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On The Front Lines of COVID-19: Virtual GMID, NAB’s DigiExpo, MJBiz & LiveForLife

Pictured: In response to COVID-19, the NAB Show is offering a virtual NAB Show Express on May 13-14. 

by Amadeus Finlay

Just as energy cannot be made or destroyed, the momentum carrying the tradeshow, events and convention industry cannot be held at bay for long. As the people behind the brands come to terms with the impact of COVID-19, thought leaders across the industry are identifying new ways to keep the impetus going until normal service can be resumed—glimmers of normality in a strange, new world.

As far as life goals are concerned, Guinness World Records are among the more difficult to beat. But on April 14, more than 13,000 industry professionals logged-on to participate in the Virtual Global Meetings Industry Day in an audacious attempt to do just that. And that’s not the meat of the story, either. While the gathering was just shy of the current record of 15,000 mark, the statement made by #GMIDGoesVirtual was vastly more important: The industry is present, it is global and united and, perhaps most importantly, it is as bold and disruptive as ever.

Attendees engaged in discussions, polls, and updates, as well as providing information on two foundations for event professionals affected by the pandemic: The Above and Beyond Foundation and SEARCH Foundation. There remains widespread optimism that the industry will recover (at a steady pace) in the fall and into 2021, and that feeling of positivity was very much reflected in the conversations held during GMID. However, don’t expect things to ever go back to the way they were. Instead, look out for a traditional 3D world supported by a community of virtual players experiencing real life events in distance/VR settings. With the potential of reaching an unlimited global audience through additional digital channels, the number of eyes on brands could increase even though they are not there in person. In the right hands, the opportunities are—almost—endless.

The word on the street is very much in the same vein. When in March it was announced that NAB Show would not be rescheduled at all in 2020, the event’s organizers quickly turned around and instead announced a digital offering called NAB Show Express. The DigiExpo, to coin a term, will stream on May 13-14, and will feature live, scheduled and on-demand video coverage, exhibitor profiles, company events, press conferences and special offers for new products and exhibitor news. Furthermore, the entire shindig is free, and the NAB board are already planning to enhance NAB Show New York, still penciled in for later this year. And some shows aren’t even interested in digital solutions—on April 15, Project NY, originally slated for July 19-21 at the Javits Center, announced an official rescheduling of September 22-24, and that the show would continue as planned.

And if there is one industry that’s doing well at the moment, it’s cannabis. Some of you will have strolled the green-tinged floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center in December during MJBizCon and marveled at the sheer power behind this seemingly unstoppable new enterprise. Given its multi-billion-dollar footprint, the tradeshow brains of cannabis industry are right there on trend, ensuring its digital visibility is at the fore during the time of social distancing. On April 15, the same day that Project NY made their announcement, cannabis networking site Leafwire and Marijuana Business Daily, the publishing firm behind MJBizCon, revealed a digital platform to provide networking and educational opportunities for event professionals in the cannabis industry.

As a wise man once said, “don’t think outside the box-think around the box.” In that respect, founding partners Czarnowski, Exploring (the parent company of ID3 Group, Brumark, Shelmarc Carpets, Chisel 3D, Atlantis WaterJet and GCI Graphics) and George P. Johnson have begun “LiveForLife,” a coalition of live-event industry providers to help in the battle against COVID-19 that has already attracted more than 100 companies and organizations. For more info or to sign up to join the volunteer coalition, visit www.liveforlifec19.com/.

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