For the 2021 show, 62 workshop presenters have been selected and signed up, and they will now present virtually. Participants for the show’s popular Distinguished Speakers Series are being lined up.
NADA is still in discussions with Freeman and another company called Directions AV to figure out the best online approach for hosting general sessions, Welch said. Some events, such as the Time Dealer of the Year Award, will resemble traditional presentations but in a digital format.
NADA envisions franchise meetings will follow their typical 90-minute time frame, with 60 minutes of presentation and 30 minutes of question-and-answer. But automakers will have more flexibility with who presents, how and from where.
For the exhibitor portion, the digital show is being built out to resemble a convention hall. “It’s pretty slick software they have for these things,” Welch said.
Exhibitors will be able to pay for different levels, with varying capabilities and features. The price to attend the virtual show is $199 for a dealer/manager member. Before the switch, the early bird price was $390. Refunds will be issued for the difference, and full refunds will be made to those who opt out of the virtual show.
The group remains hopeful that attendance will be high, given the savings on hotel rooms, airfare and other expenses.
Welch, who is set to retire at the end of December after eight years as CEO of the association, said he had seen a lot of challenges in an industry that is constantly changing, but no one predicted a pandemic.
Welch and Ricart, who serves one year as chairman, acknowledged the disappointment in not having the in-person experience of the NADA Show. Asked whether it felt like he was missing senior prom, Welch said he, like many in the industry, looked forward to the events surrounding the show and reconnecting with familiar faces.
“But guess what? Everybody’s still having a prom,” he said. “They’re just not doing it down at the high school gymnasium this year.”