Robert Chain


After a trying year for event professionals. members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2021 have proven resilience is a key skill in their toolkit. Robert Chain, Strategic Account Manager at Swapcard in Chicago, shares how the pandemic led him to pursue new skills for the changing business events industry.

What new skills has the pandemic led you to pursue?

I have greatly pursued upskilling in digital marketing and specifically digital ABM (account-based marketing). As virtual events evolve during this new era, the competition for wallet share of our clients is going to shift. No longer will we be our own line item of field-based events, but a blend of field and digital marketing, which are often the two largest buckets. This is an incredible opportunity for the first time to compete against some of the largest advertising providers who previously had a walled garden around this revenue. The challenge though, is that opening these doors creates new threats, and competition as well. As such, it will be crucial to not only be able to speak the vernacular of this space but understand it completely to optimize and seize the opportunity.

What creative initiative or innovation have you seen this year that you believe should remain after this crisis passes?

I think a key innovation that should remain post-crisis is the expansive growth of communal gathering points (virtual event platforms) as a way to increase touch points with audiences away from in-person events. I am one of the leaders of Team VaPOr of the Exhibition Think Tank Club, and during the most recent October Interactive Series, we explored the idea of new customer touch points. During this exercise, it was very interesting to see how many teams leaned heavily on the 365 model through existing key platforms such as LinkedIn or a Shopify/Amazon-style marketplace. Communities that are able to fully integrate the O2O2O (what I call Online to Onsite to Online) experience in a seamless and tailored way will set themselves up for long-term success in this new era of experiential engagement.

How do you see the industry changing as a result of the pandemic?

I foresee the industry changing through global consolidation. With the necessary adoption of virtual events, localized/regionalized monopolies no longer have the same stronghold on their communities. As such, there will naturally be winners and losers in this new era. In addition, I think that there will be an incredible opportunity for outside funding to see the opportunities which exist in our space. This will allow for ideas and innovation to be developed at a speed never seen before within the experiential space.

Members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2021 will be recognized virtually at PCMA Convening Leaders 2021, Jan. 11-15. Check out the complete program and register for Convening Leaders today.

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