give you a link to use on your browser to watch the conference. You’ll be watching on Zoom from that link.

Can people see me?

No. You will see and hear the presenters and MC, but you will not be visible or audible. There will be two times during the day we will open things up so you can be onscreen and interact, but that will be entirely up to you. You can ask questions and interact anonymously all day if you wish. Hair brushing optional!

What if I arrive after it starts, or have to come and go? I may not be available that day or at those times.

You can come and go as you like and arrive when you like. Your ticket to 2020 FEAST of Knowledge means you can stop in and watch in real time or watch the entire day “on-demand” for a full month afterward.

You say that the date for the conference is June 13 and 14 but it is only a one-day event: what’s up with that?

Due to differences in time zones, an all-day event in Sydney on June 14 will start on June 13 for many other time zones. Confused? Here’s a great converter to translate the 7am starting time in Sydney to your own time zone. That’s the only time you really need to know.

I want to attend, but this is not a good time to spend money

The F.E.A.S.T. community has always been a generous one. Many of those buying tickets for the event are adding some money as a donation to allow for free tickets for those who need them. Please email our scholarship fund volunteer to ask for a ticket: first come first served, and no explanation required! If we have money left in the fund, tickets will continue to be given out. If you can donate, please do: any amount helps!

I’m not a parent or caregiver. Am I welcome?

Very, very welcome. Our events attract all sorts of people who are interested in eating disorders, including leading experts and policy-makers. While we ask our presenters to focus on information for carers we feel families and clinicians and the public need cutting edge information.

I don’t know a lot about eating disorders. Will this conference be too technical for me?

Here at F.E.A.S.T. we believe eating disorders are complex and require the special skills and training of a range of professions. We believe when it comes to eating disorders, family members are also team members during treatment, and we are colleagues alongside the doctors, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, dieticians, and others. While our presenters are asked to avoid too much jargon, we believe parents want and need information that is accessible without being dumbed down.

Will the presenters tell me what to do about my family’s situation?

This conference is an opportunity to learn and to find new information. It may answer some questions relevant to your current situation, but it is not a treatment consultation. Learning broadly about the concepts, vocabulary, science and treatment is the start of personal research, but not a replacement for professional consultation and treatment.

Is this about anorexia only?

Our community includes families who are supporting those with the full spectrum of eating disorders. Our conferences do not focus on one disorder or exclude discussion of any eating disorders. We think families benefit from knowing about all disorders and bringing awareness back to their families and communities.

There is a misconception that “re-feeding” and “food is medicine” are solely for those with anorexia, but all eating disorder involve restriction and all eating disorder recovery involves normalizing eating.

Is this an Australian conference?

You will hear a lot of accents, and quite a few Australian accents during our day together. We hold our FEAST of Knowledge events wherever the Academy for Eating Disorders holds its annual conference, which is in a different part of the world every year. This year, their conference was scheduled to be in Sydney, Australia, and so was ours. We had taken advantage of being in Australia by including many presenters from Australia and that region, and many are on the program.

We are also holding the event in Sydney time. To make sure that the communities all over the world could participate at a decent hour, we scheduled two four-hour segments to correspond with times when most of the time zones around the world could participate at least one hour they were likely to be awake.

Is this an American organization?

No. We are a truly global community. We don’t have an office or a location. Our mailing address is a convenience because it is in the same town as our Executive Director. We are always looking for more volunteers and community members who can help us grow and reach and support more families in need.

Will there be upsetting or triggering information or numbers?

Eating disorders can be very harmful, and deadly. The symptoms are challenging, and recovery is hard. It would be impossible to discuss this topic without upsetting content and bringing up challenging emotions. We are of course always aware of and sensitive to how these topics and the information can be personally upsetting. We also believe that it is necessary not to duck from our responsibility of being straightforward and honest. We respect the courage of those who seek information and to be part of these events and to face uncomfortable feelings.

Because this event is virtual we are unable to see and respond to the distress level of each participant. We are obliged to ask that each ticket purchaser take personal responsibility for gauging their comfort level with the subject matter. There is no requirement to view the whole conference, or to do so in real time. We also ask that those watching the event with you be similarly prepared.

Should I watch this with my children? Will this event help my person with an eating disorder get better?

This event is not designed for children or for those currently struggling with an eating disorder. Unlike other healthcare topics, and even in contrast with other mental health topics, discussing eating disorders is not without risk. It is up to the adults in the family to decide what content is appropriate for their family members. That said, many families have a desire to bring about insight and motivation to their affected person. With experience, most families find that this unrealistic until later stages of recovery.

I have questions, but I’m too shy to ask them. Can someone else do it for me?

Great question! We have set up a form to anonymously ask questions of our presenters. Click here to ask your question.

I don’t really understand… who can I talk with?

We have two moderated online support groups for parents:https://www.feast-ed.org/around-the-dinner-table-forum is free to read without logging in and easy to join anonymously. We also have a very active group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ATDTCarerSupportGroup.

You can also reach us at the conference email: [email protected]

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