This Show Has Staying Power

As ICAST Online draws to a close, we are left scratching our heads as an industry. What was that? Did we just survive some future version of ICAST that will ultimately replace the real thing? How many people attended? What was the real impact?

In my opinion, the answer to the first question is: no. ICAST Online was many things. It was informative, ambitious and different. It was accessible to anyone who had registered for ICAST in the past three years. It was groundbreaking. It was curious. Most of all, it was a valiant effort from the ASA, an organization that could have called the whole thing off in the wake of COVID-19, but instead chose to step up and perform their duty to the best of their ability as the industry’s trade association.

Next week, we’ll get a look at how Outdoor Retailer handles their version of ICAST, the Summer Market, online. But for now, I think the ASA deserves admiration and respect for putting a reasonable facsimile to the real ICAST together in a span of just a few weeks. I’m willing to bet that for many attendees and exhibitors, this was their first virtual trade show experience. And I’m willing to bet that it went about as smoothly as can be expected, though technical problems are forever bound to plague an event of this scale online.

Certainly, this year’s show is replete with winners and losers. Our own David Guest has thoughts on that. But from my view, ICAST Online does have staying power.

That staying power comes in the form of its webinars and product presentations. According to the ASA, those are going to live online at the show website until at least November. However, many manufacturers like AFTCO and Yakima and Z-Man are choosing to host videos independently. That’s good news for retailers who won’t be receiving most of these products until next year.

Now is the time to boot up a spreadsheet and start saving those links. You’ll be able to use them again when new products do hit your shelves, educating your sales team and hopefully providing a boost to your bottom line when the time comes.

In a few months, we may look back at ICAST Online as many things. Some will view it as a success. Some may even view it as a failure. But I suspect I will view it as a worthy experiment. I’ll look back at the New Product Showcase and wonder how we ever voted for winners with a pen and paper. I’ll look at a library of webinars and wonder why we haven’t made better use of them after the show for years. And I’ll look towards the ICAST team with a tip of the baseball cap.

No, the show wasn’t perfect. But it was effective. Hopefully, by this time next year, we can all look back on it together in Orlando. Hopefully, we can appreciate the year that ICAST could have gone away completely but instead chose to stay.