By Ashley Reyes
Lindsay Hubley, managing partner at Lodestone Events/Overland Expo, is the latest SEMA Emerging Trends & Technology Network (ETTN) member to share her insight on how her company pivoted during the pandemic and utilized technology to keep business moving forward.
Hubley was recently voted onto the SEMA Board of Directors, where she will help to lead and guide the association and play a critical role in shaping the future of the automotive specialty-equipment market. Get to know Hubley in her interview with SEMA below.
SEMA: How has your company pivoted during the pandemic?
Lindsay Hubley: When the pandemic hit the United States hard in the spring of 2020, it took our live events business out at the knees. Like other producers world-wide, we were forced to cancel our entire event series for the year. But as many business owners know, even when your primary revenue stream ceases to exist, your overhead costs still loom, your team still needs a paycheck and you have to find ways to connect with your audience. Leadership through a crisis requires more than just creative cash flow and personnel management—it’s about aligning your team, being calm in the midst of the storm and finding innovative ways to further your organization’s vision and mission despite the odds.
We quickly pivoted and put a plan into place in the midst of all the uncertainty that 2020 was ready to throw our way. Our revised goals for the year included digital audience development and engagement and building a new revenue model to help keep our event team employed while we hunkered down to weather the storm. We knew that their institutional knowledge and loyalty were key to the event series’ success, and we wanted to be armed and ready to once again produce live events once pandemic restrictions lifted.
In April 2020, we launched our curated editorial channel—The Compass—repurposing our team of seasoned overlanders into writers bringing gear reviews, stories from the road and opinions on topics affecting our community. We further used our enews and social-media channels to amplify the team’s voices and to inspire our followers to stay engaged with Overland Expo content throughout the year.
In May 2020, we launched a virtual events series, connecting the overland community to our network of presenters, instructors and the incredible brands that provide products and services that allow overlanders to adventure and explore. The first virtual event drew more than 41,000 virtual attendees from across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Mexico, Finland, South Africa, and India. The first virtual event also drove 30,000 new unique visitors to our website and social channels—a major success for our audience development goal.
SEMA: What technology tools, new or old, have you leaned on recently?
LH: The “technology” we relied on through the pandemic really were our people. They brought together the network of the incredible overland community to make our pivot even viable. We are seeing more and more traffic to digital audiences across our content platform; however, we didn’t invest in any outside technologies to host our virtual events, we just used the power of our website, social channels and brand to bring the community together.
SEMA: What new trends have you noticed with sales and marketing?
LH: Hot new trends we are seeing in the overlanding space include technology around wind, solar and alternative energies. We are up more than 50 new companies to display at Overland Expo West in September of this year to display their new technologies. The overland community is very interested in all kinds of alternative energies and the research and development behind the technology.
SEMA: What, if any, changes in business do you feel will outlive the pandemic?
LH: Today, we have four live events on the calendar for 2021 and have released our strategy to produce these events with health and safety guidelines we’ve developed with health officials. Live events will be heavily attended this year due to the widespread rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, but we still see a hybrid model of both and in-person events working hand in hand with a substantial digital content strategy to be the key to live event sustainability going forward.
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