Navigating IWF Connect and our virtual reality

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The virtual version of North America’s largest woodworking fair, IWF Connect, took place Oct. 26-30 during typical business hours. It replaced the in-person International Woodworking Fair, scheduled for August and cancelled by the pandemic. I’d call it a great learning experience from a producer, exhibitor and attendee perspective as it was not necessarily an easy feat for any party, but ultimately served its purpose.

Show management says the event attracted north of 7,000 attendees, though a final count was unavailable at press time. If you missed it, IWF Connect on Demand is available through Dec. 31.

“IWF Connect on Demand visitors will have direct email access to exhibitors. The Live Chat feature offered in the Oct. 26-30 online show will not be available going forth. Exhibitors can continue to refresh and update company information, replace videos, images and other brand assets via the Exhibitor Dashboard. Exhibitors can communicate by email with attendees and fellow exhibitors through Dec. 31, 2020. Exhibitors can access stats and leads reports through the Dashboard. All visitors can continue to register to view educational sessions and to screen Primetime Presentations,” the IWF said in a statement.

From my observation, one of the best features of IWF Connect was the show planner, which allowed attendees to study the daily schedule and organize their time. Machinery demonstrations were a plus as they provided a wealth of content in about 15 minutes.

I joined Laguna Tools’ “Maximizing your Materials with Nesting on a CNC router,” which covered building an Adirondack chair from one 4’ x 8’ panel using VCarve Pro software, followed by “Meet the Expandable CNC Router: The Sidewinder” by CNC Factory and “Simplifying Pocket Hole Joinery with Safety Speed Screw Pocket Machines.”

After getting my feet wet, I realized there was enough content to set aside several days, tailored to suit my specific needs. There was time to explore free product and business tutorials, such as how to conduct a dust hazard analysis from Nederman, and partake in “Live from the Cabinet Shop”, a presentation from Tiet Custom Cabinets in Brooklyn Center, Minn.

Some familiar IWF traditions, especially the Challengers Awards for new product innovation, were not held. But the Woodwork Career Alliance was able to hold its auction amongst other Primetime Presentations by DeWalt, Sherwin-Williams, Canon Solutions America and KVDN.

My overall take is that it was well executed and very organized. Attendees could explore at their pace, depending on how much they wanted to see. Several exhibitors contacted by Woodshop News said they were pleased with the show. The only complaint had to do with a technical issue involving the use of two portals to run and administer video demonstrations.

There’s a slew of upcoming online trade shows on the industry calendar. Give the next one a try. 

This article was originally published in the December 2020 issue.

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