Steel Products

Virtual Steel Conference or Live - What is Better?

Written by John Packard

The official opening of the SMU Virtual Steel Summit Conference is 29 days from today (Aug. 24-26). You will want to register early as we will be opening the platform during the prior week (probably Thursday and Friday) so people can get help as they practice using the platform, make appointments with other attendees and schedule the events you will attend live versus on-demand. All of these items will be automatically added to your work calendars.

Change is all around us.

I was talking to the CEO of a large service center late last week, and the discussion turned to how the remaining baby boomers may be holding back the industry from total acceptance of new technology and new ways of conducting business. I am sure there is a thread of truth to that. We baby boomers are struggling during this pandemic with not being able to get face to face with our customers/suppliers, and we are all zoomed out.

I was asked what I liked better – the live conference experience or the virtual experience we have been building over the past 5-6 months?

John Packard Summit 18As a baby boomer, the answer is not easy. I am going to miss not being able to physically shake the hands and chat face to face with old and new friends alike. This is the 10th anniversary for the SMU Steel Summit Conference, and I will miss the sea of faces across the room, the din in the dining area and exhibition area, the throngs of people at the bars at the hotels. However, the virtual platform we have been working on will probably be an even better experience as the chance attendees will miss touching base with someone is dramatically diminished on a virtual platform.

The throngs of people will still be there. As of late last week, we had pushed through 500 registrations and are well on our way to 600. Since executives are just now looking at their calendars for late August, we expect the numbers to rise in the coming days and weeks. I am still hopeful of attracting more than 800 executives to this year’s event.

This will be the first time in 10 years where I will be able to view the complete program. In a virtual platform, the live events are recorded and then become available “on-demand.” Now you can network, hold your meetings, and still see every speaker, visit every exhibition booth, check out every attendee.

A virtual platform allows us the opportunity to provide extra content. This is done with an “on-demand” function. So, for example, we will have a short Steel 101 training video available for attendees. This video will not be part of the regular program, but it will be available on demand. There will be other videos from SMU, CRU and potentially others, which will also be available on an on-demand basis within our platform.

Because people do not have to travel, we are able to offer each qualified NexGen Leadership nominee a free ticket to this year’s conference. This is a double bonus for your company: 1) you get to recognize one (or more) of your key young talented employees, and 2) they get exposed to our exceptional program and networking with others within the industry. To learn about nominating someone, please go to: and click on the 2020 Award tab at the top of the page.

We will demonstrate many of the new ways one can produce and function within a virtual platform for those attending this Wednesday’s SMU Community Chat webinar at 11 a.m. ET. To register, click on this link or go to

If you want more information about speakers, agenda, cost, NexGen Leadership Award and how to register, please go to or click here.

As always, your business is truly appreciated by all of us here at Steel Market Update.

John Packard, President & CEO

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