Are You Experienced?

By Jeff Lenard   read

We’re creating an industry-first, world-class experience with all the feels of a live event.

September 23, 2020

“Did I just see…?” For anyone who has been to a NACS Show, that’s a common reaction, whether it’s entertainment at a booth, a celebrity appearance, well-known keynote speaker or a cool innovation making its industry debut. You may even have that same reaction to a cool new product, a presentation from a high-level leader or just running into someone you haven’t seen in a while or always wanted to meet.

Informally, we’re using the “Did I just see?” line to elevate our new Crack the Code Experience and create something that is truly memorable. After all, the word experience is in the title, which is pretty much a brand promise.

Artwork by David Lloyd Glove

How are we doing this? Let’s start with some of the fun, interactive elements. Trivia nights are fun, but how much more fun would it be if I ran it on the topic of obscure album covers from the 1960s and 70s? That probably got your attention but don’t worry, I wouldn’t do that to you, and you won’t hurt my feelings if that sounded like watching paint dry. Kidding aside, we’re introducing these types of moments throughout the experience, from hangout areas to connect with like-minded retailers or some of those bigger, industry-wide moments of community.

Experience also relates to connecting with new products. You’ll have the ability to find the cool new products and services that get your customers excited in the appropriately named Cool New Products Showcase. And there will be many ways to interact with suppliers to find those awesome new products and ideas throughout hundreds of exhibitor showrooms.

Then there are the sessions. Our 40+ education sessions will allow for attendee polling and Q&As so they’re as interactive and engaging as possible.

We also have 15 spotlight sessions, like our in-person “general sessions.” In a typical year, I am furiously planning all the big and small details related to four days of general sessions. It’s exciting and overwhelming and the focus of dreams, which is probably a whole ‘nother blog. So, why did I think that 15 of them would be a good idea when four are plenty of work? Again, probably a topic for another blog, or a therapy session.

The unique dynamics of the five-week Crack the Code Experience allows us to think differently about how we deliver content on a digital platform that supports education, networking, strategic business planning, new products and innovations and allows members to create and foster long-term industry partnerships.

We’re essentially ripping up the playbook for how we normally do things. For example, the Ideas 2 Go general session presentation is among the highest rated elements of a traditional NACS Show. And while this year’s format is different (we had some “issues” hitting the road from April through June to film), we’ll show more videos of retailers that were collaboratively captured throughout our new non-normal. We’ll show innovation as well as emotional videos with retailers who overcame some pretty tough challenges this year, and then we’ll talk to them about how they’re doing now.

Looking back, I wish you all could’ve seen the reaction on our faces (on Microsoft Teams) when Henry Armour shared with us that the NACS Show had been cancelled. A lot of disappointment, of course, but it’s been all hands on deck since to create a new and industry first, world-class experience.

I’ll be honest: None of us have a ton of experience with creating a five-week event during a global pandemic. But that’s also what’s keeping us invigorated and excited to deliver a truly unique experience. We have a chance to constantly ask “Why not?” And that's because we want to build an experience for all of us to say, “Did you just see?”

Jeff Lenard is the NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. Since March he’s been saving trees, paper and ink by printing significantly less. And with 26,000-some songs on an iPod (yeah, that’s strange, too), he only has 11 by Jimi Hendrix, the guy referenced in the title.