The Next Best Thing

July 27th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Attendees Agree: GlassCon Global-Glass Expo VE Was as Good As It Gets

To suggest that any virtual trade show is a shoo-in replacement for the real thing is a stretch of the imagination—especially any event that was developed from the ground up amid COVID-19. But anecdotal evidence suggests that GlassCon Global VE-Glass Expo VE was the next best thing. In a year when existing shows have looked to websites as a new medium, show officials say they set out to build a brand-new experience—one that parallels actual trade shows as much as possible.

“COVID-19 has forced all of us to adapt to new ways of doing business,” says Sheldon Kahan, commercial program manager for Deceuninck. “As an industry, we have shown incredible resilience. This online event is a good example … I think the organizers did a great job putting this together in a short time and creating a platform that is new to nearly everyone.”

At a time when industry members rely primarily on video conferencing to connect, GlassCon Global VE-Glass Expo VE encouraged both one-on-one and public conversations via booth chat functions and a networking lounge for open-air group discussions. From a virtual lobby, to booths and conference halls, the show’s elements were designed to allow attendees to move between spaces in a familiar way.

“It is crucial during this global pandemic to seek out networking opportunities and continue to build relationships with customers and other industry professionals,” says John Moore, vice president of marketing for GED Integrated Solutions. “We are grateful that the fenestration industry, glass and
glazing community, and manufacturing and construction industries are offering these types of networking, product promotion, and educational events suppliers and customers can utilize to maintain key connections …”

The Usual Elements

The virtual show floor included 80 booths, each outfitted with introductory videos, product materials and other resources that attendees could “bag” and download at the end of the day.

“It’s so much different than being live and looking at everyone’s products, but it is nice that they made it work even during these times,” said Leslie Vargas with PRL Glass.

The show “floor” included an alphabetical listing of companies that attendees could use to click and enter booths. The concept took some getting used to, some attendees said, but by the show’s second day Stephanie Lesko, with Group 22, said she was “just roaming around checking out the booths” like a normal trade show.

Co-sponsored by the Finishing Contractors Association International, [DWM] and USGlass magazine, the event also included the familiar GlassCon Global educational program, provided through a virtual auditorium.

In the session “You’re Purchasing New Equipment – What to Know Before You Buy,” a live panel advised attendees to move forward with automation as employees remain out of the workplace. “It is very important to look at this now,” said Mike Rosato, western region machine sales director for Salem Flat Glass and Mirror. (More info on this session can be found on p5.)

In addition to two educational tracks, with a variety of sessions, and two live Q&A sessions, the show’s first day also included events aimed at giving it a live feel. Attendees participated in Run for Glass VE 5K to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Several industry professionals participated in the virtual run, including more than 25 employees from Wood’s Powr-Grip. The day ended with a virtual wine tasting, sponsored by Groves Inc.

On the show floor, Mark Imbrock, vice president of EDTM, said he was excited to “talk” with attendees through his booth’s chat function about Glass-Chek ELITE, a product he says is always one of its most popular at any trade show—including virtual.

Roto showcased the X-DRIVE Evolve casement program, said Gina Lorenzetti, marketing communications specialist. “This features our new contemporary hardware for both OP06 and OP08 platforms, our new heavy duty operator, track and hinge,” she said. “That program also includes our new OP08 Egress Solution, along with a few more applications.” The company’s booth featured a video highlighting new hardware it’s released in 2020.

Deceuninck North America had experts on hand to chat about Innergy AP—a new line of custom commercial components that are made from a fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP). “It improves the thermal performance of commercial windows, doors, curtainwall and storefront systems without the need for a complete redesign,” booth materials suggested.

Industry Insights

Among the event’s two dozen sessions, key to door and window companies was “The Door and Window Industry in a Post-Pandemic World.” Paneled by Ed Kalaher, president of Window Depot, and Jeff Jackson, president and CEO of PGT Innovations, the session provided insights from the dealer and manufacturer sides of the industry.

Prompted by the session’s host, Tara Taffera, [DWM]’s publisher and editorial director, Jackson and Kalaher began the session by discussing some of the more tense moments they experienced in the early days of the pandemic. In a hard-hitting story, Kalaher relayed how he woke one day to find out that one of his company’s biggest suppliers was closing a day later.

“I remember getting that phone call,” said Kalaher. “I said, ‘Tomorrow? Really?’” In the upbeat fashion he’s known for as one of [DWM]’s bloggers, Kalaher then followed by reflecting on how his fax machine came to a screeching halt 19 years earlier, following the tragic events of 9/11—an experience he rebounded from the same way the industry will from COVID-19, he said.

“Jeff, we interviewed you for our podcast back in March, when all of this was starting, and at that point we talked about how it was so hard to plan—almost impossible. Tell us where you are now with your operations,” Taffera said to Jackson.

In the early days of the pandemic, his company was on information overload he said—including some misinformation that made it hard to navigate. “No one knew what was going on and so there was a lot of fear,” he said.

In the months that followed, however, both panelists agreed that things settled out, as the industry took a surprisingly positive direction. Looking forward, they admitted that it’s become more or less impossible to stick a dart in which way the market is heading, though both remain confident after seeing how housing and remodeling have held up. “I remain really optimistic, because I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from friends, family and acquaintances about how people want to invest in their homes the more they’re there,” Kalaher said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape with housing and remodeling.”

The Bigger Picture

The show proved it wasn’t afraid to tackle the biggest of issues through virtual programming. Dr. Franz Prettenthaler, director of the Life Institute for Climate, Energy and Society at Joanneum Research, served as keynote speaker, presenting on, “Climate Impact and Paris Lifestyle.” Prettenthaler spoke about the causes and impacts of climate change as well as the role of glass in a sustainable future. His presentation got off to an unassuming start about what climate change is and how there are natural geological factors as well as man-made factors involved, such as carbon dioxide emissions. He said that while many might attribute especially cold or warm temperatures to natural variability, that does not take into account the global picture.

“Climate is the average weather over 30 years,” Prettenthaler said.

While geological factors can also be taken into account, he explained that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are the largest impact factor for the global climate.

When looking at a comparison of global carbon dioxide emissions by industry sectors, steel produces 3 billion tons of CO2 annually, he said, compared to 1 billion tons of CO2 annually by aluminum and only 100 million tons by glass. He described emissions associated with glass as negligible. On the other hand, when looking at a comparison of global average CO2 emissions per ton, aluminum produces by far the most due to its light weight.

“The glass industry needs to look closely into which alliances it enters into with other construction materials,” he said, adding, “Steel needs to do some decarbonization work and aluminum per ton has carbon issues to solve.” On the upside of the carbon equation, he cited Wood. “That’s a research topic for the future.”

In the end, the show made for a comfortable experience and a formidable format for sharing ideas and information, attendees said, ensuring that everything from the latest products to the biggest issues don’t have to wait another year.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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