Kaitlin Bast; Manager, World Trade Center Kansas City

Like many of our counterparts, WTC Kansas City’s initial days of working remotely and understanding the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic involved postponing and delaying programs and events until we could formulate a plan to continue our mission: Education, Connect, and Trade. Shortly after transitioning to remote work, we made the difficult decision to postpone our largest and most profitable event, Go Global KC, from June 2 to August 11. 

We had already secured the Kansas City Mayor as the keynote speaker, which now proves to be ideal since local governments have been in the spotlight throughout the crisis. We cannot think of anyone better to talk about Kansas City going global and reinforcing the positivity of trade to recover our economy. When we reconvened to discuss the event several weeks into the crisis, the mentality had shifted, and we were decisive — the event will be virtual. We were no longer looking to delay until we could have our normal event — we were innovating and thinking creatively. 

While on a brainstorming call, we decided to bring the WTCA network into the event in a way we could not do when the event was in-person. Our team has been experimenting with breakout rooms with great success. And collectively, we all agreed that our local businesses could gain networking opportunities from a virtual event that would not otherwise be possible to coordinate with different parties around the world.
One of the challenges we have encountered in past years is creating an event that was valuable for our large sponsors and small export clients alike. By taking the event virtually, we can add value for all parties. From hosting a VIP room ahead of time with our keynotes and sponsors, to holding breakout rooms so small and medium businesses trying to enter the Canadian, European or Asian markets can network with the respective WTCs and, simultaneously, with their peers and service providers, every attendee is bound to gain something by attending this virtual event.

The technology we’re considering allows a company to spend some of their time in one breakout room and then leave to enter another. Attendees can virtually travel from Singapore to Toronto to meet with those representatives in less than two seconds. Further, this technology saves costs. Our entrepreneurial clients who do not yet have the capital to enter trade shows can now connect with experts in their target markets from their living room. 

The idea of going virtual, while not finalized, has WTC Kansas City more energized than ever to refresh this event and enhance the experience. 

Photo caption: Last year’s keynote speaker Colonel Miguel Howe at WTC Kansas City’s “Go Global KC 2019” event. 

Photo credit: Kyle Rivas Photography