COVID-19: The Year Behind and the Year Ahead


The pandemic brought about much uncertainty and unexpected change, and the challenges ahead may also be quite daunting. These speakers examine the year behind us and chart the way forward, armed with medical knowledge and transformative lifestyle improvements. From examining how we gather and work in isolated settings to sharing the newest and most important information about the virus and vaccines, these speakers help audiences stay productive, healthy, and informed as we move into 2021.

Priya Parker

Priya Parker

Facilitator, strategic advisor, and acclaimed author of The Art of Gathering

Priya Parker’s bold approach to gatherings is redefining the way people connect at work. As the world shifts to physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, the practical questions about gatherings (“Should we postpone or switch to a virtual event?) are quickly transforming into spiritual ones: “Is this needed? Who is it for? And who gets to decide?” In her excellent podcast, Together Apart, her innovative New York Times op-ed, “How to Be Together Apart in the Time of Coronavirus,” and her impactful seminars, Parker examines how we gather now to help teams rediscover their motivations and develop strategies for innovation.

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Dr. Michele Harper

Emergency room physician and author of the New York Times-bestselling The Beauty in Breaking

Dr. Michele Harper has worked as an emergency room physician for more than a decade. As the coronavirus keeps millions confined to their home, she continues to be at the forefront in the fight against the pandemic. As a Black woman in an overwhelmingly white and male profession, Dr. Harper is passionate about the persistent societal issues that impact patients and providers alike. In her memoir, The Beauty in Breaking, and her talks, she weaves personal stories of trauma and resiliency into an ode to service and healing. Dr. Harper also directly confronts the myriad racial inequalities that appear in the medical profession and the importance of dismantling bigotry on a personal and structural level.

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Carl Zimmer

New York Times columnist and award-winning science journalist

In his 2011 book, A Planet of VirusesCarl Zimmer warned that a virus that lived in a bat or some other animals would adapt to humans and sweep across the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is the result of precisely the spillover that Zimmer predicted. At the New York Times, Zimmer reports regularly on the science behind the novel coronavirus, provides regular updates on the myriad vaccines that have been developed and administered in the last few months, and informs on the newer variant of the virus. He has also appeared on many radio programs and podcasts, including The Daily and The Brian Lehrer Show, to provide listeners with realistic, yet hopeful updates about the fight to overcome this pandemic. An award-winning science journalist, his insightful talks build on his expert reporting of COVID vaccine research, as well as what we can learn for future responses to viral outbreaks.


Eve Rodsky

New York Times-bestselling author and creative leadership expert

Eve Rodsky is an expert facilitator and the author of Fair Play, a time- and anxiety-saving system that offers working families a completely new way to solve a universal issue: unequal labor in the home. Now that working from home has become the way of the world, our homes (and the relationships within them) have become our most important organization. Whether you’re living alone, with roommates, or balancing work with homeschooling kids, figuring out how to work and live together 24/7 during a pandemic requires new conversations and systems. Rodsky shares sanity-saving methods to create balance during this unusual time, and to promote communication and structure in any organization or household struggling to adapt to the new normal.

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Lawrence Wright

Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower and staff writer for The New Yorker

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Looming Tower and several other bestselling books. Wright’s first novel, The End of October, is an eerily prescient story of a killer virus that spreads across the globe, providing haunting echoes of the real-life pandemic that hit only a few months before the book’s release. Wright returns to his journalistic roots with The Plague Year (June 2021). Recently excerpted in The New Yorker, the book is a momentous and deeply researched account of COVID-19: its origins, its myriad repercussions, and the ongoing fight to contain it. A phenomenal investigative journalist, Wright delivers fascinating and relevant lectures draw from the meticulous research of his books, exploring faith, history, politics, and contemporary international relations.

Matt McCarthy Profile

Dr. Matt McCarthy is an infectious disease doctor and an expert in superbugs who has been on the front lines of the hospital response to COVID-19. In his fascinating and informative talks, Dr. McCarthy provides the most up-to-date information on new coronavirus variants, new vaccines on the horizon, and what 2021 will look like for all. In recent months he has made numerous media appearances and attended congressional briefings with lawmakers to discuss COVID-19 and share with audiences what we as a society can learn from global outbreaks.

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Holly Whitaker

Bestselling author of Quit Like a Woman and Founder of Tempest, Inc.

Holly Whitaker is the bestselling author of Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed With Alcohol. She is also the founder and CEO of Tempest, Inc., a holistic, evidence-based digital recovery platform that has served thousands of individuals on their path to recovery through various programs, educational courses, trauma-informed counselors, and more. During the pandemic, Whitaker has taken a close look at the concerning effects of drinking at home to cope with turbulent times. Recently praised by Chrissy Teigen, Whitaker’s book and candid talks help audiences reframe the narrative around drinking culture and set forth on a journey to living your best life without the crutch of intoxication.22