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My Take | November 9, 2020 | By:

by Janet Preus

We’ve heard that word a lot in the last few months. Unprecedented. More than I would like to, in fact, and now we can add IFAI’s Expo 2020 to the “unprecedented” category. For one thing, it’s continuing over two weeks, so I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of ok with the extra breathing space this year. Breathing space, generally, just seems like an overall good thing. 

For the first time in its 100-year history, IFAI’s Expo was not an in-person event. This is hardly breaking news, since virtually every in-person show or conference offered by entities across the globe has been rescheduled to be … well, virtual. Workshops, music performances, trade shows, even the courts are meeting on Zoom or another similar platform. We all know now about the chat, the spotlight video and the mute button—or we should. 

It’s not what any of us would prefer, but it works, and I am in awe that a complicated event, such as our Expo and Advanced Textiles Conference can be successfully presented in this way. I’ve set up my account page on the show site, covered several education sessions and visited exhibitor booths – all without a hitch. I think that, in and of itself, is an accomplishment. 

But more to the point, the sessions were excellent, the handouts easily accessed, a Q & A following the presentations shared participant questions seamlessly, and I got a bunch of great stories. There were no problems with sound in an acoustically challenged space, nobody got lost heading down the wrong hallway in a giant convention center and everybody had a good seat at a desk, if that’s what they wanted. 

I would prefer seeing your faces, and chatting before and after the events, but there are places on this site to do that, too. Virtually, of course, but we’re all used to it now anyway. In short, this isn’t just possible, it’s a new alternative that could be part of the trade show and conference landscape from this point on. (I am not speaking for our IFAI leadership, you understand. I’m just speculating in general terms.) 

Hybrid events—both -in-person and online—have the capability to reach many more people, and help new participants try out an unfamiliar event. This is not a bad thing. It could ultimately bring together more collaborations, partnerships, and maybe “eureka!” moments, too. 

Nevertheless, I hope to see you all in Nashville in 2021. Preferably in person, since it’s one of my favorite cities, but virtually is fine, too—including a hybrid of the two, which also would be unprecedented. 

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