Virtual Supply Chain Conferences

One of our most popular posts every year is our Supply Chain and Logistics Conferences to Attend post. A few weeks after publishing this year’s list, the COVID-19 pandemic began. It didn’t take long for every conference after March to either get cancelled or re-imagined as a virtual event.

Moving forward, how important will it be for supply chain conference organizers to offer a virtual attendance option — i.e., enable people to attend the conference via a live and/or recorded stream online?

We asked our Indago members that question a few weeks ago. A majority of our member respondents (62%) believe that having a virtual attendance option for supply chain conferences will be “Very Important” or “Important” moving forward.

Source: Indago (n=29)

But many of the respondents, like the following two, view it as an add-on option, not a replacement for in-person events:

“I think [virtual conferences] are a great option during the pandemic, but certainly not the way they should continue. Too much of the benefit of [in-person] conferences is about [networking with other attendees] which can’t occur over video.”

“I feel like it’s definitely important to offer [a virtual attendance option] but I think it completely takes away from the in-person experience. Energy is contagious, and although you can feel it electronically, it will never be as strong as being in the room itself.”

With regards to important features/capabilities of virtual conferences, “The ability to watch recordings of sessions” received the most “Very Important” votes (72%). This suggests that many people want the ability to attend sessions when it’s convenient for them, or to watch them again or later if they get pulled away by other priorities during the live stream.

Source: Indago (n=29)

Here are some other value-added comments from our Indago members, who are all supply chain and logistics professionals from manufacturing, retail, and distribution companies:

“Going virtual would not be the same in many respects. [To attend an in-person conference] you do everything possible to set aside day-to-day responsibilities and truly focus on the content and networking that makes conferences valuable. A virtual conference would have a difficult time gaining and holding the same level of focus when the ‘Crisis of the Day’ pops up.”

“The main purpose of attending conferences is to update your industry knowledge and connect with peers. Taking in information virtually wouldn’t be a problem, but it would be more difficult to interact with peers since most ideas [at in-person conferences] are shared over small chats and coffee breaks.”

“I think that virtual is nice to have in those situations when you can’t attend in person, but I do not think it comes close to replacing in-person events.”

“Pro – Less expensive for attendees, no time away from the office. Con – I can fully see daily disruptions when trying to attend virtually from my work office. The temptation would be there to possibly not watch or attend.”

“Customers will demand the delivery of goods and services (including conferences) in whatever way they prefer. If you don’t offer a wide array of options, it is unlikely you will reach your desired audience across the industry/market.”

Have you attended a virtual supply chain conference this year? What were the pros and cons? Do you agree with our Indago members? Post a comment and share your perspective!

Join Indago

If you’re a supply chain or logistics practitioner from a manufacturing, retail, or distribution company, I encourage you to learn more about Indago and join our research community. It is confidential, there is no cost to join and the time commitment is minimal (2-5 minutes per week) — plus your participation will help support charitable causes like JDRF, American Logistics Aid Network, American Cancer Society, Feeding America, and Make-A-Wish.

You can also follow us on LinkedIn to stay informed of our latest research results and news.