How a trade show organizer used JotForm to re-strategize in 2020

2020 has been all about expecting the unexpected and rolling with the punches.

For the past nine months, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, reshaping everything from the way organizations are run to how work is done.

One-on-one meetings, working lunches, and lectures in the office have been replaced by virtual  ones with the help of online productivity, communication, team collaboration, project management, and work tracking platforms.

And many large in-person events, including concerts, exhibitions, and conferences, had to be canceled or held online.

It’s a reality that Nicol Corcoran and her colleagues at Corcoran Expositions have been confronting head-on since March, when business as usual became anything but for their Chicago-based trade show management company.

By then, some states were trying to stem the tide of coronavirus infections by issuing mandatory stay-at-home orders and requiring nonessential businesses to close. The situation eventually came to a head in mid-March, when the president of the United States told people to stay home for 15 days — before extending the order for another 30 days at the end of March.

These restrictions had a nearly immediate impact for Corcoran Expositions, which organizes close to 40 trade shows per year.

“As you can imagine, much like in many industries, the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on businesses with the primary goal of bringing hundreds or thousands of people together,” Nicol Corcoran, a contract administrator at Corcoran Expositions, told JotForm in November.

In mid-March, a trade show organized by Corcoran Expositions was canceled, a second one was about to be canceled, and nearly 30 of the company’s employees were preparing to work from home for what they originally thought was two weeks.

In the midst of all this upheaval, Corcoran used JotForm to collect critical information in a way that was quick, organized, and efficient.

Corcoran had used JotForm for more than six years, and she started relying on online forms to ask hundreds of exhibitors and sponsors what they wanted to do with the money they had put down for each canceled trade show.

“I knew that, during a time with a lot of new situations and moving pieces, things would easily fall through the cracks if some structure wasn’t put in place,” Corcoran said. “I also knew, from my previous experience, that JotForm was both powerful and flexible, and was the right tool for the job. Pretty quickly, my colleagues knew this to be true too, and my full-time job became building forms.”

Many of Corcoran Expositions’s clients opted to hold virtual events, rather than in-person ones, during the pandemic.

In the face of it all, Corcoran continued to use JotForm to create new, branded exhibit and sponsorship applications for these virtual events.

Corcoran also made quick modifications to her event cancellation forms that allowed exhibitors and sponsors to request a full refund of the money they’d paid, roll that amount over to a future in-person event, or participate in a virtual event and receive either a credit or refund.

JotForm even provided Corcoran with the tools she needed to put a professional touch on the data-collection process.

“Besides helping our staff keep things in order, using JotForm helped us — and our clients — provide a positive experience for our exhibitors and sponsors,” Corcoran said.

Apart from adding a logo to online forms, Corcoran created attractive thank-you pages that exhibitors or sponsors automatically saw after they submitted an online form.

Corcoran also created PDF templates in JotForm PDF Editor and linked them to specific online forms. Whenever an exhibitor or sponsor filled out the event cancellation form or virtual event application form, their submitted information populated the PDF template.

These PDF copies of submitted form responses were then attached to professional-looking, personalized autoresponder emails that exhibitors and sponsors received after they submitted their responses.

In a similar fashion, trade show managers and contract administrators at Corcoran Expositions received a notification email once exhibitors or sponsors submitted a form, along with the customized PDF copy of their responses.

JotForm also gave Corcoran the flexibility to modify the sender and reply-to fields for the autoresponder emails that went to sponsors and exhibitors. Rather than receiving an autoresponder from JotForm with a generic, no-reply email address, sponsors and exhibitors got emails that displayed the name and email address of a Corcoran Expositions employee instead.

“This eliminated exhibitors and sponsors questioning if the correspondence was legitimate — something I’ve seen with other form-making solutions,” Corcoran said. “Additionally, it allowed the forms to appear quick and easy to fill out, despite the complexity that we had built into the back end of the forms with conditional rules.”

With the help of JotForm’s Google Drive and Google Sheets integrations, Corcoran Expositions employees were able to automatically get submitted information from event cancellation and virtual event forms in the secure format they needed to update the company’s database and financial records.

“Without JotForm, the show managers would have had to sift through and track hundreds, maybe thousands, of emails and forward them to the contract administration team, who would have had to read and interpret the information from those emails and accurately update the financial records,” Corcoran said.

In spite of all the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, JotForm has helped Corcoran, her colleagues, and Corcoran Expositions weather the storm and adapt quickly to the constantly evolving needs of their clients and the trade show industry as a whole.

“Honestly, I can’t imagine what this period would have looked like had we not used JotForm, but I’ll try: I think that our staff would have been pulling out their hair trying to manage and track so many details and emails with inconsistent information,” Corcoran said. “I believe that without JotForm, and with the chaos and ever-changing nature of our business during this pandemic, the whole staff would have been burnt out within a few short months and it would have been nearly impossible to provide our clients with the top notch results they’ve come to expect.”

Check it out…

Canceling an in-person event isn’t fun for anyone, but JotForm can help make the process a little less stressful. Check out JotForm’s blog, where you can learn how to cancel an event, how to run your first virtual event, and how to host a virtual conference.

Conclusion

There are moments that shake us to our core, force us to reevaluate our priorities, and compel us to chart a different path forward.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of those times.

It has touched every aspect of our lives, from our freedom of movement to the ways we work and interact with people.

That has required organizations, businesses, and teams of all sizes to be resourceful and remain resilient.

As more of our work and day-to-day lives move online, JotForm provides the versatile, yet robust features you need to change your business strategy, along with your data collection, project management, and team collaboration workflows, at the drop of a hat.

There’s no telling what will happen over the next few months, but what we at JotForm can say is that we’re ready to help your team tackle whatever challenges may lie ahead.

This article is originally published on Dec 14, 2020, and updated on Mar 08, 2021.
AUTHOR
Darin is a content writer at JotForm. He is passionate about disrupting perceptions, solving problems, and helping people be more productive with the easiest online form builder. Outside of the office, he is a rush-hour straphanger, adventure seeker, coffee drinker, and frequent traveler. You can contact Darin through his contact form.

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