In a global industry that relies heavily on collaboration, COVID 19 created a big pause and pivot in one of the key business development tools of the microelectronics industry: technology conferences and trade shows. Organizations like IMAPS International and SEMI, which rely on the revenue generated by these events to support association and membership activities, were forced to embrace virtual events as an alternative to live events.
I recently spoke with Rich Rice, IMAPS president for 2021 and head of marketing for ASE in North America; and Dave Anderson, President of the Americas, at SEMI, about what worked, and what didn’t, and how these organizations are taking lessons learned to implement best practices for hybrid models going forward. We also talked about what to expect as we gradually return to live events.
Pros and Cons of Digital Events
Finding the right virtual platform to effectively deliver content is essential. Because the “live” online events were still time-zone dependent, many registered attendees took advantage of the on-demand capabilities to watch sessions on their own schedule.
The downside was not being able to participate in live Q&A. Historically, attendees who couldn’t ask presenters questions in person at a live event would seek out the speaker at the company’s exhibitor booth.
“That’s part of the entire collaboration experience of a live conference, especially a technical one,” noted Rich. “That’s one thing we’re missing and want to get back.”
Exhibiting virtually offered a plethora of lessons learned. While, as Dave pointed out, they offer much more robust metrics and lead generation, the engagement factor is lacking, even with chat capabilities. Instead, exhibitors (or event sponsors) found value in special slots in the programming, whether it was a video, a logo, or a short promotional presentation. Going forward, you can expect to see more of that as an alternative to virtual exhibits.
Navigating the Return to Live Events
Starting this month (September), we’ll see a return to live events beginning with SEMI Europe’s Packaging Technology Seminar and SEMI’s Strategic Materials Conference in San Jose. IMAPS International Symposium takes place in mid-October in San Diego.
SEMI events kick into high gear in November, with SEMICON Europa collocated with Productronica, followed by SEMICON West, SEMICON Japan, and SEMICON Taiwan, all in December. This means companies will likely strategically select the events in which they will participate. Larger companies with global representatives may choose to mobilize local teams, versus sending delegates from outside the region.
The most important thing is to keep an open mind as we move forward, noted Dave, and Rich agrees.
“We’re constantly monitoring and evaluating developments regarding COVID restrictions,” said Dave. “We’re implementing best practices for the safety of all our attendees and exhibitors and staff, but these are changing rapidly, and we have to remain agile and flexible because things could change it at any moment. We encouraged exhibitors and sponsors to really embrace the hybrid and virtual components of the event because they’re evolving as well. And I think to some degree, they’re here to stay, but we certainly are looking forward to getting back face to face.”
And when you do attend a live event for the first time, whether it’s an IMAPS event, SEMI, or other organization, you can expect a lot of celebrating!
If you’d like to hear our full conversation on the topic, you can listen to the podcast here or read the transcript.