by Pat Friedlander
EDPA ACCESS 2020 was, in the words of Derse Chairman Bill Haney (pictured right), “the most valuable EDPA conference that I have attended as it pertains to my business and related decision making…picking up valuable content during trying times made it a great ROI. This information could only have been effectively delivered through a face to face setting.” Dasher Lowe, EDPA Executive Director, said that although the meeting followed strict safety measures, there was an intimacy to this meeting that fostered great conversations about the state of the industry—and about the new rules of engagement.
Although attendance was lower than in pre-pandemic times, approximately 85 people, primarily from the C-suite, attended the meeting at the La Cantera Resort San Antonio Texas, Dec. 1-2. The content was at once enlightening and sobering, as data showed the devastation to the live events industry caused by COVID-19.
Reflecting on the meeting, EDPA president Amy Sondrup (pictured left) said, “I’m honored to continue to serve as EDPA president in 2021. Our annual meeting last week undoubtedly showcased that live events can safely happen in our current environment. Perhaps more importantly, it highlighted that there are no true replacements for face-to-face conversations. The conference offered a unique opportunity for leaders in tradeshow marketing to discuss their business challenges, the state of the industry marketplace, and strategies for business recovery and the return of live events. The conversations that happen at EDPA don’t happen anywhere else, and ACCESS 2020 was no exception.”
A collaborative presentation by Dan Greene (Nolan Advisory), Cathy Breden (CEIR) and Randy Acker (Exhibitor Magazine Group) gave a 360 view of the state of the industry, particularly the segment represented by the EDPA membership.
Greene (pictured right) pointed out that this is not the first pandemic the industry has overcome, reaching back to the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919. Hospitality industries that thrive on event attendance, such as the airlines and hotels, have been similarly affected. Breden addressed the cancellations that have taken place, the rise of virtual events, and the return that is likely to rely on regional events as a starting point.
Acker brought customer and show organizer relationships to the forefront, citing budget uncertainty, travel bans and individual safety concerns. He also called out the disparity in results between face-to-face and virtual tradeshows. While the investment in virtual shows is significant, the return on investment when it comes to sales leads is, frankly, dismal. On the other hand, there is, he said, a growing appreciation for the effectiveness of tradeshows in the B2B marketing mix.
The Wednesday Deep Dive
Don Neal (pictured left), 360 Live Media CEO/founder, asked what the new event reality will look like—and how the audience had to see things as they are, not as “we” are. He urged attendees to adapt to change and to re-imagine events as an omnichannel marketing opportunity. He talked about the efficiencies vs. the inefficiencies of tradeshows and the need for better metrics if events are to take their place among other marketing initiatives. Neal reaffirmed what most of us have been thinking: virtual tradeshows aren’t very compelling, and audiences have other demands on their time that provide more in-depth engagement. He encouraged the face-to-face industry to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) to connect people in new and meaningful ways throughout his remarks.
Following Neal’s presentation, Jim Gilmore (pictured right), author of the seminal work, The Experience Economy, put EDPA’s mission into a time-focused context, telling the audience that experiential marketing “designs time,” and that should be time well spent. As marketers, exhibitors can move from a fixed time and place approach to one that is 24/7, year-round, providing customers with satisfaction (vs. sacrifice).
The Association Perspective
Wednesday afternoon, ACCESS attendees heard from important industry constituents when Acker hosted a panel that reviewed the current state of associations. Panel speakers included Cathy Breden (IAEE), Brad Mayne (International Association of Venue Managers), and Necoya Tyson (Texas Bankers Association). The most important takeaway was that associations, for the most part, were not eligible for the Payroll Protection Plan, and, since the cancellation of live shows, they saw a drastic drop in revenue. Most associations dipped into their reserves or sold assets that didn’t enhance their cash flow; many entered partnerships, laying off staff members, and renegotiating their leases. The phrase “we’re all in this together” became especially meaningful during this session.
Legacy sessions at EDPA such as the CFO Insights with Dan Serebin (Derse), the Management Issues Forum, led by EDPA President Amy Sondrup (president, Access TCA), and the design issues Forum (Stephen Ross, Access TCA) were enhanced with a session led by Chris Griffin (pictured left) on safety protocols. The Solutions Showcase provided networking opportunities and the chance for exhibiting members to talk to potential customers.
EDPA Looks to 2021
The State of the Association Address was unusual in that it described EDPA’s activities throughout the year in service of the plight of live events—and the people who make them happen—to government and the rest of the world. The chapters’ work in keeping the conversations going was critical, and the association is instituting new measures to help members pay their dues for 2021. Socially distanced, both the annual Gala and the Chapter Challenge allowed attendees to celebrate the end of a daunting year. At the Gala, Dasher Lowe handed awards to the winners in several categories.
EDPA Awards Presented at ACCESS 2020
Small Chapter of the Year: EDPA Northeast
Large Chapter of the Year: EDPA Midwest
Eddie Award, Best Multimedia Campaign: Deckel & Moneypenny
Eddie Award, Best Pivot: MSM
Eddie Award, Large Exhibit: beMatrix
International Collaboration Award: Idea International and Group Delphi
Designer of the Year: Katina Rigall Zipay, Classic Exhibits
Ambassador of the Year: Chris Griffin, Crew XP
Hazel Hays Award: Dan Cantor, Hamilton Exhibits
- Matthew R. Beck Creative Director Exhibitus
- Luke Brown, Managing Director, Bray Leino Events
- Ashley Campbell, Director of Sales, Apple Rock NY/NJ
- Sarah Mainhart, Strategic Account Manager, CORT Events
- Katie McTammany, Creative Director, MSM Inc.
- Kyle Miguel, Sr. Project Manager, Hamilton Exhibits
- Katina Rigall Zipay, Creative Director, Classic Exhibits
- Sarah Simon, Executive Producer, Live Marketing
- Michael Vallone, Asst. Creative Dir., Sr. Exhibit Designer, Hill & Partners
- Noelle Webster, Account Manager, Willwork, Inc.
At a most extraordinary meeting in a most extraordinary year, EDPA members left San Antonio committed to industry advocacy and a belief in the future of live events.
Founded in 1954, the Experiential Designers and Producers Association is recognized internationally and serves thousands of professional members representing more than 300 corporations across 18 countries. EDPA is committed to driving growth within the exhibit, event, and experiential industry through advocacy, networking, education and good works. Find more info, visit www.EDPA.com.