Insiders at VidCon, CES, and Expo West on post-COVID conferences

For Quick Firm’Form of Tomorrow collection, we’re asking enterprise leaders to share their inside perspective on how the COVID-19 period is remodeling their industries. Right here’s what’s been misplaced—and what may very well be gained—within the new world order.


Jim Louderback, common supervisor of VidCon

In early 2020, we received good at a ability that I actually didn’t need to have: canceling reveals. Our audiences have been all locked up at dwelling. They needed to attach with one another and attain out to their favourite creators. So, we reworked a gaggle of bodily occasion producers into digital on-line occasion producers and went from doing one massive occasion in every of our markets yearly to 10 to fifteen each week globally to achieve our audiences wherever they have been.

Occasions are about connection, group, and content material. Distribution offers occur at the convention. Enterprise relationships are created. We got here up with separate networking classes, bringing a small group of individuals collectively round a specific subject. And we created a 24/7 VidCon Discord group the place anytime, anyplace on this planet, individuals may come speak about matters.

If you’re not doing all your annual occasion, it is advisable to preserve audiences and communities linked. We offer free weekly programming that features digital concert events and performances, panel discussions, Q&As, on-line meet and greets, and different interactive occasions, and have attracted greater than 1.5 million attendees.

They need group, they need content material, and they need connection.”

Jim Louderback, common supervisor, VidCon

VidCon will return to its annual in-real-life occasion in Anaheim, California, this October. For the primary time, we’re introducing a digital ticket, so audiences can attend both in individual or on-line. After the occasion, we’re taking the IRL business-oriented workshops, keynotes, fireplace chats, and panels and making them accessible on demand. It permits you to catch up later on classes that you just couldn’t see dwell or in case you didn’t attend.

The occasions trade has been pretty hidebound for a very long time. Success now means it’s important to be as nimble and observe as a lot artistic destruction as startups have been doing within the tech area during the last 10 or 15 years. Earlier than COVID-19, we had obscure plans to do these kind of issues, however they have been extra long run. COVID-19 pressured us to speed up.

What COVID-19 did for occasions is to assist them focus on why they exist. It helped us dwelling in on what our viewers actually desires. They need group, they need content material, and they need connection. If you return to face-to-face, it shouldn’t begin and finish with the occasion. It needs to be an expertise which you can ship day by day and each week that culminates in a face-to-face occasion.


Carlotta Mast, senior vp and market chief for New Hope Community, organizers of commerce reveals for the pure and natural merchandise trade

Our massive pure merchandise present—Pure Merchandise Expo West—was scheduled to occur the primary week of March in 2020, simply as we have been all coming to grasp the affect of COVID-19. We launched a platform known as Pure Merchandise Expo Digital, focusing on enabling product discovery, networking, and studying throughout the pure merchandise trade. It’s changing into an vital a part of our enterprise transferring ahead and will assist all future in-person occasions.

There’s rather a lot you are able to do on-line. For product discovery, you may put up digital cubicles the place exhibitors can submit content material about their firm, merchandise, and mission.

However there are limitations. Connecting consumers and sellers, for instance, may be very totally different in a digital platform. If you stroll a pure merchandise commerce present ground, you go from sales space to sales space, experiencing all the merchandise. That’s simply not doable on-line since you lose the sensory factor. Bodily occasions are additionally higher at enabling connections, together with these serendipitous moments that occur when you’re strolling down a corridor or occur to be sitting subsequent to somebody at a reception.

We shall be holding Expo East in individual in Philadelphia, at the Pennsylvania Conference Middle, in September. We’ll present each bodily and digital entry to the occasion, utilizing our digital platform to make it simpler for retail consumers and different attendees to plan their Expo expertise, discover merchandise and individuals they need to join with, observe up after the present, and entry all the content material.

Making the present extra sustainable can also be a precedence. We acknowledge that commerce reveals have an effect on the surroundings, and by way of our Expo Sustainability Program, we work to determine and handle these impacts to attain continuous enchancment yr after yr.

The social unrest throughout COVID-19 additionally intensified our focus on variety and inclusion in networking and dealmaking. Black People symbolize 13% of the U.S. inhabitants however solely 2% of our trade management, in accordance with a benchmarking survey we carried out in 2019. Creating areas that present belonging is vital, and we’ve made it a precedence that everybody—no matter race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, capability, or background—feels welcome and included at our occasions.

Throughout Expo East, we’re partnering with Included, a peer group for top-level Black professionals within the trade, and the J.E.D.I. Collaborative to create new applications and occasions. We will use our platforms for higher inclusion.


Karen Chupka, govt vp of the Shopper Electronics Present (CES)

CES is held every January. In 2020, we had about 170,000 attendees and 4,500 exhibitors. After COVID-19, we have been pressured to go all digital, and we knew we needed to fully reimagine the way it was going to work for CES 2021. Our occasion is the place firms launch and showcase merchandise. It’s usually accomplished dwell, and you get the joy of an unveiling. When the present isn’t in the actual world, you lose the power to the touch, see, and really feel one thing.

Smaller firms make up about 80% of exhibitors at occasions and typically join with individuals as they stroll by their sales space. Since small companies use commerce reveals as a mechanism for getting new enterprise and assembly with prospects, they needed to discover methods to make use of the platform to attach. To assist, we created an space on-line the place firms may submit B-roll of their merchandise. They may use the movies to inform the tales. We tried to maintain the worth level low for smaller firms to exhibit as a result of we knew they most likely didn’t have the cash to rent an company to place collectively a digital expertise for them.

One other factor we have been in a position to do was arrange a system the place attendees and exhibitors may work together. We created a listing of all of the attendees, and individuals on the platform may request conferences.

We additionally left the platform open for 30 days after the occasion to offer individuals time to actually discover and join. Usually, an in-person occasion is condensed into two or three days. Increasing that time-frame gave everybody a chance to community after the occasion.

We’re planning to be again dwell in Las Vegas for CES 2022. We’re preserving the issues that assist with storytelling and connections, particularly for individuals who nonetheless could not have the ability to journey come January. For instance, in an in-person occasion, individuals don’t all the time get to look at all the convention classes. However final yr, we had about 86,000 individuals take part as a part of the occasion, and 34,000 of them got here again a number of instances to rewatch content material, discover new content material, and go to new firms.

Going ahead, I consider occasions will turn out to be a hybrid. We’re simply at the infancy levels of determining how the 2 come collectively.