Design & Construction Week events are transitioning to a fully virtual format.
Many of us in the kitchen and bath remodeling industry were waiting with bated breath for National Kitchen & Bath Association's (NKBA) final decision on the fate of the 2021 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS). The event was originally slated to take place February 9-11, 2021, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, where the NKBA and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) would be co-locating their trade shows as part of a combined set of Design & Construction Week events. Like many in the industry, our team was torn between the eagerness to attend the industry's most significant trade show in person and the realities of traveling and staying safe in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.
With a conflicting mix of relief and disappointment, we received the news from the NKBA and NAHB that plans for traditional events would be cancelled in favor of virtual conferences. This was obviously a sound decision from a health and safety perspective, when Covid-19 cases are on the rise, yet again, but not one that makes it easy for event planners and attendees to recreate anything close to the real-world experience.
Both industry associations published helpful Attendee FAQ pages about their approaches to transitioning to virtual events and what that means for those who were planning to attend in person. Registration fees are being largely refunded or adjusted, based on the level of participation in the virtual event.
The situation for sponsors is a bit more complicated, but our understanding is that there really isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to handling the sponsorship transition, since the virtual event format will be radically different.
Even though the limitations of a virtual event for the remodeling industry may seem obvious, including reduced networking opportunities, limited ways to experience new products, and definitely no late night post-show dinners, there are some upsides too. Access to the virtual events will be largely free for association members or available at a significantly reduced cost. In addition, nobody would need to clear their schedules for a week in order to fly out to Orlando. That means that smaller remodeling companies and sole-proprietor GCs, who would normally be unable to consider going to Orlando from all over the country for either cost or operational reasons, will have a much better opportunity to engage with the event.
For digital marketers such as ourselves, virtual events trigger all sorts of questions. Will the remodeling and home building industry ever return to fully in-person events? Will these virtual shows prove that industry events have far greater potential online? Although we relish the opportunity to meet with our clients and industry leaders in person at KBIS or IBS, it is also exciting to watch how going virtual is democratizing access to these trade shows. Our prediction is that, down the road, industry events will develop a balanced hybrid model. The new event model will be two-pronged, with both traditional and virtual conferences held simultaneously. Perhaps the silver lining is that our post-pandemic future can bring quality virtual event access to those who are unable to attend.
It is entirely possible that when the pandemic passes, no one will ever have to feel left out if they weren't able to fly out to an industry event. That said, we can't wait for the day when the world is safe and healthy again so we can get back out there and meet our clients and readers in person.
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