Cannabis Conferences Go Online During the Pandemic Creating a New Networking Model
Ben Hartman
June 30, 2020

In the not-too-distant past, conferences and meet-ups were a perfect way for people in the cannabis industry to meet and workshop ideas, network over new opportunities, and hear about the latest innovations and opportunities.

For the past several months though, the need for social distancing has sent cannabis meetups online and left organizers scrambling to adapt these events to the age of COVID-19. 

Last week, cannabis research and market analysis firm Prohibition Partners held Prohibition Partners LIVE conference online over two days, hosting more than 150 industry-leading speakers, politicians, business leaders, and investors from across the world. 

On June 22 and 23, the National Cannabis Industry Association held the New Jersey Cannabis Caucus and the California Cannabis Caucus, with participants socially distanced and tuning in from home or beyond. 

Much cheaper - but with less sponsorship opportunities

According to Morgan Fox, the Media Relations Director for the NCIA, “while the lack of physical proximity has presented challenges, we've been able to replicate all the benefits in terms of networking and can provide the same quality content about the organization's current work as well as regional and national policy landscapes.”

Fox said they’ve tried to replicate the in-person entertainment of past events by streaming DJ sets, and have replaced the hors d’oeuvres of in-person meetups with recipes and pairing suggestions for those tuning in from home (and near the kitchen). 

One of the main benefits of these meetings for organizers and participants is an obvious one — they’re much cheaper, though the lack of an on-site location means that sponsorship opportunities can be few and far between. 

That said, the remote meetup format can actually be better suited to many attendees, according to Troy Dayton, the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of the cannabis investment and market research firm the Arcview Group. 

"We're reaching a much broader audience"

“We’re reaching a much broader audience of people with life experiences that don't allow them to just get on a plane and go to places and we can get better speakers because it's easier for them to just turn on their computer. So it's kind of a win-win all around,” Dayton said. 

Arcview has held a number of online events recently, including FEDERAL REFORM: When Not If in early June. According to Dayton, the online format can also be easier for those of us who maybe don’t do as well with the shmoozing and cocktail hours of in-person conferences, and who are often overshadowed at events by their more gregarious colleagues. 

Dayton also said that social distancing has seemed to accelerate their move away from some of these pre-quarantine events. 

“We were already feeling that we were a little too reliant on events, so even a few months before this happened we were moving online and developing things like that because it's just more efficient. You don't have to get on a plane, it's not a three or four-day thing, the cost is so much less for the participants and organizer.” 

One of the main themes of the COVID-19 lockdowns is that many of us have realized how many routine events and social settings we could actually do without. It could also lead us to look more locally, and develop relationships in our own markets, where it is easier to develop close business and interpersonal relationships. 

Showing our ability to adapt

When the pandemic slows down, will we rush back to holding the massive in-person conferences at hotels and convention centers in the US and Europe? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, cannabis industry professionals have shown that they can adapt to the limitations of this difficult time and still find ways to network. 

The adaptability of cannabis industry leaders is perhaps one small example of how the pandemic has also shown us more than ever the extent to which necessity is the mother of invention and that when we put our minds to it, we can find the ways to still connect - and thrive - no matter what the world throws at us. 

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