A Virtual Tour of Our Virtual Campus.

We Explore the State-of-the-Art Setting for the 2021 CMA|SIMA Conference.

A conference’s venue sets the tone for the entire event. So, while the vast majority of Conferences have gone virtual over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most have been plagued by the same central problems. No sense of place. No sense of community. Nothing to shake us awake to a new sense of possibility.

The very idea of a conference is to uproot oneself from your every-day setting and surround yourself with inspiration and new ideas. So, with that in mind, we threw out the digital conference handbook and started from scratch with the 2021 CMA|SIMA Annual Conference: Rising to the New Retail Reality.

At the center of this reinvention was our revolutionary Virtual Campus. We wanted to create a venue that would give our Conference-goers a distinct sense of place. That would invoke wonder and encourage exploration. We wanted to create something that was not only functional, but fun, inspiring and truly memorable.

We started by looking at world-class architects. Our search eventually led us to HKS, the lauded architects best known for some of the NFL’s premiere stadiums, including AT&T Stadium in Dallas, US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and the new So-Fi Stadium in Los Angeles.

In concert with our team, the team at HKS designed a state-of-the-art Virtual Campus and set it down virtually in the city of Chicago. Located adjacent to the iconic Navy Pier, our Virtual Campus sits at the mouth of the Chicago River, providing a gateway to the Windy City.

We’ve teamed with 3D pioneers and Hollywood visual effects artists to help bring these visionary designs to life with a deep and immersive experience. In this week’s blog, we’re going to take a deeper look at some of the incredible features of this cutting-edge new campus and how you’ll come to interact with them during the 2021 CMA|SIMA Annual Conference.

The Conference Center

One of the most striking and immediately recognizable features of our Virtual Campus is the Conference Center. This majestic twisting tower will be home to our breakout sessions April 27-May 12 and our keynotes sessions May 18-20.

The presentations themselves will be a full 180° swing away from the Zoom-meeting-like presentations to which we’ve grown accustomed over the past year. If you attended our “Lessons Learned” series in January, you’ve already had a taste of what’s to come. We’ve been filming our presenters on green screens, and have teamed with Hollywood visual effects artists to render their presentations in a virtual setting with 3D presentation graphics. We’re busy adding new keynote and breakout speakers every week, so be sure and checkout our speakers page to see all the latest reveals!

All of the presentations will be available for an additional 8 weeks after the Conference is over, but be sure to join us for the live sessions to take part in the Q&A and discussions afterward!

Technology Expo Bridge

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring feature of our new Virtual Campus is the Technology Expo Bridge. Stretching over an extended Riverwalk and the mouth of the Chicago River, the bridge will play host to our live Tech Expo May 18-20. Inside, you’ll find a 120,000 square foot virtual hall where exhibitors will showcase the latest and greatest category management and shopper insights solutions.

At the booths, attendees will be met with towering video walls, downloadable assets and live interactivity with our solution providers. Explore solutions, chat questions or launch instant 1-on-1 meetings with the exhibitors to explore how their solutions might help you. And of course, you’ll get to enjoy our ever-popular Tech Talk Rotations to see mini-demos of all the newest retail industry solutions in action.

Networking Spaces

It goes without saying that no conference is complete without high-quality networking opportunities. And while it’s not quite as easy to network online, we’re pushing the envelope to make it easier than you might expect, with state-of-the-art networking features and visually stunning areas to help jumpstart discussion.

That starts with our new underwater Connections Café, on the lower level of the new Virtual Campus. Enjoy the view of Lake Michigan’s aquatic life as an entertaining backdrop for your networking connections.

This year’s Conference App will also include greatly enhanced networking features, plus chat and quick access to instant or scheduled 1-on-1 meetings. The rest of the Conference will provide a plethora of live interaction, as well, with live meetings, interactive discussions and training, live Q&A with our speakers, and more.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. Expect many more announcements and surprises in the coming weeks, including live entertainment from our virtual outdoor amphitheater, and some HUGE new names being added to our speaker lineup in the days ahead.

While we’ll miss seeing you in person this year, we are very excited about the opportunity this virtual conference presents. We can confidently say we are expecting our biggest CMA|SIMA Conference to date this year, with 3X our normal number of attendees, so more people than ever will get to see the great content we have in store. Furthermore, being virtual also allows us to keep our Tech Expo and Conference Center open for an additional 8 weeks after the Conference. This means you will get time to see every session and explore every solution in the Tech Expo, if you so choose, giving you more content—and more value—than ever before.

Be sure and save your seat at the 2021 CMA|SIMA Conference today.

What features of the new Virtual Campus have you most excited? Sound off on LinkedIn and join the conversation.