By Jesse Robitaille
Exhibitors, judges and organizers continue to debate the pros and cons of virtual exhibiting after more than 33 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which upended exhibitions from the local to the international level.
While in-person exhibitions returned around the world in 2022, virtual competitions filled the void through much of 2020 and 2021. After decades of traditional in-person events, the experience offered by virtual shows – or hybrid shows with both virtual and in-person components – has been a learning curve for all parties.
“It’s a lot different doing a live show compared to a virtual show,” said Vancouver philatelist Ed Kroft, an award-winning exhibitor and international-level judge accredited by the Royal Philatelic Society of Canada (RPSC), of which he’s the past president. “The experience is different, but I actually like virtual exhibiting because I think exhibitors get the chance to put their exhibit in front of a judge for a lengthy period of time. Judges can thoroughly study it relative to an in-person event, where the jury has less time to view the exhibits.”
Building on skills developed through the pandemic, judges have increasingly wielded digital tools, including video conferencing and file sharing, to bolster their evaluation process both during and before exhibitions.
“It’s a combination of using virtual tools and personal tools to deliver the best results to the exhibitors,” said Kroft, who served on the jury at about half a dozen in-person national and international shows in 2022. “In a virtual setting, you can have virtual meetings with your jury team and you can also see the exhibits well ahead of time.”
A HYBRID APPROACH
Jointly held by the British North America Philatelic Society (BNAPS) and Calgary Philatelic Society (CPS) in September, one recent in-person show used digital components to improve the experience for both judges and exhibitors.
Organizers of CPS 2022 BNAPEX, a combined national and British North America exhibition, accepted entry forms online in addition to the traditional printed forms. Exhibitors also provided their title pages and synopses to the jury nearly two months before the show. About three quarters of exhibitors also provided their full exhibit for evaluation before the show, “and this was appreciated by the judges,” said BNAPS First Vice-President and CPS director Dave Bartlet, of Calgary.
Partly pushed by the pandemic, the trend to publish title pages, synopses and even full exhibits online before an exhibition is “fairer to the judges and the exhibitors,” Bartlet said. The increased accessibility helps the jury prepare while expediting and optimizing the evaluation process, he added.
“However, the ease of putting complete exhibits online does put some pressure on the exhibitors to get their exhibit laid out well ahead of the show.”
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