Author: Cassie Gasaway
ATA 2021 Online kicks off in just days, but planning the event in just two months challenged your ATA staff and Board members. Still they welcomed this opportunity to support and benefit the industry we all love.
We spoke to Maria Lewis, the Show’s senior director, to learn how they created an event worthy of ATA members. Lewis said the biggest challenge of transitioning from an in-person Trade Show to a virtual event was breaking the news to ATA members.
“Our members enjoy networking and meeting at the Trade Show,” Lewis said. “It’s one of their few opportunities each year to do business face-to-face. Technology helps everyone connect, but it doesn’t compare to an in-person environment. We were honest with our members and supported them through the change, but announcing it was difficult.”
The ATA Trade Show has been an in-person event since its roots in the 1990 Bowhunting Trade Show. The ATA always had contingency plans for the annual Show, but this year it was even more complicated as COVID-19 devastated families and businesses nationwide. The ATA worked hard to persevere with an in-person Show, but had no choice but to go virtual with it.
“We watched the data and information around COVID-19 through summer and fall,” Lewis said. “We remained committed to hosting the Show, and created a detailed risk-mitigation and safety plan, but circumstances forced us to change course.”
The ATA canceled the in-person Show in October, giving ATA staff two months to plan the virtual event, which became “ATA 2021 Online.” Lewis said the Show’s goal is to provide opportunities members expect, such as seeing new products, attending educational events, finding new business partners, and capitalizing on Show specials.
During the planning process, ATA staff agreed on five requirements:
1. Create a searchable list of exhibitors.
2. Allow exhibitors to create profiles with company-specific information.
3. Provide educational opportunities.
4. Increase member communications.
5. Make it easy for attendees and exhibitors to connect.
Providing those assets required a robust online platform. As ATA staff studied virtual-event options, they confirmed the ATA already had the framework to host and staff an online show.
“We had a mobile app, a video-streaming platform (the MyATA Learning Center), and an online floor plan and exhibitor directory,” Lewis said. “Those were the main components for a virtual show. We just modified each tool to ensure we could produce an effective online ATA Trade Show.”
Those components included:
Sharing Expectations with Attendees and Exhibitors
The archery and bowhunting industry is active and hands-on, which is why booth demonstrations and shooting lanes were so popular during past ATA shows. To help ATA members embrace the online Show, the ATA shared FAQ documents, video tutorials, and step-by-step instructions.
Helping Exhibitors to Build their Profiles
ATA staff helped hundreds of exhibitors through the cancellation and refund process for hotels, booth space, registrations and sponsorships. They also helped and encouraged exhibitors to opt into the online Show; submit at least two Show specials; and build a robust, comprehensive company profile in the Show dashboard. Lewis said the response and cooperation was incredible.
Recording Educational Events
Even though in-person seminars and Coffee Talks aren’t possible, speakers reworked their presentations for online sessions. Then they recorded the lessons early enough to add video extras like B-roll and digital effects. The recordings also minimized the technical issues sometimes encountered during live events.
Modifying and Merging ATA’s Virtual Offerings
ATA staff helped create and test icons, text, links and HTML codes for the ATA 2021 Online version of the MyATA member dashboard. This online version offers one unified platform that’s easy to access and navigate. This version includes an envelope icon for each exhibitor profile to connect attendees and exhibitors.
Meanwhile, ATA staff called to help retailers renew memberships, create a hard-copy Exhibitor Show Special Guide, organize ATA merchandise for the online ATA Store, and stuff Show mailers for ATA-member retailers.
To ensure ATA 2021 Online delivers quality business and educational opportunities, attendees will find the latest product information and innovations on the platform. Plus, everything the Show offers is available in one place: your MyATA member dashboard. As a bonus, ATA members will be familiar with the dashboard, which doesn’t require a separate login or registration.
“We’re extremely pleased with the final product, both aesthetically and for the user’s experience, even though we’d rather be together in Indianapolis,” Lewis said. “ATA 2021 Online can’t replace our Trade Show, but we hope everyone finds our first virtual ATA Show an incredible alternative.”
Lewis encourages ATA members to look at the bottom of their screen in their MyATA member dashboard while participating in ATA 2021 Online. Note the icons that represent traditional member benefits, which the ATA offers year-round to help members improve their business.
As with the in-person Show, your ATA staff will stand by to help you and answer your questions throughout the online Show. We hope you learn a lot, and score epic deals and products for your business. Thanks for your membership and support, and enjoy the Show!
If you have questions, please contact the ATA Trade Show and membership office at (866) 266-2776, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the ATA staff page to find contact information for all ATA employees.