Tuesday, 28 November 2023

Onward and on track to break records, Heartbeat conference gears up

The 2022 Heartbeat International Annual Pregnancy Help Conference is poised to surpass previous years in terms of in-person registrants, hours of learning available to attendees, exhibitor engagement and more.

Heartbeat’s Conference is recognized in the pregnancy help community as a premier event, benefitting ministry leaders, staff, board members, and volunteers of life-affirming pregnancy help centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and non-profit adoption agencies, along with professionals in medicine, counseling, social work, and education.

Registrations have steadily increased over the last several years - even with coronavirus changes and restrictions factored in - and with just over a week to go before the 2022 Conference, in-person registrant numbers were tracking to top the highest previous in-person number, something Heartbeat staff are calling a “blessing from the Lord.”

“It’s not only going to be a record for attendance,” said Heartbeat International President Jor-El Godsey, “it’s going to be a very special event, as all of them are.”

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In 2020 the Conference was in a strictly virtual format resulting from a shift driven by coronavirus restrictions. In 2021 the Conference met in person again but in a hybrid in-person and virtual format. Both 2020 and 2021 saw robust attendance even with the swift conversion to strictly virtual of the former and virus restrictions persisting for the latter.

The largest international pregnancy help conference is being conducted this year both in-person and online, with the virtual Conference taking place concurrently with the in-person event. The Annual Conference is taking place in Jacksonville, Fla. Mar. 30-Apr. 1.

The impending swell in registrants indicates that Heartbeat affiliates are ready to return to a sense of normalcy, said Heartbeat’s Event Specialist Molly Hoepfner.

“And ready to return to an in-person Conference,” she said. “I think the world is ready.”

The bringing about of a virtual conference option is actually a positive stemming from the coronavirus, Hoepfner said, since even normally not everyone can travel to the Conference.

“Really, a virtual conference has its place,” said Hoepfner. “And now we can serve more people.”

The 2022 theme of Onward denotes Heartbeat International’s forward motion after its first 50 years, observed in 2021. 

“We’ve talked about where we’ve been for 50 years, now we’re embracing the next 50 years,” said Godsey.

This pivotal time includes the specter of a post-Roe world with the forthcoming Dobbs decision in June potentially up-ending Roe v. Wade

Pregnancy help will continue no matter what happens with Dobbs, but Godsey said pregnancy help organizations are ready to serve in a new season.

Tweet This: Heartbeat International's 2022 Annual Pregnancy Help Conference is on track to surpass previous years #s of in-person registrants and more.

The diverse roster of enlivening keynotes reflects this Onward theme, said Heartbeat International Vice President of Ministry Services Betty McDowell.

“There’s such a good representation of what I think of when I think of “better together,” she said.

In addition to unique, professional keynote sessions, Heartbeat’s Conference offers distinctive, full-day In-Depth training sessions, workshop presentations from ministry experts and more.

With 14 pre-Conference In-Depth Day options, more than 150 in-person workshops and more than 50 virtual workshops more learning hours are available than ever before.

Medical professionals can earn continuing education through many of the Conference workshops and In-Depth Day sessions.

Continuing Medical Education (CMEs) for physicians are available through two workshops, Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for nurses are available through two In-Depth Day Sessions and 20 workshops, and CMEs for Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographers are available through 11 workshops.

“This is the first year we are offering CMEs to physicians,” said Christa Brown, director of Medical Impact for Heartbeat International. “Each year we've had an increase in physicians attending our conferences and we want to be able to offer this benefit to them.”

Some physicians who attend Heartbeat’s Conference are medical directors of centers, Brown said, some part of the APR Network, and some are both.

“We are excited to provide CMEs for courses taught by Dr. Brent Boles, APRN medical director, and Dr. George Delgado, of the Steno Institute and APRN Advisory Team,” she said.

Brown remarked on the importance of medical services in pregnancy help and offering the professionals who provide them the quality education needed to best serve women and families.

“Pregnancy help clinics (PHCs) offer unique medical services to the communities we serve,” said Brown, “and it's important the medical professionals working there have access to continuing education that is relevant to their everyday work.” 

“Every year we strive to do this at our annual conference in our In-Depth Days and workshops and year-round in our Academy with a variety of medical trainings focused on medical care in the PHC,” she said.

Another unique aspect of this is that Heartbeat covers the continuing education certification fee for medical professionals.

Response to the Conference, set in Florida without all of the limitations for gatherings of the last two years, has been vigorous and is “exciting.”

In addition to overflow of registrants beyond the original Conference hotel, the need arose to relocate some exhibitors as continued registrations necessitated full use of the ballroom space where keynote addresses will take place and those exhibitors would be located.

The new arrangement looks to be an even better use of space, McDowell said, with the Conference on two levels and exhibitors available on both.

“We’re really quite excited for the flow and energy,” she said. “I’m expecting when we get there, this will be better than we envisioned.”

Jessica Warner, Heartbeat’s product marketing specialist, has been managing the exhibitors, and remarked how there will be more exhibitor staff representation than with past Conferences, and also that she’s had an exhibitor  waiting list.

“There’s been really high demand for these spaces,” she said.

New at this year’s Conference will be Writers Row, where published authors attending the Conference will have the opportunity to exhibit one of their works written for the pregnancy help community in mind.

The latest Heartbeat International Life Trends Report will debut at the Conference, as will updated branding for Option Line and the Maternity Housing Coalition. The maternity housing group will meet for a networking reception, and Life Launch Grant recipients are set to meet as well to celebrate successes.

Heartbeat International recently set a record of 82 countries with affiliates. This will be celebrated at the Conference with the beloved Parade of Nations honoring international affiliates.

"The worldwide pregnancy help movement is growing and we are actively working to reach the representative pregnancy help organizations in the nations of the world to offer resources, development and leadership training that can grow the footprint of that center in each country," said Ellen Foell, international specialist for Heartbeat. "This is consistent with our mission: to Reach and Rescue as many lives as possible, around the world, through an effective network of life-affirming pregnancy help, to Renew communities for LIFE."

Representatives from affiliates in 10 countries will be attending conference in person: Ghana, Zambia, Mexico, Macedonia, Zimbabwe, Italy, Jamaica, Barbados, South Africa, and Puerto Rico.

"The Heartbeat International family is growing and we are delighted," Foell said. "We also are especially grateful to our joint affiliation partners who do an incredible job of reaching the nations around them. We are also really blessed to see the individual affiliates who may be the only pregnancy help work in their nation, standing for life and the Giver of Life."

Coming together restriction-free in Florida will be providential, said Hoepfner, as the Jacksonville location was prayed over and decided upon years ago, before the coronavirus.

“God put us in Florida,” she said. “The Lord is just always so good.”

Where last year a majority of Conference hotel registrations were for single King beds, this year it’s back to the majority being two-bed rooms, another sign that people are ready to return, Hoepfner said.

“Heartbeat (the Conference) is for hugs and kisses and networking,” she said. “They are ready to get back together with others around the country and the world.”

For more information on the Annual Pregnancy Help Conference, including virtual registration through Mar. 24, click HERE.

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News. This article has been updated with more information.

Lisa Bourne

Lisa Bourne is Managing Editor of Pregnancy Help News and Content Writer for Heartbeat International. She has worked in journalism and communication for the pro-life community, the Catholic Church, other Christian denominations, and secular media for several years. 

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