Weighing the benefits & challenges of the return to in-person trade shows & conferences

''Matt Abeles, Vice President of Construction Technology & Innovation, Associated Builders & Contractors

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) member contractors embraced the digital world to network and grow business opportunities.

ABC has helped bridge the learning and information gap since last March by educating our members on technologies affecting their businesses so that they could continue to operate and innovate to be safer, more profitable and win work. ABC collaborated with our technology providers to educate our members through webinars to help them succeed in an incredibly challenging business climate.

In addition to dozens of webinars, ABC's Tech Alliance brought together a group of technology companies to enhance construction innovation resources for our members. Our Tech Marketplace also serves as a starting point for our members' journey in using the technologies small to midsize companies need to stay competitive, grow and prosper.

For construction, in-person meetings are important because personal relationships remain vital to winning work. The largest events in America like CES went digital in 2021, but industry events like CONEXPO-CON/AGG had record-breaking attendance pre-pandemic, and I hope not to lose the momentum that helps contractors embrace construction tech to work better and smarter.

''Greg Norris, Marketing Communications Director, B2W Software

There is a unique dynamic at trade shows and industry conferences. Contractors and suppliers can step away temporarily from their own immediate, day-to-day challenges and engage collectively in discussions about future challenges, opportunities and strategies. This type of dialogue helps to advance the industry and could be hard to replicate without in-person events. We have also been successful in adapting some content training in particular to optimize the online environment. You can't just take what you would do in person and try to replicate it online. Sometimes you have to reimagine the structure and style of the content. We held our annual user conference online for the first time in March and doubled our attendance by creatively adapting the content and investing in the production value. We will absolutely go back to an in-person conference, but this experience has opened our eyes to new options that can complement the live event.

When a company has compelling content, a virtual format can certainly be an effective way to present it. The real challenge for a virtual format, however, is to replicate the give-and-take dialogue and the collective industry experience of in-person events.



''James Pollard, Principal, Steelhead Building Group

Although virtual communication and training has been embraced during the pandemic, in-person conferences will most likely still remain a preference for many within the industry for training and education purposes.
As a whole, the construction industry depends on in-person interaction to successfully conduct daily business, so once vaccination becomes more prevalent, we'll start seeing conferences and trade shows become the norm again.

Personally, I also miss the high-value networking aspect of conferences. Technology will never replicate the ability to interact with speakers or fellow building professionals before or after the scheduled programming. You can't underestimate the power of walking away being energized and inspired from the natural, conversations that happen when people come together in a common industry.