Nobody could have foreseen the events of 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically shaken up almost every single industry, forcing brands to rethink the way they operate now and in the future.
The events industry was one of the hardest hit by the strict social distancing guidelines put in place, which made it impossible to host large-scale events with hundreds of delegates. As a result, businesses started taking their events online.
But for a lot of industries, virtual events aren’t quite the same as in-person ones.
Sectors like food and beverage, for example, which rely on touch, taste, and smell, find themselves rethinking their whole events strategy in light of the pandemic. Can food and beverage brands drive engagement and results from the up and coming trend of virtual events? Keep reading to find out!
Food and Beverage Brands Were Quick to Adapt
Despite restaurants and bars shutting their doors for a period of time in 2020, the B2B food and beverage industry managed to adapt quickly. Delivery services became more efficient with the help of technology providers, and customer-facing brands leaned on dedicated services from B2B suppliers to get them through the difficult times.
This ability to adapt quickly can be seen in the B2B food and beverage events world, too.
Take the Vitafoods Expo, for example. The event takes place every year, giving B2B suppliers and B2C food and beverage brands the chance to learn about the latest scientific findings in the food world and make connections with vendors and clients.
This year, plans were well underway for an in-person event when coronavirus struck and forced organizers to rethink.
Instead of inviting thousands of delegates on-site, Vitafoods made the decision to host the expo online. Dubbed the Vitafoods Virtual Expo, the event still retained some of its unique features. It accommodated enhanced matchmaking opportunities and nurtured interactivity and engagement through advanced technology tools and videoconferencing services.
It did this through:
- Secure one-to-one video chats to replicate in-person networking opportunities
- Themed micro-communities to foster in-depth discussion and group networking
- Live and on-demand content from trusted names in the B2B food and beverage industry
- Thought leadership talks, webinars, and sessions to educate delegates on the latest industry trends
The Solution: Think About Events in a New Way
The pandemic has altered the priorities of B2B brands beyond recognition. In the past, events were the number one thing B2B companies spent money on.
A report last year found that B2B marketers spend on average 12% of their program budgets on events and 45% of B2B tech decision-makers rely on information at conferences and tradeshows to make investment decisions.
Getting rid of events in the B2B food and beverage industry would be a very difficult pill to swallow.
However, instead of getting rid of them entirely, brands can take a leaf out of Vitafoods’ book and take their conferences and workshops online.
There are a few key things to consider, particularly if you want to maintain engagement levels and get the best results out of your event.
1. Decide What You Want to Achieve
The pandemic has forced a lot of brands to reconsider why they host certain events. For many, the aim was to encourage networking – something that isn’t as beneficial online as it is offline.
Before you start planning your event, think about what you want virtual attendees to get out of it and whether an online format is the right way to present the information you want to share.
2. Use Technology to Your Advantage
There are a variety of video conferencing tools available and the pandemic has seen even more advanced technologies emerge. Don’t feel like you have to stick to just one platform, and instead create a toolbox of technology solutions that solve all your needs.
For example, you might use Zoom if you’re just running seminars and breakout rooms, or you might invest in a full-scale events platform like Aventri or Accelevents if you want features like digital networking and matchmaking tools.
3. Take Note of Unique Online Habits
Attention spans online aren’t the same as attention spans in-person. It’s difficult to keep the attention of attendees when they’re relaxing on their couch with a host of distractions all around them.
Unlike in-person events where delegates can stay focused at all times, virtual events should feature shorter sessions and plenty of breaks. Think about keeping the agenda interesting with a variety of different talks, including keynotes, seminars, interactive workshops, and smaller group sessions.
4. Communicate With Attendees
Virtual events need more communication with attendees than in-person events. Once an attendee arrives at the latter, there are stewards on hand to help out with every question. Online, it’s different.
As well as providing step-by-step instructions for accessing talks, seminars, and networking events, you’ll need to be on-hand to answer questions throughout the event, whether that’s via email, social media, or via your chosen events platform.
Virtual Events Can Definitely Work for B2B Food and Beverage Brands
While it might seem like a huge leap going from in-person events to virtual events, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. Sure, you might have to wave goodbye to certain elements that just aren’t possible anymore, but there is plenty of technology available to help you replicate most aspects of an in-person event.
Start by thinking about your goals and move forward from there. Experiment with different event platforms, adapt your schedule to fit online habits, and be sure to stay in touch with delegates at all times.