Pondemonium is one of the water gardening industry’s preeminent annual business, training and networking events. Hosted by Aquascape, Inc., it hosts hundreds of water feature contractors, retailers, and distributors from around the globe every year for a multi-day event that features hands-on training sessions and a waterfall-building contest.
After 20 years of hosting live, in-person Pondemonium events, Greg Wittstock, CEO and founder of Aquascape Inc., grappled with a difficult decision in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. Cancel Pondemonium 2020 or figure out a way to hold the event online?
Talking Ponds in the Cloud
Recreating the event as a virtual experience caused attendance to double over previous years, attracting an international audience of experienced pond builders, as well as those interested in starting a water feature business.
The two-day online broadcast was held Aug. 26 — 27, 2020, and featured more than 90 sessions led by Aquascape team members, award-winning pond builders, industry experts and popular digital influencers like Coyote Peterson of Animal Planet’s “Brave New World” and well-known YouTubers Brian Barczyk, Kevin Harkin of “Kamp Kenan,” Stanley “Dirt Monkey” Genadek, Jay Brewer of “Prehistoric Pets” and many others.
Cup of Coffee roundtable discussions kicked off each day via live Zoom meetings. Attendees could ask questions and provide input on a variety of topics, from water feature construction techniques to business development and marketing operations. Day one included a special keynote speech from Wittstock, who gave a recap of the year and discussed how to rise to the business challenges of functioning in a virus-ridden world. Ed Beaulieu, vice president of field research and contractor development, presented an overview of the world’s environment and how Aquascape water features replicate Mother Nature’s ecosystem. A chat box was available in all keynote addresses and class sessions so that people could greet each other, ask questions and receive answers in real time.
Seven virtual classrooms were provided throughout the two days. Attendees could participate in any session of their choice and were free to come and go among the rooms as they pleased. Electronic handouts and other materials were provided in the eLearning platform, along with a separate, private Pondemonium 2020 Facebook group for registered attendees.
“Fortunately, hosting a virtual event created unique opportunities for this year’s Pondemonium,” Wittstock said. “People had the option of purchasing an extended registration ticket, providing them with a 90-day window to watch sessions they might have missed.”
In addition, virtual visits to successful pond retail locations in a variety of places were featured, as well as virtual trips to see ponds, waterfalls and fountains installed around the world by previous recipients of the Aquascape Artist of the Year award.
Just like at previous Pondemonium events, Aquascape announced winners of its highly coveted annual awards:
- Nick Needham of Pond King Water Gardens in Eagan, MN for Digital Influencer of the Year
- Dean Pipito of Aquatica in Wales, WI for Conservationist of the Year
- Jason Duffney of Earth Works in Jacksonville, FL for Businessman of the Year
- Mark Wilson of Any Pond Limited in Daventry, UK for Certified Aquascape Contractor of the Year
- Tim Wood of Aquatic Edge in Pittsburgh, PA for Aquascape Artist of the Year
- Thomas Smith of Garden State Koi in Warwick, NY for Distributor of the Year
“The pandemic certainly proved to be a unique challenge for hosting Pondemonium,” Wittstock added. “I’m proud of my team for delivering a value-packed event for our customers.”
The virtual event proved to a successful reinvention of the Pondemonium concept, with increased attendance, more sessions and content than in years past. It received rave reviews from participants, customers and employees alike.