January '21

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22 THE SHOP JANUARY 2021 et's face it, as long as business is clouded by COVID-19 and restrictions prohibit gatherings of any significant numbers, we're going to have virtual trade events. Say what you will about them, but there's information on new products to be had, and meetings or chats to attend. The best thing you can do is accept that this is our reality, at least for now—one of the only ways we're going to discover the latest and newest in parts, accessories and services. So, let's take a look at how shop owners, sales teams and installers can make the most of the virtual trade show experience. PLAN AHEAD This is going to sound almost identical to planning for a live event, and to some degree it is. You'll first need to look over the list of exhibitors ahead of the show and decide who to visit and what you're hoping to achieve while you're there. It isn't only for expediency's sake that you're planning in advance. In every virtual trade show I've attended thus far, there is a time limit you'll be up against. Yes, you may have 24-hour access from your desktop or mobile device for the length of the show, but that's the problem. You only have a limited number of days that the show will be hosted, and after that you and everyone else will lose access to the exhibits. Unlimited access lulls you into a false sense of security, so that you begin to feel no urgency in viewing what's being exhibited, or in scheduling the chats or meetings that you absolutely need. Think of it as the end of the day during a live show, or when you get to the last day of SEMA or AAPEX and you haven't visited all the vendors you had hoped to. This is exactly the same in the virtual world, and if you do find you're running out of time, the only alternative is to see if there are contacts listed for the remaining exhibitors on your list, and try to contact them after the event is over. When the curtain came down on SEMA360 in November, the website imme- diately transitioned to the 2021 SEMA Show. SEMA no longer focused on the virtual show and instead began directing everyone to the (hopefully!) next live show coming up almost a year from now. MAKE A ROADMAP One of the glitches in these simulated trade shows is akin to being in the middle of the SEMA Show's famous Hot Rod Alley, stop- ping to pick up a brochure and discovering that you don't know where you are or where to go next. This is not only frustrating, but highly disruptive, and the programmers or hosts of these events will continue to work on implementing better ways to track where you are, where you've been and where you want to go next. Making the most of virtual trade shows. Story & Photos by Jason R. Sakurai Ideally, you should attend virtual trade shows from a quiet office without interruptions. Reality Check Coronavirus Update

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