The Promotional Product Professionals of Canada’s (PPPC) first virtual trade show, Natcon Virtual, held September 16-17, successfully earned widespread approval among its 800 attendees and 33 exhibiting suppliers. Utilizing the virtual platform that was developed by SAGE Natcon Virtual delivered a unique and valuable experience for all involved.

The trade show kicked off with the State of the International Industry opening panel, led by PPPC President and CEO Jonathan Strauss. The panel brought together promotional products leaders from across the globe to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the industry. In addition to Strauss, the panel consisted of Paul Bellantone, CAE, president and CEO of PPAI; Wesley Fawaz, CEO of Australasian Promotional Products Association (APPA); and Carey Trevill, CEO of British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA).

The executives exchanged discourse on personal protective equipment (PPE), its role in the promotional products industry and how it is different around the world. They also discussed the importance of building and maintaining relationships with members and customers. “We are seeing the importance of building relationships and loyalty with customers and showing appreciation for staff,” Fawaz said. “We are all stressed about the future, so lifting morale is a key component to doing business in the present state of the world.”

As it turns out, PPPC’s virtual national convention was a great way to boost morale. In the general show discussion chat room, attendees shared positive and constructive feedback about feeling inspired and proud as a community. Alisa Nickel, director of marketing at 3M Promotional Markets, attended the event and said she loved the platform. “It was so user-friendly, easy to connect with anyone and easy to find products, explore and connect,” she said. “It was so amazing to see how the trade-show world has transitioned so quickly. Adaptation is so important in the world we live in.”

The supplier booths simplified the trade-show process for both suppliers and visitors. With the opportunity for suppliers to customize their booths with information, featured products and video content, it was easy to make connections and fulfill the needs of their customers. In addition to the 33 booths where attendees could connect with exhibitors via virtual chats and video calls, attendees were provided various opportunities for professional development from the 17 on-demand educational sessions. These sessions offered education on design processes, brand communication, web development and many other topics.

Strauss says he could not be happier with the success of Natcon Virtual. “Everything about this event was a first for us and for the industry, and the feedback has been amazing,” he says. “Our internal projections were for 500–750 attendees over two days and we exceeded that. Natcon Virtual showed that PPPC continues to be a glue that keeps the Canadian industry together.”

Given the success of PPPC’s Natcon Virtual, the Canadian organization is already planning its next virtual endeavor. TOPS+ 2021 has also gone virtual and will be taking place in early 2021. Visit for more information.   


Victoria Peers is communications specialist for Promotional Product Professionals of Canada,