Touchstone Energy® Cooperative’s signature business-to-business event returns this year as an in-person event.

The NEXT Conference will take place Jan 31-Feb. 2 in Indian Wells, California, just outside Palm Springs. Online registration closes Jan. 26.

Now in its 22nd year, the event is a national forum connecting electric cooperative employees and national business members. Program content will focus on cutting-edge technologies and national perspectives on important industry issues, and it will demonstrate how businesses and co-ops are embracing the future.

“The NEXT Conference is such an important opportunity for key accounts and co-op executives to meet, learn and connect, and I am thrilled we are able to host the event in person and excited for the opportunity to attend myself for the first time,” said Jana Adams, executive director of Touchstone Energy.

To attend, all participants must comply with NRECA’s health and safety COVID-19 protocols, which follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the conference will focus heavily on technological advancements for key accounts, it will also emphasize human connections as an ingredient for success, said Josh McGhee, Touchstone Energy’s director of member experience and organizational effectiveness.

“A lot of people thought that robotics and artificial intelligence were going to take over the world,” said McGhee. “But then the pandemic happened, and we were all reminded that the world is quite human after all. While technology is driving the future, there’s humanity in technology.”

Pre-Conference Activities

Two workshops and a networking lunch for energy managers will take place Jan. 31. In “Improving Member Experience With Key Accounts & Building Trusted Relationships,” participants will discuss how important this is during a time of greater competition and heightened member knowledge and expectations.

“The Rural Community of the Future” will look at trends, technologies and initiatives that will drive growth and improve the quality of life.

Speaker Highlights

This year, there will be four keynote speakers. During the first general session on Jan. 31, Nick Webb, a futurist and author, will discuss “The Innovation Mandate” and its importance for businesses of all sizes.

Two speakers are scheduled for Feb. 1. Author and future-of-work consultant Cheryl Cran will discuss opportunities for leaders amid uncertain times in “NextMapping: The Future is Human.” Later that day, key accounts trainer Bryan Singletary will moderate a panel of national energy managers and discuss trends in that area.

On Feb. 2, Derek Avera, a senior consultant at Focus 3, an organizational training program, will explain how businesses can develop leaders, strengthen their culture and empower their employees through intentional decision-making and action.

Breakout Sessions

The nine breakout sessions will address a variety of topics related to building stronger relationships with commercial and industrial members, including power continuity amid disaster recovery; evolving infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles; green mandates and corporations; and managing data amid cybersecurity concerns.

Other topics include battery storage, beneficial electrification, technological transformation, advancements in carbon capture and serving local loads.

Other Highlights

On Feb. 1, Louis Finkel, NRECA’s senior vice president of government relations, will provide an overview of the legislative landscape and economic impacts for electric co-ops in 2022. Also that day, the “Innovation & NEXTworking Showcase” will spotlight sponsors’ cutting-edge energy solutions.

In addition, participants will have the chance to test drive Tesla electric vehicles. And for a fee, participants can choose among three recreational activities on Feb. 2. To register, go to the NEXT conference registration page.