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Great Designs in Steel (GDIS) is the world’s longest-running automotive materials conference, but the state of the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the in-person event for 2020 and once again posed a challenge in 2021. While the in-person symposium normally draws close to 1,400 attendees and offers ample networking, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) was challenged with how to bring the event online while keeping the content interesting for attendees and providing value for sponsors and exhibitors.


Taking GDIS virtual shifted the need for what is normally vendor coordination with audio/visual, physical sponsor booths, venue, décor and more to creating an event website, curating and populating content and managing the virtual event platform while ensuring user experience was top notch. It was imperative that the event website was a one-stop-shop for all things GDIS – including sponsors and their booths, agenda, speaker information, session hosting day-of and more.

Franco worked with AISI to design, populate and continuously update the website for months leading up to the event.

In addition, Franco also managed sponsor communication, created an event app to optimize a mobile experience and drafted all attendee email communication leading up to the event.

We advised on the structure of the multi-track sessions (three tracks with sessions running simultaneously), kept the agenda and speaker information up to date and coordinated with speakers.


  • 62% of registrants attended one session or more (1,500 registrants and 925 individuals attended one or more sessions).
  • Generated an average email open rate of 20% (11 total emails sent).
    • According to Campaign Monitor, the average open rate for B2B emails is 15%.
  • On average, the quality of the event content was rated 8.5/10 by attendees.
  • On average, the likeliness of attendees to recommend the event to a colleague was 8.8/10.

“I just want to send you a big thank you for all the work you put in to make GDIS 2021 such a great success. We are receiving very complimentary feedback about the event and we were able to do very effective promotion that led to over 1,500 people registering. I know that pulling off a virtual event of this magnitude took a lot of learning on the fly, problem-solving and creative thinking. I believe we set a new standard.” – John Catterall, vice president, AISI Automotive Program