Virtual Propane Conference Maximizes Learning Opportunities

(June 9, 2020) — What do you do when a virus pandemic cancels your premier industry event of the year? As an industry, we faced that challenge with the cancellation of the annual NPGA (National Propane Gas Association) Expo scheduled for April 6-8 in Nashville. Chris Brablc, senior director of marketing for Tank Utility (Boston), didn’t have to think too long for a solution. He reached out to Brian Weit, manager of marketing at Cargas Energy (Lancaster, Pa.), among others, to see if there was interest in helping to put together a virtual conference. “As it turned out, others were thinking the same thing,” Brablc said. “We were moving in that direction,” Weit told BPN. “Chris was just a few days ahead of us.”

Brablc and Weit discussed with BPN how they and others pulled together to put on a virtual conference in less than three weeks. This ingenuity culminated in the Energize 2020 program that included a virtual trade expo complete with ways to set up live discussions with vendors. In addition, the full-day program ended with a virtual happy hour with all participants visible on the computer screen and able to have a group discussion.
Energize 2020 Propane Webinar provides learning opportunities in wake of COVID-19 shut down reports BPN LPG industry leading source of info june 2020“It was important to us to make this happen during what would have been the NPGA Expo in Nashville,” Brablc said. “The NPGA Expo is the pmier event of the year where customers and technology companies can talk about the latest innovations that benefit the industry. While we knew we couldn’t fully replicate the event, we wanted to bring marketers a small part of the educational sessions virtually.”

“We also decided to raise funds to support NPGA as part of the virtual conference,” Brablc explained. “We’re excited that NPGA was supportive of us and that other companies as well as retail marketers came together to help put on the webinars. Energize doesn’t happen without them.” Additional company sponsors included Cetane Associates (Kent, Conn.), P3 Propane Safety (Portsmouth, N.H.), and Qualpay (San Mateo, Calif.). A week after the virtual conference, more than $11,000 had already been raised to benefit NPGA from attendees and sponsors.

“It was amazing how fast this all came together,” said Adam Shantzer, CFO at Gastec Enterprises (Ivyland, Pa.). “Looking at my phone records, Chris called me March 23 to see if I would be interested in presenting. We had another discussion about details March 27, which led to a test run on April 1. On April 8, I was one of many presenting to hundreds of people.” Shantzer said it was great to still be able to connect with so many people he’d usually see at the NPGA Expo. “It is always good to have these discussions, which I feel lead to ‘sparks of insanity’ that cause people to think of things in different ways and refine those thoughts into something useful.”

“The NPGA Expo is certainly the gold standard of propane events,” said Jim Townsend, CEO of Townsend Energy (Danvers, Mass.), who also presented during Energize 2020. “All key contacts and new products can be found at this event every year. With the cancellation, it was great that the virtual conference came together so fast. The sponsors and presenters did an excellent job.” Townsend said he feels the experiences of 2020 may change forever how information is shared. “I think conferences will still be held, but more people will have had new experiences with learning and gaining information via technology. People will understand more how they best want to receive information and learning. I suspect more will be in a better position to gravitate toward the learning methods that work best for them.”

“We had over 600 register to participate with over half attending for at least part of the day,” Brablc said. “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from attendees. We had registrations from 48 states in the U.S. and we had at least one from five additional countries.”

BPN shares details of the Energize 2020 Virtual Conference in its June 2020 issue and in upcoming issues. Other experts originally slated to speak at the NPGA Expo in Nashville have also been presented virtually recently or will be doing so in the upcoming weeks. BPN will provide details of some of these presentations as well in upcoming issues.

Session recordings are available at no cost from Energize at energize.tankutility.com. — Pat Thornton