ABA Techshow

Techshow vendors thrilled to connect with customers, team members in person

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Techshow2022_expo hall

The ABA Techshow Expo hall. Photo by Lyle Moran.

When Sarah Thompson, SixFifty’s vice president of experiential marketing, got on a plane in Utah to head to Chicago for the ABA Techshow 2022 this week, she sent her colleagues on Slack a message along the lines of: “Are you ready for people?”

For Thompson and many other attendees, this year’s legal technology gathering at the Hyatt Regency Chicago is their first in-person industry conference since before the COVID-19 pandemic began leading to a wave of cancellations two years ago.

For some vendors, setting up shop in the in-person exhibit hall again for the first time since the ABA Techshow 2020 gave them a chance to cement relationships that they have built online with customers.

Brian Gomez, a senior account manager at practice management software PracticePanther, said it felt much more natural to connect with potential customers roaming the ABA Techshow Expo hall than scheduling online sessions.

“People are curious about the product, but they get to see the people behind it and the personalities,” Gomez said. “It is a little surreal after being virtual for the pandemic.”

Linda Talarico, enterprise account executive at Prodoscore, was among the vendor representatives who expressed a desire to connect with other exhibitors via in-person meetings and at meals. She said Prodoscore, a software monitoring employee productivity that has many clients in industries beyond legal, was particularly interested in possibly integrating with customer relationship management platforms.

“Tonight, there is a great reception, which is going to lend itself to more advanced networking and meeting each other’s clients,” Talarico said. “People have genuinely missed in-person connectivity.”

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the ABA Techshow 2022 here.

Exhibitors noticed that there were fewer booths in the expo hall than prior years, with the number of exhibitors at 71% of the 2020 show, according to Lyndsey Kent, meetings manager for the ABA Law Practice Division. Attendees were at 60% of 2020, she wrote in an email. The conference, which also has virtual elements, runs through Saturday.

Thompson from SixFifty, which is Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s legal technology subsidiary, said activity in the expo hall was slow Wednesday night, but it began to pick up on the first full day of the conference Thursday. She shared that it’s refreshing to be able to have face-to-face conversations with potential customers and fellow vendors.

“Now, more than ever, people are wanting a better relationship, and we are stepping up and saying, ‘We want a better relationship, too,’” Thompson said.

Sara Sultan, a senior trainer at practice management platform Smokeball, was among those who said activity in the exhibit hall seemed to be a little slower than usual, and attendees were somewhat more reserved. She speculated that it could be because there is still a hesitancy for many to come to an in-person event amid the pandemic, a sentiment that she said some clients had shared with her in advance of Techshow.

Sultan, like many others in the exhibit hall, was not wearing a mask, but she said she felt comfortable because those in attendance were required to be fully vaccinated. She noted that Chicago-based Smokeball had many more people on-site than at previous in-person Techshows, including new hires who had never been to the event before.

“We have people from other teams that are like, ‘I just want to come check it out,’” said Sultan, adding that the swag seemed pretty comparable to prior years. (Check out the ABA Journal’s picks of the best swag here.)

And for some companies, Techshow allowed employees in different states to finally see one another.

Pooya Abka, the co-founder and CEO of lead management automation tool Intaker, said Techshow was an opportunity for some of his employees to meet one another in person for the first time since joining the company in recent years.

“It feels great to be back,” said Abka, summing up the sentiment common among vendors and attendees.

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