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Ask an Expert Calanit Atia
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IAEE Celebrates Successful Virtual Expo! Expo! 

by Calanit Atia

IAEE virtual expo screenExpo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2020 held virtually in December 2020, welcomed 1,265 attendees. The expo featured 102 exhibiting companies and more than 100 education sessions with 120+ presenters.

Exhibit City News spoke with two attendees about their experience in attending the virtual event.

Mark Vaughan is the executive vice president and chief sales officer for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

What was your impression overall?

Mark Vaughan ACVBVaughan (pictured left): Virtual has been a good alternative during a difficult time and allows you to continue to do business, and allows the educational portion to continue on both products and knowledge, although I prefer it live. That being said, there is nothing that beats face-to-face interaction and the ability to conduct business.

What did you like best about the digital expo?

Vaughan: I did like the accessibility, doing it on your time at your home. Lots of tools at your fingertips and the ability to track the customers’ resources were beneficial and validated if we were on the right track.

Did the expo help with reaching customers?

Vaughan: We had an excellent opportunity to engage with new and existing customers, and although we did not secure any opportunities, we were able to move a couple along.

Do you think the virtual component should be a part of future expos?

Vaughan: Virtual allows those who could not attend to stay engaged with their industry and network of suppliers, so I see it as a good solution for the organizers to broaden their reach.

Deborah Cohen, CMP, is the director of meeting & convention marketing for Discover Puerto Rico.

What was your impression overall?Deb Cohen Discover Puerto Rico

Cohen (pictured right): Virtual and hybrid events have certainly filled a void for our industry during 2020—allowing us the ability to connect safely in many ways. I have found that avoiding or limiting other technology during virtual events is essential (and hard to do), but this helps you focus more and absorb more information. However, I genuinely miss that face-to-face interaction at live events. They inspire a multitude of ideas for collaboration with my team, clients, and other industry colleagues. While this is certainly our new normal at present, and these types of platforms provide an iteration of that interaction, it’s just not the same as sitting down with a coconut latte in our Discover Puerto Rico Hacienda booth.

What are the benefits of online meetings?

Cohen: If you can quiet your space around you and focus, virtual is an excellent avenue for learning with fewer distractions. The keys is to schedule these events into your calendar just like you were traveling and not add other meetings, if possible. For those on-demand sessions, it is great to be able to learn on your own time. Furthermore, I thought the platform selected did the job well. I liked that you could schedule individual appointments to have those one-on-one virtual conversations.

What do you predict for the future of virtual expos and meetings?

Cohen: It has been evident throughout this pandemic that every individual has varying comfort levels when interacting and traveling. For these reasons, all event planners will have to consider virtual or hybrid options for the near future.

Did the expo help with reaching customers?

Discover Puerto RicoCohen: Our sales team is still following up with the clients they met with, so we are still accessing the ROI. We are pleased that we were able to get our messaging positioned during one of the general sessions through our sponsorship. This is the only event we attend each year that puts us directly in front of exhibition organizers, which will be a critical audience for us to help our convention center in their recovery post-pandemic. We greatly appreciate our partners at IAEE and the leadership they have provided to our industry this past year.

There is no doubt that live (in-person) events will remain at the forefront of the events and tradeshow industry, however, the digital option should remain available in the future.

Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2021 will be held December 7-9 in Philadelphia. For more info, visit myexpoexpo.com.

Calanit Atia is an award-winning event planner and entrepreneur. Air Force Veteran, founder and president of A to Z Events, Las Vegas DMC and Entertainment Agency, 2021 MPI Advisory Board Member and speaker. She can be contacted at (702) 212-2500 or Info@AtoZevents.com.

This story originally appeared in the Mar./Apr. 2021 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 16. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_mar-apr_2021

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