Innovation Born From Pandemic Spurs Emergence of New Event Model with Charles Warner

The past two years have been globally transformative as the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to reimagine our daily lives and how we connect with one another. Worldwide quarantines and lockdowns resulted in the expansion of the digital world and metaverse, where much of our correspondence still lives even as we inch back to “normal.”

For the cannabis industry, operators experienced a major boom in product demand, and curbside pickup and/or delivery service went from a rare option to the only option practically overnight. 

Cannabis business media platform Cannabis & Tech Today immediately recognized this shift in operations, organizing the digital-only Emerge Cannabis Conference as a way for like-minded movers and shakers to connect as safely as possible during very uncertain times.

Leafwire sat down with Editor-in-Chief Charles Warner to discuss the publication, the digital conference, and plans for future connection opportunities that can take place from the safety and convenience of your home.

Leafwire: How was Cannabis & Tech Today first founded?

Charles Warner: It originally began as a spinoff of our flagship publication, Innovation & Tech Today. We started to take a look at the cannabis industry, and we realized there was no magazine focused on technology, science, and innovation in the space. 

We were doing it in the mainstream CES world, and we wanted to bring that same level of great content and awesome packaging of a magazine and put it into the cannabis world. We ended up founding Cannabis & Tech Today in 2018. 

LW: What sort of topics and aspects of the industry do you cover?

CW: We cover everything in the cannabis business world. Anything that can be classified as innovative, scientific, or technological. That covers a lot of the industry, and we’ve made sure to put it together in a very easy-to-understand style, in both print and digital formats.

We also work a lot with cannabis-friendly celebrities and influencers to share our content. 

LW: Who is Cannabis & Tech Today’s target audience?

CW: Our audience is the same people who attend MJBizCon. It’s an interesting cross-section of the industry: people interested in cultivation, people in retail and dispensary design, people in the tech/innovation space, investors, and other media platforms and players. It’s truly a cross-section similar to the MJBiz audience, targeted to movers, shakers, and decision makers.

LW: Tell us about the Emerge Digital Conference! How did that come about?

CW: During the height of COVID-19, all in-person events were completely done. We had to come up with a quick solution for the industry that made sense. Basically, we all sat down together and said, “What can we do that would be better than an in-person session?” We wanted to look for a safe opportunity to network, get smart, and do business, despite what was going on in the world. That’s where we came up with the Emerge platform.

We found the Hyperfair platform, which allowed us to have avatars and 3D reality, wholly-immersive environments. It was a huge hit, and a lot of people gave us feedback that it was a great experience – especially compared to other virtual events at the time.

LW: That sounds incredible. What sort of offerings were available within the digital conference space?

CW: We put the same attention-to-detail in the Emerge content that we do for the magazine. We offer top-notch content, the best platform in the industry, and really sharp digital features to tie it all together. 

We have hosted a virtual job fair, pitch contests, and other similar opportunities for connection. It is very interactive – the closest we could get to an in-person event in a virtual environment. By the time the first Emerge Conference was over, we had 20,000 business cards exchanged among attendees. 

LW: Can you talk more about the other businesses and organizations involved in the event?

CW: We have worked with Minorities for Medical Marijuana, the National Association of Cannabis Businesses, Mary Jane media… literally everyone. There were other event organizers, other media platforms… we actually had the CBD Expo there too. 

The CBD Expo couldn’t have its event because of COVID, so they switched it up on the fly and were able to have an entire pavilion that their sales team sold in conjunction with their in-person events that would take place next year. 

LW: What’s on the horizon for this year’s conference?

CW: Emerge will continue to be online. It’s the best platform for us to do what we’re good at: providing the industry with the best virtual events so they don’t have to worry about airfare, Ubers, hotels, and other travel-related aspects so they can get things done and still be able to go to little Johnny’s soccer game at the end of the day.

The next conference will take place on September 13-14, with a focus on business innovation and cannabis technology. We’ll have another this winter, but we’ve yet to select a theme for that one.

LW: Do you think virtual events and innovative tech are the future of the industry?

CW: Absolutely. We’re going to see a lot more events with a hybrid and virtual component. Before COVID, that was almost nonexistent. But why would we continue limiting events to only those who are available to attend in person? If you can reach a wider audience, you might as well go for that.

LW: What’s next for Cannabis & Tech Today as a whole?

CW: Right now, we’re taking submissions for speakers, as well as looking for sponsors and partners to join Emerge. 

We’re also planning our launch of CBDTV, a streaming channel where all of the Emerge content will live. We’ll have podcasts, documentaries, and other events or related content available. We want it to work like a streaming channel that gives people a platform to access that content from anywhere, any time. 

We’re really growing right now – relaunching and rebranding ourselves as a publisher of fine magazines, but also as a digital marketing and media agency that helps other companies in the space get their word out.

We’re always looking to add to our team as well. Right now we’re looking for sales team members, designers, copywriters, and all kinds of contributors as we prepare to ramp up for the second half of the year.

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