The COVID-19 pandemic has hampered the ability for pest management professionals (PMPs) to attend conferences and other industry events in person.
Virtual platforms make attending events easier, however, and PestWorld 2020 is no exception. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) will host a virtual version Oct. 13-15, eliminating the need to run through airports to catch planes, and miss work for days as you travel to and from a venue. Instead, you can log in to PestWorld 2020 from the comfort of your home or office, and you won’t even have to wear shoes.
With a virtual event, companies will save on costs for transportation getting employees to and from the venue, hotels and food. Attendees also won’t be spending time away from the office, because they can attend on their desktops, laptops or mobile devices. For instance, instead of sending three employees who typically attend PestWorld, companies can have 10 employees attend and still save money.
“This allows people a chance to experience PestWorld who may not have had the ability to do so,” says the NPMA’s senior VP of meetings and association management services, Alexis Wirtz, CMP. “You are offering them the chance to see what the PestWorld experience is all about without those additional costs.”
The virtual platform the NPMA chose will give attendees the feeling they are participating in an event. They will see a virtual lobby, meeting rooms, auditorium, and booths that resemble the real thing, thanks to real-life graphics.
“One of our staff members compares it to entering a video game. It feels like so much more than viewing a webpage. The booths look like booths, and not just information on a screen,” she tells PMP. “It was really important for us to be able to mimic, as closely as we could, a physical event so our supplier community would feel like they could have interactions with attendees.”
PestWorld 2020 attendees will have access to nearly 50 sessions that will be available on demand through Dec. 31. Because the price to attend is lower than it has been for past PestWorld events, attendees will get more value than if it were a three-day in-person meeting.
That’s because they will be able to receive additional continuing education units (CEUs) on demand long after the three days of PestWorld 2020 are over. “That is very valuable for attendees who have lived in a world of six months of not being been able to attend any conferences and needing CEUs,” she says.
NETWORKING IS PARAMOUNT
Like previous PestWorld events, networking with fellow attendees and supplier companies will be a highlight.
“They still have the opportunity to meet with the supplier community, which we know is so important to PestWorld attendees, and have those discussions they would have face to face,” she says. “We’re incorporating a number of different networking opportunities so folks can virtually see one another, and interact and have a cup of coffee together in the morning. Even though they’re at their homes doesn’t mean they’re not going to see other people.”
It’s a great opportunity for international pest management professionals, too, as they would not have to travel to the United States to experience PestWorld. The virtual platform provides Spanish translation for those who need it.
“A lot of PMPs probably are apprehensive about attending PestWorld 2020,” she says. “If they are on the fence, I encourage them to be there.”
Attendees will log in to the virtual platform and click on the Exhibit Hall icon that will take them to a virtual exhibit hall featuring the logos of all the participating companies. The booths will resemble the real thing; vendors have the ability to provide videos and links to additional information. Chat functionality makes it easy for attendees to speak with company representatives while visiting their virtual booths.
“As soon as an attendee enters a booth, the vendor is made aware the attendee is there,” she says. “They will have the ability to click a Zoom link if they want more of face to face meeting.”
During PestWorld 2020, the exhibit hall will be open 24/7, so attendees can visit when it’s convenient for them. They can leave a message for vendors, who will know when attendees visit their booths, even if it’s after hours, thanks to functionality in the virtual platform.
“If their day got away from them, or they spent more time in the educational sessions during the day, they can explore the exhibit hall in the evening during those three days,” she says. “It will allow the vendors more time for the attendees to have exposure to them in their booth.
Prime-time exhibit hours are built into the PestWorld 2020 schedule at a time when no other presentations are taking place. “The exhibitors know that will be a busy time and can have more of their staff working their booths and answering questions,” Wirtz adds.
During the three days of PestWorld 2020, attendees will have access to the 20 live sessions, which will be available via the virtual platform through the end of October.
“Even after the live content and the schedule of events for the three days of PestWorld 2020 end, attendees will be able to go back into the booths for two more weeks,” she notes. “It will give them more time to create those relationships or follow up with the companies they want to talk to.”
Attendees should not fret over the possibility of technical difficulties, as the NPMA will be prepared for just about anything. The virtual platform has a help button on every page, and team members from the NPMA and the virtual platform company will be standing by to assist.
“If they have a technical question about something related to the platform, we have experts who can answer it,” she says. “If they have a question about the PestWorld agenda of events, we will have NPMA staff available all day long to answer those questions.”
Wirtz assures PMPs the virtual platform will be easy to navigate and not at all overwhelming. Attendees are encouraged to explore the platform and become familiar with how it works.
“We will help them feel comfortable with the virtual experience,” she says. “We’re really excited to make it a fulfilling experience as possible.”
For those who have attended PestWorld in the past, many of the fun networking events will be held virtually.
The In the Mix reception will take place once again, giving attendees an opportunity to learn more about the NPMA’s special interest groups such as the Leadership Networking Community, Professional Women In Pest Management, PestVets and the Diversity Council. And this year’s event that will close out PestWorld 2020 has a new sponsor, MGK.
“We’re really excited to add those fun pieces,” she says.
NEW FOR 2020
New this year are daily events designed to engage a virtual audience. PestWorld Roundtables will be held each of the three days, and the topics are listed on the PestWorld schedule of events.
PestWorld Coffee Chats offer a chance to meet up with old friends or make new ones as you ease into your day. “There’s no facilitated dialogue,” she says. “It’s just a way to meet up with other folks and say hello and see people’s faces.”
When attendees need a break, they can visit the “fun zone,” a room within the virtual platform designed for those who need to unwind. It will include links to virtual tours of Nashville, Tenn. — where the event was supposed to take place — as well as trivia and games.
“We want to make PestWorld 2020 very entertaining, interactive and engaging for our members,” she says.
Wirtz says the virtual nature of PestWorld 2020 offers a great opportunity to non-members who haven’t experienced PestWorld or is unfamiliar with the NPMA.
“They can dip their toe in the water and learn what we’re about,” she says. “They will see the value in the content and the relationships and the networking opportunities we offer through the NPMA and PestWorld.”
Wirtz encourages attendees to be open to the virtual experience. “We understand it’s not the same as face to face, and we wish we could all be together,” she says of PestWorld 2020. “But we feel it provides a really valuable experience and a way to connect with one another, which I think we’re all looking for.”