Since major industry events such as ISC West and ESX have been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, companies have been scrambling for new, contactless ways to interact with their customers and partners.
But while others were still simply scrambling, Genetec announced on March 11 it would host a free virtual tradeshow April 20-22.
“When we went into isolation in March, we knew it was a great time for security professionals to network and upskill, and there were very few in the industry then providing opportunities for people to really dig in and have a venue for engaging with one another,” said Andrew Elvish, Genetec’s vice president of marketing. “We felt that by April everybody would be itching to talk about something other than the pandemic, and we gave ourselves enough time to really produce something of quality.”
So the team at Genetec dove in head first, organizing a lineup of big name speakers, pre-recording educational sessions and promoting the event.
“The weekend before the show was going live, every person in the department was working to put it together,” Elvish said. “There was 35 hours of presentation material, plus two full days of live programming, so we had to keep track of a ton of pre-recording, annotating Q&As for the guests — the logistics for this event were underestimated. [Organizing a virtual event like this] is not an undertaking for the faint at heart, but you just need to dive in and do it, not overthink it. That’s a big thing we had to learn.”
The event was especially challenging for organizers due to the international nature of Genetec’s clients. Company President Pierre Racz delivered his keynote presentation live three different times for three different time zones. All three presentations included simultaneous translations in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean.
Still, though, Elvish said the work that went in to the event was more than worth it.
“I was really pleased with how this came together,” Elvish said. “Trade shows are very, very expensive. And when we go to a trade show, there are so many leads and you meet so many people, it’s very hard to achieve a true return on investment. But on our online show, 8,200 people registered, and 4,750 attended. We had great attendance, and the dialogue that went on and the sort of engagement we had was amazing.”
Elvish added that while the Genetec team mostly interacts with channel partners or dealers at typical tradeshows, 25 percent of Connect’DX’s attendees were end users, providing a nice range.
End users were also a large part of the live sessions. The heads of security at Starbucks, Uber and TJ Maxx all shared their wisdom with the audience.
“When you consider the amount of access we gave the audience to some of the most prestigious thinkers in the security space, it’s kind of remarkable that we managed to do this in weeks,” Elvish said. “People were so generous with their expertise and their knowledge. Our attendee feedback forms were so positive about what they got out of this.”
Attendees also indicated via feedback forms that they appreciated Genetec not forcing their products throughout the show. The company wanted to make sure that no matter what company they buy their security services from, everyone could take something valuable away from the event.
“More than anything, [Connect’DX] gave a chance for the professional security community to come together, which was very rewarding for Genetec broadly, and of course for the team who put the event on,” Elvish said.
And even after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, and the security industry returns to its regularly scheduled programming, Elvish said Genetec will continue producing virtual events like this one.
“A veil has been lifted, and while I think there is a lot of value in face-to-face meetings, I think we can be more creative as an industry, so we’re definitely rethinking our entire trade show schedule,” Elvish said. “Tradeshows are a bit like going to a pawn shop — you have a real mix of attendees, which isn’t as focused as we would like. I think this is what the people want — and your feet don’t hurt at the end of the day.”
The sessions from Genetec Connect’DX can still be accessed for free at https://bit.ly/2xWaw6l.