My Thoughts From the Virtual Show


Reading time ( words)

Gosh, I sure missed the live event.

I listened in on several technical sessions, the awards ceremony, the keynotes, and the Hall of Fame management session. I tried a couple of professional development courses but got the frownie face on my screen and didn’t go back in. I have almost 90 days(!) to browse them to my heart’s content, so what the heck.

There were good points and a few not so good things about this first ever virtual conference. You probably experienced some yourself.

The management session was outstanding. HoF’er Gene Weiner almost single-handedly put together a fabulous lineup of speakers from both large and small companies. Most of the talks were prerecorded but the Q&A was live. The big advantage: no trouble getting speakers who were too far away or couldn’t spare the time—they just had to put together a talk, record it, and then be available at a specific time for the Q&A. No hours or cost spent traveling. The main downside I saw was that this was the first session of the week and there were a few technical glitches—mostly on my end. But then, I can go back and see them all again, so I’m not too upset.

The quality of the papers and speakers in the technical sessions was very good. Some people had chosen to prerecord their talk while others were live. The advantage of pre-recording was no risk of the speaker losing connection during their talk. Otherwise, not a lot of difference. Everyone was live and visible for the Q&A at the end of their talk. There seemed to be plenty of good questions and discussion—questions sent in via chat box and discussion between moderator and speaker. It worked.

The neat thing about the awards ceremony was that all the awardees had a moment in the sun, so to speak, via recorded comments (usu-ally this was limited to just the Hall of Fame and corporate awardees). Unlike most years, everyone attending any part of the conference/show could watch this. Usually, the awards are presented at luncheons that must be purchased. Which of course was the sad part for me—no luncheon! No sitting with a group of people that you may or not know and discussing the morning’s sessions or committees or what have you.

Which brings me to my big disappointment of APEX EXPO 2021: no people! No seeing your industry friends, no catching up on a year’s worth of happenings, no discussions, no hugs, no smiles. Our industry and IPC are, for sure, all about the people and there was just no way to actually talk to anyone. No one’s fault, just made it rather lonely. IPC meetings are always a recharge time for me.

On Thursday afternoon, I thought to “walk” the show floor, see what was there… Well, of course there were no booths, just small web-sites. No faces, no names, just products. No way to walk down the aisle for an ice cream and never get there because you stop and talk to 10 people and end up going in another direction. No way to catch up with old colleagues, say hi, see who is working where now. I would have loved it if the websites had shown a photo of the company booth from years past, or some faces and names. Who is on the other end of the “chat” anyhow? Can I tell them to say “hi” to so and so, and ask how business is going?

All in all, virtual had a big advantage in an excellent program, including the keynotes (see Pete Starkey’s review) along with the full 90 days to revisit and review the technical sessions, absorb all the info, submit additional questions, etc.

How much has this conference changed the way it will be structured from now on? Time will tell, but I think recording the tech sessions and the 90-day review window are definite keepers. I think having the virtual show in addition to live could work and help bring in more people who cannot spare the time or cost to attend. But I’m sure I’m not alone in missing the live, energizing event that IPC APEX EXPO has always been. Looking forward to San Diego next year!

This article originally appeared in the 2021 issue of Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO Show & Tell Magazine.

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