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Since I can’t be with my people live, my face-to-face interactions have been via Zoom – come as you are (and we do!), messy homes, tousled hair, no make-up, dogs barking, cats meowing, babies crying, and once even a naked man walking past his wife’s screen, not realizing she was “in a meeting”. What strikes me is that I am connecting way more than I would have pre-pandemic. I see my family once a week for coffee now. My grammar school lifelong friends and I meet for drinks every Friday at 5pm, and I eat lunch every week with my dear friend who moved to Texas.

With commuting time gone, no meetings to “go to”, EVERYTHING being delivered, we really do have the time to connect. In my world, connecting means conferences, and I most definitely miss them, but in an effort to embrace change (and reality), those need to be virtual too. We can’t lose momentum while we wait for it to be safe to gather. Done right, a virtual conference can be engaging, educational, and visually appealing. 

If you are the attendee, you get to show up in your pajamas and roll your eyes during a session (as cold spaghetti drips on your shirt). Yell at the screen – they can’t hear you! Concurrent sessions and you want to go to both? No problem! View the recorded version of the one you missed – sometimes even days later if you want. Visiting an exhibitor booth? You no longer have to wait in line or vie for time with the vendor you want to see. Send a message in the chat box and hop on a call or a Zoom. No more lugging brochures and materials that you likely will dump before you get on a plane, because everything is downloadable right from the booth. 

If you are the exhibitor, you will know the name of every single person who drops by your booth – whether you interact with them or not. That is a benefit that doesn’t exist live. Your access to buyers can last for weeks after the actual conference as those who couldn’t make it on conference day can view your booth at a later date. Have prizes and giveaways? You can still do that during a virtual conference – every virtual gift card is right at your fingertips. Visibility via banner ads, lobby signs, sponsorships, and contests is prevalent. Dare I say it…ROI may even be better, more focused, and profitable in the virtual conference environment.

And, what about the conference hosts? For a small investment that no longer includes F&B, A/V, and travel costs, you can still host a financially fruitful event. 

In days like this I remember Blockbuster and Netflix. One refused to adapt and floundered. The other evolved and is wildly successful. 

Until we meet again.

Andrea Kinney | Director, Client Strategy | TBX

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