The 2020 International Trademark Association (INTA) Annual Meeting and Leadership Meeting went fully virtual with 3,339 registrants from 115 countries participating, following a Herculean effort to restructure the format from its usual face-to-face format.
The pandemic had pushed the event from the initial plan for Singapore in April to its first artificial intelligence (AI) assisted virtual platform in November, and, despite some obvious challenges, the hard work paid off.
Ayala Deutsch, INTA’s 2020 president, who is currently executive vice president and deputy general counsel at NBA Properties, steered the association through the unprecedented change. Her efforts bore fruit, with leaders, policymakers, in-house counsel and top gun practitioners from all over the world coming together virtually for the two weeks of the event.
“We had 340 government officials from 74 countries and 17% of all the registrants were in-house professionals from companies, while the remainder were from law firms,” she told China Business Law Journal. “We had good attendance, both in terms of where people worked, and where they were from in the world.”
Specifically, 44% of the registrants were from North America, 22% from Europe, 17.8% from the Asia-Pacific, 11.6% from Latin America and the rest from the Middle East and Africa. These registrants joined various kinds of sessions involving social networking, business hubs, corporate meet-ups, speed networking and table topics.
The multi-networking was catered for through INTAconnect, an AI-driven app that matches users based on their profiles, interests and time-zone preferences. A total of 11,451 meetings were held through this app during the leadership meeting and annual meeting.
“Some of our meeting attendees said they tried virtual speed networking and were very pleased with it,” said Deutsch. “They would not have tried it in-person, but they were more attracted to do it on the digital platform.”
Although the event was a success, digital interaction still seems to have a long way to go before it will replace offline meetings. The previous INTA annual meeting attracted more than 10,000 attendants, almost three times the size of the INTAconnect virtual event. Deutsch said the AI-driven platform was easier for young people to adapt to, but others took longer to get comfortable with the new technology.
“With all AI tools, the more you use it, the more it understands what you are looking for, and what you want, and the better it gets,” she said.
The digital platform also made it possible to accommodate registrants from different time zones and schedules to connect 24/7, something that is not possible with an offline event. Another upside was the flexibility to choose in connecting to people about a particular interest, legal issue, market or jurisdiction.
“We found real energy in the chat functionality of the digital platform,” said Deutsch, “whereas when you’re sitting in a conference hall, you can’t really share your thoughts or feedback, or interrupt the speaker.
“The chat function really engaged a lot of the audience in questions and participation. That was something I don’t think we fully anticipated, but it turned out to be one of those advantages of the virtual platform.”