Hello. My name is Alison Jones and I am the online blog and content editor for itSHOWCASE…
I also happen to be married to Steve Jones, the Managing Director of Framework Media who organise SHOWCASE events. Under current circumstances, like many others, we are both working from home: myself upstairs and Steve downstairs. It never struck me before how suitably ‘Downton Abbey’ that positioning is! Our cat (Daisy Duke Jones) stalks comfortingly between us like some kind of feline Carson, except we have not yet taught her how to serve drinks and sandwiches periodically throughout the day…
But I digress! (So easy to digress when you are at home). What I really wanted to talk to you about was a milestone for us and the SHOWCASE team. This milestone took place on the 22nd and the 23rd of April when we hosted our first virtual (online) itSHOWCASE events.
Strategic and executional pivot
When your business model has been based on successfully delivering real world, face-to-face, regional, B-to-B events for over 30 years, going virtual was a huge strategic and executional pivot for us – but pivot we did!
What were to be our Birmingham and Newbury-based itSHOWCASE events were hosted online with virtual exhibition stands and one-to-one meeting opportunities from many of our billed exhibitors.
Although I do not often attend our live events, this virtual pivot delivered me a golden opportunity to attend the events, just like any of our much valued event visitors. Let’s face it, most of us acknowledge that we may currently have a little more time to embrace virtual activities, whilst fully appreciating the efforts of those that cannot.
Turning up virtually
I attended the events (virtually) alongside a modest yet robust number of other delegates across the two days. Importantly, our thanks go out to those wonderful, curious people who turned up and logged on to listen, question and learn from the amazing exhibitors we had to ‘showcase’. Incidentally, you do all know that the World is run by people that turn up, right? My favourite borrowed wisdom.
Three words, my holy trinity
What was my experience of the itSHOWCASE virtual events? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I truly hope other attendees experienced the same vibe I did. Pivoting, partnering and providing added value were the three elements I would use to describe the experience. (I would add another ‘p’ for pedagogy, but that spoils my blog headline in which I am already too heavily invested, and teaching/education is hopefully a welcome given for any events of this type.)
Not only did itSHOWCASE undertake its own strategic and executional pivot to virtual events, but our lovely event visitors and over 60% of our fantastic exhibitors did not disappoint us and made that pivot too.
Without exception, they put their passion, knowledge and intensity into their online meetings and presentations. This was no mean feat when technology simply does not enable them to physically see and feel their audience reactions in the same way as face-to-face. We thank them all wholeheartedly for taking part and not just energising us in the current climate, but also reminding us that there will be a post pandemic world for which we will all need to be prepared.
However, our itSHOWCASE business development manager Martyn Hughes, must also take a huge amount of credit for meticulously partnering our visitors (based on their pre-assessed project needs) with our exhibitors’ respective fields of expertise and executing a schedule of multiple virtual appointments. Martyn made a lot of telephone calls and I’m impressed that his virtual partnering skills are as fine-tuned as they ever were for our face-to-face events.
We are cautiously optimistic about the success of the virtual meetings. The feedback we received from our visitors not only expressed an energy for the virtual appointments: “It was really good, a bit of an intense schedule and I overran a couple of times, but I enjoyed it”, but also how they made use of them: “I wasn’t able to see much of their software and it was more about asking questions about our needs with a view to scheduling a custom demo later” (AW, Vehicle bodywork suppliers).
Of course, it’s inevitable that technology sometimes lets us down (even more inevitable at an IT event – that’s life and the universe having a laugh) but with enough human will, that too can be solved: “The appointments I was able to attend went well. I missed some of them due to poor connection from my end, but was able to rearrange one of the missed ones for later in the day” (SA, Pharmaceutical company).
For any business to survive it has to provide value. As with our live events, our virtual events are free for visitors to attend. Hopefully, they will measure the value of these virtual events by their accessibility, easy site navigation, clear content interfaces and most importantly, the quality of exhibitor information, expertise and ultimately, software solution fit.
Our exhibitors might be a tougher gig to please. They pay to exhibit with us. Will they find the value (return on investment) they need through are virtual events to persist in this virtual pivot? Even in Covid-free times (can we even remember Covid-free times?) our harder-nosed exhibitors are not known for their effusive praise, but we are still humbled by the support we have already received. These are precisely targeted events, so cautious optimism with a dose of reality such as the following feedback is important to us:
“Yes, today was OK, too. I’d be a little disappointed in normal times but at the moment anything is good! 3 genuine leads and a long shot from the meetings and then the list (of visitors) to look at. So far, so good. Considering everything it was a great success. Let’s hope it carries on like this” (SW, exhibitor).
Amen to that SW!
Until next time
I’m leaving you with a quote from Einstein simply because I can: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”. The itSHOWCASE event team has a successful heritage of over 30 years to protect and share with you in these challenging times – the method may be different but our “pivot, partner and provide value” ethos persists.
Online blog and content editor, itSHOWCASE