Raise your hand if you miss in-person conferences.
SRM has attended hundreds of state, regional, and national events over the years. Still, last year’s GAC (Government Affairs Conference hosted by CUNA) was especially memorable because it was the last major destination event we attended before social-distancing measures went into effect.
Since then, the credit union conference scene and SRM’s participation has had to adapt to the virtual world.
As we look into our cloudy (but clearing) crystal ball at what the rest of 2021 might bring, here are three virtual adaptations we expect to see at this year’s DC-based GAC event. Going into the spring conference season, many others will likely follow suit.
We hope these observations help our industry clients and contacts anticipate how to get the most out of this and other landmark industry conferences.
The Events | In-Person versus Interwebs
When going to GAC in years prior, you might expect rain or snow-related flight delays on the way to DCA or IAD. After you deplane, you could hustle to a cab, sit in traffic, and arrive just in time for a full schedule of activities.
At this year’s conference, attendees will enjoy the usual events, including breakouts, Exhibit Hall chats, and networking from the comforts of home, without having to suit up with sport coats, blazers, rain gear, and lanyards.
Some might even find a virtual conference's educational benefits easier to consume. For example, some are beginning to pre-record their breakout sessions (CUNA is doing this for GAC), allowing viewers to absorb the content at their own pace. It’s available on-demand, the speakers are still available to chat, and attendees no longer have to choose between concurrent sessions to watch. They also don’t need to navigate between rooms and sit in an uncomfortable chair for 50 minutes to 1 hour at a time.
There is also something to be said about avoiding the discomforts of travel and not having to kiss your family goodbye quite as often. As an added bonus: no pesky vendors chasing you down while navigating the Exhibit Hall (SRM reps excluded, of course).
The Vendor Exhibit Hall | On the Showroom Floor vs. Online
Previously, our team would set up a sleek, backlit booth replete with collateral, iPads, and a full contingency of SRM reps which would serve as our team’s base of operations. This year, though, it serves a different purpose.
In 2021, SRM’s booth has gone through a digital transformation – becoming an audience-specific, carefully curated information hub. Our virtual booth features a product introduction playlist, a raffle for an “old-fashioned” special delivery, and a live chat function.
Yes, we’ll miss shaking hands with happy clients on-site and entertaining at an off-site venue, but we’ve managed to adapt for this as well.
Can I Get a Connection? | Taking the Party Online
Webinar fatigue is real. So, however, are virtual cocktail hours.
In years past, the social scene was arguably the best part of the conference, where you might catch a vendor-hosted cocktail hour, dinner with peers and friends, a hockey game, floor show, or live music.
In 2021, event planners across the credit union industry are taking social events online - replete with special deliveries, adult beverages, family-friendly themes, and musical guests. For example, during GAC this year, SRM will be hosting an online, “old-fashioned” private event with a special guest speaker for a smaller, more intimate group.
We will be taking notes from other traditionally in-person GAC events, too. Some that come to mind include NAFCU’s Sunday cocktail hour, the CUES “Red, White, and CUES” event at Cuba Libre, and the ever elaborate Herb Wegner award ceremony (also known as the CU prom).
Meanwhile, you can expect more social gatherings to adapt in even more creative ways.
The Bottom Line
The future of tradeshows is unpredictable, and it shows. So many banking and credit union conferences were up in the air in December of 2020, at least one industry authority we know threw in the towel on publishing their annual tradeshow list.
Just as CUNA GAC and others continue to adapt to “next normal” conditions, SRM continues to do the same with our clients. To learn more about how SRM helps financial service providers through the pandemic, visit the Road to Recovery section in the SRM Academy.
For even more throwback nostalgia, watch this short video interview from GAC 2020 with SRM’s President, Patrick Goodwin, touching on the impacts of the pandemic.