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Learning From Leading: Convention 2020 Wrapped Up

Each year, the Concrete Foundations Convention brings together concrete contractors, designers, and suppliers from across the country for three days of education, networking, awards, technology, and much, more! Although the global pandemic prevented gathering in-person in a normal fashion, that did not stop the Concrete Foundations Association from hosting a virtual event unlike any other. The event was complete with an expanded education program, a full expo hall, product demos, a showcase pavilion where attendees were able to vote on the Projects of the Year, and live entertainment. This year’s participants were able to engage in an environment that kept each person safe at home or in an office while also expanding the ideas of what practical networking can be all about.

The CFA partnered with VirBELA and Event Farm to provide an innovative alternative to connect people in this industry with their peers, helping everyone find ways to better their businesses! Concrete Foundations Convention took place in an avatar-based, virtual campus, with all of the professionalism, energy, and enthusiasm our members have come to expect. The event registered nearly 300 participants, 34 education sessions, 5 promotion partners, 19 sponsors, and 27 exhibiting companies, and it was reported by many to be a great success! 2020 has demanded that we be innovative in the ways we work, communicate, learn and gather. Although we were saddened by the harsh reality that we were unable to welcome attendees to Charleston, the decision to go virtual was not only an easy decision, but one the CFA was proud to make. 

The staff spent countless hours researching the best platform for this event as we approached the moment for determining what to do with the scheduled Charleston convention. The CFA Board of Directors reviewed strategies offered by the CFA staff and ultimately supported the risk-management effort proposed as the leading option by the executive director. It was important to find a user-friendly platform with the ability to feature products in an exhibition hall that was engaging and allowed exhibitors the opportunity to chat with attendees throughout the event. Additionally, many companies were interested in broadening access to education, an ambition a virtual experience could facilitate — so the conditions were right for an avatar-based campus.

The expanded education program consisted of six education tracks, providing diverse ways for companies to benefit from the ease of access to learning. The six categories were: executives, safety managers, field crews and wall foremen, shop/facility managers, operations/HR, and project managers.

“Traditionally, this event brings together industry-leading owners and executives from across the country,” said James Baty, executive director of the CFA. “In going virtual, we were able to make attendance very economical, eliminate travel expenses, and expand our education tracks of interest to a very broad range that included management and workforce interests,” said Baty. “From concrete basics and construction practice to the trusted higher-level strategy sessions our regular attendees are accustomed to, we were thrilled to be able to draw attendees from the workforce who typically would not be able to attend an in-person event.”

In addition to the expanded education program, the event featured an expo hall with 27 exhibiting companies, many of which were event sponsors. “One of the reasons we host this event is for our supplier and manufacturer members to communicate new technologies and foster meaningful relationships with their customer base,” Baty“The amount of support we had for this event not only allowed us to offer deeply discounted registration prices and cover a lot of the expenses that came with the platform, but it gave attendees the chance to connect with new products and technologies that will make their next project safer and more cost efficient at a time when it’s needed the most.”

Going virtual came with many benefits: expanded programing, broadened participation, and deeply reduced registration costs and other expenses, to name a few. In addition to these benefits, for the first time ever, the CFA was able to showcase Projects of the Year videos in a space called the Showcase Pavilion. Each video featured the Projects of the Year nominations in great detail, showing the beauty and elements that are often hidden once the project is complete. Attendees were able to enter the space throughout the week to watch the videos and vote for the projects they deemed best for each category. 

The three-day event wrapped up with live music on the beach stage from Full Moon Horizons. “You could definitely see a different side of our attendees as they made their avatars dance to the music on the beach,” said Baty. “I don’t think we would have seen nearly as much dancing at an in-person event. Although, when we’re able to gather in person again, I look forward to seeing everyone’s real dance moves at the closing social.”

“One of the highlights to my year is the CFA Summer Convention,” said Jason Ells, senior Vice President of Custom Concrete. “It’s a place that I get to meet people in similar roles dealing with similar issues in our industry. It’s an opportunity to learn about the latest and greatest in technology and equipment, and I get to hear from some of our industry experts on best practices to run our business safely and effectively,” said Ells. “I assumed this, like so many other exciting things, would be canceled due to the pandemic. To my surprise, Jim and the team at the CFA headquarters pulled a rabbit out of their hat. With this technology, we were able to meet and talk with people to catch up, we got to see the new technology and equipment, and learn from the best and the brightest in our industry.”

The companies that took a risk and rose to the challenge of helping in the development of this event included some CFA Platinum Sponsors, namely Irving Equipment Company, ICC Distributing LLC, Verizon Connect, and Form-A-Drain; some Gold Sponsors, namely GMX Waterproofing Solutions, GCI Stone Slingers, and Max USA; and some Silver Sponsors, namely White Cap, Crew Tracks, Fox Blocks, Thermomass, Euclid Company, Cranes and Equipment Company, Prinsco, Western Forms, Robotic Surveying Solutions, Badger Forms, Progressive Foam, and Boman Kemp.

“On behalf of the entire CFA staff and our Board of Directors, I want to express our sincere thank you to everyone who was a part of this year’s event,” Baty said. “While we look forward to someday being able to gather in person again, our network demonstrated an effective way we can come together during these uncertain times and generate significant leadership and learning that evidence why we are now advancing our #CFAConcretePros brand.”

Watch for more information on future events so as not to miss engaging with this practical and enjoyable approach to education, networking, and product development as the future of expanded access to learning becomes increasingly prevalent and sought out.

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us