TRAVERSE CITY — An annual look at businesses and services in the region won’t be up close and personal this year. And one of the first big local events on the 2021 calendar has been delayed three weeks but, at least for now, remains planned as an in-person expo.

Welcome to the new world of the expo in the COVID-19 era.

The Traverse Connect Business Expo will be held virtually on Nov. 10. Billed as the largest business showcase in northern Michigan, the annual event “brings more than 100 companies and organizations from across the region together on one day to feature their products, services and employees.”

The Business Expo coincides with Traverse Connect’s annual Economic Outlook Summit. The 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. summit (https://tinyurl.com/EconomicSummit2020) is also going virtual this year.

Event organizers still hope to draw hundreds of attendees for the 2020 Business Expo, which runs from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. According to a release, the aim still is to deliver an “up-close look at the diversity and ingenuity of the region’s business sector” — just in a different way.

Molly MacGirr, event and program manager for Traverse Connect, said a virtual business expo may attract more attendees. She pointed to the 7,000 views — both live and taped — the organization’s webinars have received since late March/early April.

“Maybe people will be more likely to get on,” MacGirr said. “As an entire organization, we are expecting to see our audience grow.”

Booths for the business expo are $500 for Traverse Connect investors, $1,000 for non-investor companies. After making a reservation, businesses will receive a link to access a virtual exhibitor booth via the Hubilo platform.

“We’re offering the same thing we were in person, maybe a little bit more,” MacGirr said.

The virtual expo will provide two things an in-person event didn’t or couldn’t. While the event is still free to the public, previous attendance was estimated. Detailed analytics of the new format will be available, giving the exhibitors “true numbers on their return on investment,” MacGirr said.

Also, more people may navigate to a company with a specific interest — versus merely browsing through physical booths picking up giveaways like candy or company pens.

“This is more business-to-business, which we’ve been trying to get to,” MacGirr said. “It forces our hand a little more because of COVID.”

The virtual exhibitor booths must have all company information — text, videos and any other pertinent materials — uploaded by Nov. 6 at 5 p.m.

More information on next month’s event is available at https://tinyurl.com/ConnectExpo2020.

  • While the 2020 Traverse Connect Business Expo was forced into a virtual format, the 2021 Home Builders Expo has been delayed to try and keep the traditional format.

Originally scheduled for Jan. 23-24, the 37th annual Home Builders Association Grand Traverse Area now is set for April 17-18 at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.

The annual event “showcases new building trends, products, ideas and inspiration.”

The 2020 event was held Jan. 18-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the first laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States was Jan. 20 and was reported to CDC two days later.

Moving the event from its traditional mid-January date to mid-April was a necessity.

“We wanted to give ourselves the maximum opportunity to do that live,” said HBAGTA Executive Officer Bob O’Hara.

More information on the Home Expo is available at https://hbagta.com/home-expo.

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