The 2021 Golf Industry Show is going virtual.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, GCSAA announced today that the annual education conference and trade show will be presented in a virtual format instead of the previously planned in-person event in Las Vegas.
The decision was made in conjunction with GCSAA’s presenting GIS partners, the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) and the Golf Course Builders Association of America (GCBAA). The organizations say the virtual event will offer an experience that continues the Golf Industry Show’s long tradition of connecting attendees, exhibitors and industry experts through a week of unparalleled educational opportunities and access to golf facility solutions for industry professionals.
In addition to the education, trade show and special events that will take place live on the virtual platform the first week of February, attendees will also have the option to view or review all content from the show for an extended period after the event concludes.
The theme of GIS 2021 — “Your space. Your pace. All in one place.” — not only reflects the ability of participants to attend the show from the safety of their homes or offices and consume the content when they want to, but also speaks to the convergence of industry experts that is a hallmark of GIS and will remain so in the virtual format.
Registration for the 2021 Golf Industry Show will open Oct. 13 on the Golf Industry Show website.
Hear from GCSAA President John R. Fulling Jr., CGCS, about the association’s decision to host the 2021 Golf Industry Show virtually and what the experience will hold for attendees:
GIS 2021: Q&A with GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans
GCM sat down with GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans to discuss the move to a virtual GIS, the reasons behind it, what attendees can expect, and what the future might hold for other upcoming conferences and trade shows.
Q: At the time of this interview in early August, we’re six months out from the scheduled dates for an in-person GIS 2021. Why did GCSAA decide now was the right time to make this decision?
A: The short answer is that it was simply the right thing to do — for our members, our exhibitors, our GIS presenting partners, and our staff who work so hard to plan and execute the Golf Industry Show each year.
As any organization that conducts an event as substantial as GIS would do, we have been carefully monitoring the situation, tracking its effect on the event and trade show industry, and gathering feedback from GCSAA members and longtime GIS exhibitors. In addition to planning for an in-person event in Las Vegas, we were working concurrently on several contingency plans, all with the safety, health and comfort of all GIS attendees at the forefront of our thinking.
As we entered the month of August, circumstances made it clear that now was the time and that an all-virtual event was our best course of action. The pandemic remained a source of great concern for all of our constituents, and it was clear that concern would likely continue into the new year. Additionally, several other prominent events we had been watching closely — most notably, the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show and the 2020 GIE+EXPO — announced that their events would either go virtual (in the case of CES) or be postponed (in the case of GIE+EXPO).
We were also cognizant of the need to give time for all involved to adjust and plan for any changes to GIS that we might need to make. When you take all of that into consideration, it became clear that transitioning to a virtual event was our best option, and the time to make that decision was now.
GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans. Photo by Montana Pritchard
Q: You mention the contingency plans you had been considering during GIS 2021 planning. Why was an all-virtual event selected as the best scenario to pursue?
A: As we began to plan in earnest for GIS 2021, all in the midst of the pandemic, we felt it prudent to work concurrently on other potential scenarios for the event. Those ranged from a normal, in-person GIS, to a hybrid event that would offer both in-person and online offerings, to an all-online, virtual conference and trade show.
We ultimately decided on the virtual-event option, because it was clear it was the one that best took into account the clear preferences of our members and exhibitors while still offering those groups an experience they would find valuable, educational, interactive and profitable.
Q: What factors and feedback were considered in the decision-making process?
A: We kept close tabs on national developments in the event and trade show industry, with a specific eye on Las Vegas and the state of Nevada. To assist in that effort, we engaged with a veteran trade show consultant to guide us through the process and offer his analysis on trends and best practices that were available to us.
We also conducted surveys of our members and GIS attendees to gauge their preferences and comfort levels with an in-person event versus an online, virtual offering, and the data from those surveys made it clear that a virtual option was strongly preferred. In addition, we also regularly worked with our GIS exhibitors to make sure their feedback was received and considered as we came to this final decision.
There were other factors that we took into consideration, from virus-related travel restrictions to progress on the development of effective treatments and vaccines for the disease. But in the end, based on the best available information, we think we made a sound decision that best serves everyone involved with GIS.
Q: How will this virtual GIS be delivered to attendees? Have you determined a technology partner yet?
A: We evaluated several potential vendors who all offered cutting-edge products, but ultimately selected one whose platform we all agreed was highly interactive, visually engaging and easy to use. The core content offered on this platform will be the same world-class offerings that you’d find at an in-person GIS. The lineup will include concurrent education sessions, networking opportunities, special events and a virtual trade show along with some fun features and special guests that are unique to the virtual platform.
Check out a preview of the virtual GIS 2021 experience:
Q: There is official GCSAA business conducted each year at GIS, from the presentation of major awards to the association’s annual meeting and election, plus special events such as Celebrating Certification and the Health in Action 5K run. How will those be affected by this decision?
A: GIS always presents such a great opportunity to acknowledge excellence in our industry and to recognize the notable work of our members. That will certainly be a different exercise in a virtual setting, but we’re committed to doing it in a way that will make it a special and memorable occasion for those being honored, whether those are Distinguished Service Award winners or members who have earned or maintained their status as certified superintendents.
Similarly, our annual meeting and election are crucial elements to the business of our association, and those events will also take place in the virtual format. We must make sure those are conducted in accordance with association bylaws, but we will have an annual meeting and election in February.
Q: What does this mean for the GCSAA Golf Championships? Will those events be conducted as scheduled, or are changes planned?
A: We know how important the golf tournament is to so many of our members and how much they were looking forward to our return trip to Palm Springs (Calif.). Regrettably, though, the decision to transition GIS to an all-virtual event means that the GCSAA Golf Championships will not take place as planned.
We do remain strongly committed to this tournament. We have a wonderful corporate partner in The Toro Co. that has supported it for the past 26 years and a host of loyal and enthusiastic participants who take part year after year. As a result, we’re hopeful we’ll be able to offer an alternative event later in 2021, if conditions warrant, and I can say that we’ll do all we can to bring this event back to Palm Springs just as soon as we can.
Q: What will a virtual event provide for someone who has never had the opportunity to attend an in-person GIS before?
A: Quite a lot, actually. In fact, one of the things we’re most excited about in this transition to an all-virtual event in 2021 is what it can offer those who have been unable to attend an in-person GIS in the past or haven’t been able to take part as frequently as they would have liked.
We are certainly aware that there can be obstacles for some who are interested in taking advantage of an in-person GIS. There are financial constraints, time constraints, family obligations. It is our hope that savings in travel costs — airfare, lodging, food, etc. — from not having an in-person event, the flexibility offered by a virtual platform, and the fact that registered attendees can access GIS information for a period of time after the event ends will be enticing to those members.
Similarly, we think the virtual platform opens up significant opportunities for international attendees for many of those same reasons. There’s also a tool within the virtual platform that will translate select GIS content into as many as 10 different languages, which we think will broaden the appeal even further.
Q: What would you say to members or industry partners who might be skeptical that a virtual GIS experience will deliver the same value they receive at an in-person event?
A: I would say those feelings are understandable. GIS is such a unique event that delivers so much to so many. It offers an unmatched opportunity to bring our industry together and focus attention on what makes superintendents and equipment managers such integral parts of the game of golf. We share in the disappointment that we’re not going to be able to experience that in person in 2021.
That said, we are extremely confident that we’ve settled on a virtual option that will create a memorable and valuable experience for attendees and exhibitors alike. We took great pains to make sure we found a tool that looked good, would be easy to use, and would be interactive. When you pair that with the world-class content delivered by industry experts from around the globe, we’re confident that GIS 2021 will be a great experience for all involved.