A couple of years ago, I discovered that Amsterdam was an anagram of ‘Made Smart’, a creative form of rhetoric that reinforced the value and the importance of METSTRADE and our partner event, The Superyacht Forum.

Following a recent virtual meeting with the new director of METSTRADE, Niels Klarenbeek, it was very clear that the team at the RAI were managing the pandemic very intelligently and were making very smart decisions about the 2020 edition of the event. There is no smarter decision to be taken by any industry than to tread very carefully and create a solution that gives everyone confidence that the show can go on (it’s no longer a matter of ‘the show must go on’). So, from our conversation and from the recent press statement, it is clear that for 2020 there is a strong appetite for both METSTRADE, incorporating the Superyacht Pavilion, and The Superyacht Forum to take place in November this year.

Obviously, there are people who will choose not to travel and there are those who cannot travel yet, which will have a direct impact on who is physically present at the various events, but providing health and safety is at the core of the project, those people who do attend will benefit from something unique. Both Niels and I agreed that this year will deliver an event that is based on quality over quantity in so many ways. If less people can attend, for obvious reasons, this may enhance the networking and engagement for the exhibitors, visitors and delegates. Those people who choose to make the journey will do so with a renewed purpose and focus, not wishing to waste time or do the typical show wandering to see what’s on display, but have a clear and structured agenda of the key people they need to meet, and ultimately, taking a smarter approach.

It is likely that many delegates from across the Atlantic or from Asia may be unable to attend or cannot enter European airspace by November, based on current activities reported on the news. Therefore, we may end up with a very Eurocentric physical event this year. However, with the world of digital evolution and our new-found virtual events space, there will be opportunities to engage and interact in various new ways across the exhibition, awards and conference activities. Whether these replace or deliver the same results - it’s too early to say, but I think it’s fair to say that these event experiments will shape a “brave new world”, where buyers and sellers can interact throughout the year rather than just for the three days of METSTRADE or The Superyacht Forum.

It’s hard to predict the attendance levels for METSTRADE in 2020, or for The Superyacht Forum for that matter, but with the various protocols being introduced, we know that those that can attend will be joined by many more virtually, in fact we can expect the virtual numbers to far exceed the traditional physical numbers. We may even end up with a focused audience of buyers, while those that typically attend as observers or enthusiasts may choose to stay away, improving the purity and quality for all. 

I think what will be interesting is how the virtual audience engages with the new formats and channels. People are clearly showing signs of webinar fatigue, but if we can deliver interesting, entertaining and intelligent virtual interaction, I think METSTRADE and The Superyacht Forum can set a new standard. When you look at the key objectives for anyone attending these two major events, it revolves around meeting key suppliers, discussing future contracts, discovering new technologies and innovations and improving your network of customers or useful contacts. All of this can be achieved using smart phones, virtual spaces, desktop systems and live-streaming platforms, but it has to be interesting, useful and add value.

I’m not sure this will ever replace the human desire to interact and meet face to face. In fact, what this strange year will inspire, is a change of mindset and attitude to how we attend and visit events. There will not be the same peak and trough of activity, but instead an interactive build-up of engaging ideas, like our One to One digital dialogues and our soon-to-launch SuperyachtNews Tech Talks, which will keep an audience informed and interacting with the market for 300 days, rather than the traditional 3 days. 

Essentially, the event landscape has been hugely disrupted in 2020 and as has been previously said in other columns from my team and I, this is a time to rethink, reset and refocus our attention on how we do business within the show and conference environment. Following my conversations with Niels, we both agree that it is not about “the show must go on”; it is all about making sure “the show can go on” with smarter solutions, safe protocols and a high quality mix of buyers and sellers. With this in place, METSTRADE and The Superyacht Forum become a kick-start meeting for 2021 and beyond.

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