The show does go on

You have to give the auto industry a lot of credit for trying.

For an industry that prides itself on big-scale events, dramatic new vehicle launches, massive trade shows and conferences like the NADA Show and SEMA, and more recently CES, there’s a giant hole in the centre of the world of everyone who works in the in-person events sector.

Apart from the obvious impact on things like hotels and airfares, there’s an entire industry built up around shows and events, including event planning firms, booth exhibit designers, the logistics organizations that move and detail vehicles to and from everywhere under the sun, and of course the people who work within OEMs and suppliers who
are tasked with making events happen.

For its part, the auto industry has been trying to figure out how to do their best in keeping the industry informed and connected with different online events.

The two biggest online events that took place this year were the CADA Summit and the NADA Show.

The online version of the CADA Summit was slick, well managed, and delivered a good mix of live and pre-recorded content. Organizers say by opening it up to more attendees, they tripled the attendance of their physical event — and more than half the attendees were from outside Ontario. I’m admittedly biased because I am part of the event planning committee, but
by any objective measure, it was a great success.

As a journalist covering the NADA Show this year, it was another story. Normally, Canadian auto dealer sends down a team of columnists and full-time writers to cover the event. For some reason, NADA decided to tighten up the access to media, denying press credentials to our key team members, which meant we had fewer bodies available to cover the sessions.

What was an even greater irritant, was that as registered media, we weren’t able to visit and interact with the hundreds of exhibitors. In effect, we were treated like second class citizens forced to roam the virtual halls and talk to ourselves. To get around this lack of access, our team set up our own zoom meetings to talk to exhibitors to try to find out the latest and greatest from this year’s show.

We were able to take in some of the sessions, and some were mildly entertaining, but they didn’t deliver even close to the level of substantial content that the CADA Summit delivered.

Canadian auto dealer expressed our concerns to NADA directly. We want to stay on good terms with the association, and I’m sure they can handle some constructive criticism.They have work to do to make their online events as useful and accessible as the physical ones, which are top-notch. Let’s hope it’s a moot point going forward, and we’ll grant them a mulligan.

Normally we get excited about covering the NADA Show and do our damndest to let Canadian dealers know about what’s coming in the industry. This year, I’m disappointed in what we were able to provide as event coverage.

Another virtual event that I did really enjoy was the press and analyst dinner from Toyota Canada. Normally it happens in Toronto during the Canadian International AutoShow, but this year Toyota couriered all the attendees a three-course meal on the day of the event.

It was well-executed (attendees picked from several menu options, pre-event) and a nice treat to be able to attend the event and have a nice meal together — or in this case, at the same time. The event consisted of brief speeches, and an overview video, and also featured breaks where participants chatted at pre-assigned tables while eating their meals. Toyota gets two thumbs up for innovation on this one.

About Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips is the editorial director of Universus Media Group Inc. and the editor of Canadian auto dealer magazine. Todd can be reached at

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