ULI Global CEO W. Edward Walter

This time of the year is always a particularly busy one on the ULI calendar, with the highlight being our annual Fall Meeting, which brings over 6,000 of us together each year. It is a reflection of the unprecedented nature of 2020 that this year will be the first in generations that members will not be able to meet in person for this event. However, the Fall Meeting will still proceed in a new virtual format, which promises to provide our members with a world-class experience that we hope will be talked about for many years to come.

As we were designing this year’s Fall Meeting, our objective was not just to replicate an in-person meeting, but also to take advantage of new technology to connect members with content and each other in innovative ways that create a unique and memorable experience. We hope that the new formats and ideas we are introducing will continue to supplement our program of events when in-person meetings return.

We see this year’s Fall Meeting as an opportunity to expand our reach to a much broader base of members. With no need for long-haul travel and the commitment of a whole week away from home, the event is more accessible than ever to members in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. We are hoping for strong participation from these regions to make this year’s event a truly global meeting. We have also priced the event competitively and provided generous subsidies to the public sector to enable as many members as possible across the Americas to attend for the first time. Our innovative Pathways to Inclusion program will also enable more real estate professionals from minority backgrounds to participate.

A primary reason our members attend the Fall Meeting is to refresh their industry contacts and develop their professional networks. We have worked hard to ensure that the meeting maximizes opportunities for member-to-member interaction. Attendees will be able to schedule private roundtables and meetings, chat with contacts and potential partners, and create new connections through the enhanced profile search features in the state-of-the-art online networking platform.

The virtual event also will include the extensive high-quality programming for which the Fall Meeting is renowned. Keynote speakers for the general sessions include Bakari Sellers, a CNN political analyst; Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of the Economist; and Spencer Glendon, a senior fellow at the Woods Hole Research Center. We also will have a presentation and discussion of this year’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate® report, and a panel on the state of the industry moderated by our global chair, Owen Thomas. The meeting content will be further brought to life through extended live Q&A sessions and intimate small-group discussions on the forces shaping our industry.

One of the most popular elements of any Fall Meeting is the tours, with members highly valuing the opportunity to explore real estate projects in the host city and meet the key players behind them. This year, we have created virtual tours, which will enable attendees to see a range of developments in the San Francisco area and globally—­including some previous winners of ULI’s Global Awards for Excellence. Attendees will be able to explore the elements of the project they are interested in and talk with the partners involved in planning and delivering it.

We also are capitalizing on the fact the meeting is a virtual event to host product council meetings, forums, and other committee meetings over an extended period. This will allow our most engaged members the opportunity to participate fully in all the ­sessions and networking activities and make the most of their Fall Meeting experience. The forums will be held the week of October 5, and product councils will meet the week of October 19.

A key advantage to a virtual format will be the flexibility we can offer our members. Attendees will have access on demand to the recordings of all concurrent sessions, virtual tours, and most of the general sessions. This will enable members to view sessions when it is convenient and eliminate the need to choose between two sessions happening at the same time. All the content will remain available after the event, ensuring that attendees can continue to benefit from the information available.

There is no doubt we all are disappointed that we are unable to be together in San Francisco this fall. Our active district council had been carefully planning its parts of the meeting for some years, and although much of that work has been incorporated into the virtual event, we are saddened that we will not be able to experience everything in person. I would like to thank the host committee and all our members in ULI San Francisco for everything they have done to make this meeting a success. We look forward to returning to the city for the Fall Meeting in 2025.

However, we are very excited for the opportunities and possibilities the virtual Fall Meeting presents. We believe we have a unique opportunity to convene and connect more members from a wider geographic area and from more diverse backgrounds than ever before. We hope this will be a springboard for further growth and development of our marquee event in the years to come.

I hope you enjoy the conference!