Associations Take the Show on the Road

With large conferences not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic and many attendees reluctant to travel to attend smaller conferences, some associations have decided to bring local events to their members. Is it a trend to watch?

More than three years ago, I wrote about how associations were using roadshows to bring education and networking to members. Now the pandemic has made this format even more appealing.

Case in point: SIAARTI—the Italian Society of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Intensive Care, and Resuscitation—recently reimagined its traditional annual congress into a two-week road trip across the country.

Working with AIM Group International, SAARTI launched the “Travelling With ICare” tour. From September 21 to October 4, a SIAARTI truck traveled to hospitals in eight Italian cities to promote knowledge exchange between anesthesiologists and resuscitators. Along with the truck, each stop included an outdoor pop-up meeting area and recording studio.

Participants had the chance to meet experts, health managers, local administrators, and sponsors in the outdoor meeting area and attend dozens of roundtables, interviews, and meet-the expert sessions. From the health and safety perspective, social-distancing guidelines were followed, and masks and temperature checks were required for all speakers, sponsors, technicians, and attendees.

“Anesthesiologists and resuscitators, still dealing with the pandemic, had the opportunity to participate in the live events—held close to where they work rather than travelling to a congress,” said Gaia Santoro, project manager and head of the sponsorship unit at AIM Group International, in a press release. “If you are unable to participate in ICare, ICare will come to you: This was our motto.”

Over the course of the 1,120-mile tour, 48 hours of training was provided. In addition, all of the content collected during the tour was used to build out SIAARTI’s online learning platform, allowing it to be tapped by a wider audience.

“We are very satisfied with the results obtained, and since the event took place during the COVID-19 emergency, it required a good dose of courage. It also provided an example of how we can return to in-person events in a safe and effective way,” said Rosangela Quieti, managing director, congress division, AIM Group International.

SIAARTI isn’t the only group taking a local approach: The Society of Women Engineers has a slate of WE Local events planned for 2021. Each includes professional development and a job fair, but there is also a strong focus on networking since participants typically include both students and professionals.

While colder weather in some parts of the country may quash plans for outdoor roadshows and other traveling events in the upcoming months, I do think the idea will continue to appeal to people for a number of reasons, including the outdoor aspect and that attending doesn’t require any type of travel.

And roadshows are just one format that you’ll likely see more associations planning. There’s no lack of creativity when it comes to trying out new setups like drive-in meetings or events that take place in the great outdoors.

What new event formats is your association considering as the pandemic continues? Please share in the comments.

(via SIAARTI’s Facebook page)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!