We’re getting used to virtual shows and conferences.
By Patrick Flannery
With the second wave of COVID still keeping everyone away from everyone else, it looks like this show season is going to be virtual. When the pandemic initially hit last year, forcing us and everyone else to scramble to find online replacements for our conferences and events, there was a lot of uncertainty. No one was very familiar with Zoom and other meeting platforms, which meant we didn’t know what we could and couldn’t do with them. We didn’t know if anyone would bother to show up to an online event, or like it if they did. We didn’t know if sponsors would support them or if speakers would want to participate in them. We didn’t know if attendees would be able to get the same value out of them in terms of finding new products, new knowledge and new contacts. And no one knew what to wear, or what to do with their uncut hair.
Now, after nearly a year of practically living on Zoom and hosting a few events of our own, I feel like, well, if not an expert at least someone who can form an opinion. So I present to you my pros and cons of online events.
Pro: Not leaving the house. No airports, cabs or hotels. Sleep in until five minutes before your meeting. Eat whatever you want for next to nothing. Pants optional. Hit mute and play music. Turn off camera and play video games. No panicked calls from spouse or kids asking you to walk them through fixing a toilet over the phone.
Con: Not leaving the house. It’s the same four walls you’ve been staring at for so long that a trip to the grocery store feels like a vacation. Your spouse might be getting a little tired of your company. And your kids are home…always home.
Pro: A bigger pond. Anyone can attend an online event from anywhere in the world as long as their sleep schedule is flexible. Removing the need for travel means higher-profile experts from exotic locations giving the talks, and interesting folks from far-flung places in the chats. The numbers logged in often exceed the numbers at a live event by a large margin.
Con: Your friends seem a bit flat. Looking at people on a screen just isn’t the same as meeting, shaking hands (remember that?) and shooting the breeze in person. And there’s that annoying pause while everyone waits to figure out who is going to speak next. I never realized before how much we rely on body language to smooth out our conversations.
Pro: The event lives forever. Missed a session? Didn’t get a chance to visit an exhibitor? No worries. Online events are recorded and the recordings usually made available on demand afterwards for registered attendees. Many events are leaving the event site active indefinitely after the day of the event and bringing attendees back in with added content and sessions in the weeks and months following. That’s what we are doing with the Rental Mart.
Con: Few surprises. One of the great things about wandering a show floor is coming across a company, product or person you didn’t know you didn’t know. When we only learn that which we seek out, we miss a lot. I haven’t seen any online event be able to really replicate the opportunities for unstructured discovery at a trade show. I guess it’s something we are just going to have to wait for until we can get back together again.
You can probably guess why all this is on my mind. The Canadian Rental Mart will take place March 24…online. Our exhibitors will be appearing in virtual booths where you can see their products and chat with representatives. Ken McDougall, president of SkyJack, will be delivering a keynote speech. And I will host a panel discussion with some veteran rental store owners from across the country: Jeff Campbell of St. Thomas Rentall, Paul Van Staveren of Stayner Rental, Blake Menning of All Choice and Adam Snook of JustBins. Go register now at canadianrentalmart.com for this great day. It’s the best you’re going to get until we/ve all had the vaccine.