MJ|Unpacked demonstrates the new normal for conferences
Jage, a well-known cannabis media firm, in a partnership with BDS Analytics, unveiled “MJ Unpacked” on Tuesday of this week. The conference, billed as a virtual and interactive conference, was a series of 3D virtual summits designed exclusively for cannabis retail and brand executives – clearly, the press was welcome too, or you wouldn’t be enjoying this recap.
While many of us have been attending webinars since the pandemic began, we are also aware of the technology blips and hiccups that can take place in a virtual meeting with several other humans. As a result, it was with trepidation about the success of such a venture that I registered for the event online.
Fortunately, for the producers, the tech hiccups didn’t occur during the actual event but did plague users prior to entry. During the registration process, I received an error screen each time I attempted to register, and then when I was successful, the entry fee was waived because of the technical glitches – it was a nice touch and a classy way to handle an unexpected snafu.
On the morning of the conference, the first few attempts to enter were thwarted with the dreaded Forbidden 404 screen, and after waiting about 10 minutes, my final attempt was successful. Later in the day, attendees received an apology email about the problem getting into the conference and that it had been an unforeseen capacity limit. The silver lining to that, lots of people were anxious to experience this event and it was proven by the influx of entrants wanting in immediately at the start.
As for the conference itself – well done! It’s hard to imagine how to “attend” a conference and visit booths without good walking shoes and the giant bag of branded chapsticks that a typical conference requires. Not only did this team find a way to replicate the ability to have conversations with those manning the virtual booths (individual chats!) but from my perspective, it was a great way to collect materials and sell sheets via direct download AND have the opportunity to ask questions and view products in 3D.
Cannabis brands and ancillary businesses were well represented, from the folks at Adaptive HR who we know well in Missouri, to big brands like Wana who will soon be in our state. Other favorite brands from Colorado who we won’t be so fortunate to have here, such as Ripple, were still great to talk to and interact with. Even the freebie experience was replicated, in the form of requesting samples by mail (for non-THC items) which was a nice touch.
Other features that attendees really appreciated was a new way to do peer-to-peer networking, participate in expert Q&As, round tables, learn, and network as if we were at an in-person trade show. Additionally, all attendees were individually vetted by organizers to make sure everyone attending was equally invested in a successful event.
The speakers were well chosen and gave great insights that would be valuable for anyone in the retail cannabis space. In terms of a first run at a virtual event, the organizers really found the right ways to simulate the feel of being in person and I hope others in the event planning space take a good look at how this can be accomplished. I’m looking forward to day 2!