Virtual events in the coffee sector
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, in-person events around the world have been forced to adapt and move online; this has been the case for seminars and workshops to coffee cuppings and concerts.
However, while restrictions are slowly being eased around the world and more in-person events are going ahead, virtual events are still popular.
The digital events sector was valued at $78 million in 2019, and is projected to grow by around 23% a year between 2020 and 2027. Furthermore, a LinkedIn report claims that some 45% of all future B2B events could be held virtually.
So, how can coffee businesses benefit from this change? And if you’re planning a virtual event, what should you consider? Keep reading to find out more.
Virtual events & the Covid-19 pandemic
Although virtual events might not offer the same face-to-face experience we’re used to, they do have a range of benefits.
May Erlewine is one of the Midwest's most prolific singer-songwriters, and a Higher Grounds partner for the Shine On blend. As with many musicians, she was forced to “go digital” when the pandemic came to the US.
”I have performed virtually every week since April 2020,” May says. “I just finally ended my weekly livestream last month, and am now offering a concert once a month to my Patreon members.
“I think we have all seen the value of virtual events through the past 15 or so months. There are ways in which they can be very functional and useful.”
Their benefits have also been realized in the coffee sector. The Specialty Coffee Association held its own conferences through 2020, including High Density and the Coffee Retail Summit. Training sessions, coffee cuppings, and educational workshops also switched to become virtual, with both customers and speakers alike enjoying this newfound flexibility.
Virtual events: The benefits
For a coffee business, there are a number of reasons you might want to host a virtual event, even after you’ve started the process of reopening your premises.
Read on to learn more about a few of them.
Save time & money
Virtual events can be a great option for businesses looking to host a more flexible, cost-effective event.
When you’re hosting a webinar, training course, or an online coffee cupping, you can cut your costs significantly. Staff, venue rental, accommodation, food, and travel all become less prominent. The biggest investment as far as your event is concerned will be finding a suitable platform.
You’ll also end up saving a lot of time on event logistics. However, keep in mind that virtual events also demand time for organization, setup, coordinating any speakers, and other similar tasks.
Global reach & accessibility
By hosting a virtual event with an open registration policy, you can easily “go global” and reach a wider, more global audience. In the coffee sector, this means opening yourself up to people at both ends of the supply chain – at origin and in consuming countries.
The ease of participating in an online event also means attendance can be higher. The logistics involved with physically gathering people in one place are a lot more complex, and the capacity for attendees can be effectively unlimited.
Flexibility & extra features
Virtual events can be a lot more flexible than in-person events, which opens them up to changes. Whether you’re hosting a coffee cupping, a live music session, an educational course, or webinar, you can fine-tune the format to suit your needs.
For instance, if you’re inviting people who speak different languages, you can add translation options, This then means that more attendees or speakers, regardless of their country of origin, can join the event and understand the content.
What to consider
These benefits mean that hosting a virtual event is a practical option for many businesses. Irrespective of the pandemic, virtual events can serve as a convenient way to engage with the global coffee community and bring everyone together.
No matter what you’re hosting, however, any event – online or otherwise – will require meticulous planning and preparation. See below for a few key factors you will need to consider.
Time, size & structure
Managing these parameters appropriately is crucial to any event. Whether your attendees will be local or global, you will need to consider the right date, time, and duration for your event.
Ask yourself a few key questions: will the event be part of the attendees’ working day? Would they want to give up their evenings? Will it be live, or pre-recorded?
Another point to think about is structure. Is this a collaborative discussion after a coffee cupping? A workshop or a lecture? A conference or a roundtable? Think about the type of content you want to share and what degree of interaction you want to see.
Remember: joining virtual events is easy, but so is leaving. As such, your content really needs to step up and keep people interested.
Which platform will your event take place on? After more than a year of lockdown, there are many options to choose from, but some are more suitable for certain types of virtual events than others.
Depending on the size of the event, you might want to choose anything from a specialist digital platform to an established social media channel like Instagram.
Last but no least, remember that you will still need to market and promote the event. It’s a good idea to ramp up your online presence prior to the event. Build up your social media channels accordingly; use them to promote the event and to keep people engaged during it.
However, events are often great sources for other kinds of content. For instance, you can easily write up a blog post or article about the event, and share clips on your social media channels.
Engaging with customers and staying relevant in the industry is not always easy. However, through virtual events, coffee shops can ramp up their brand awareness and drive long-term engagement.
While the need for in-person interaction will always exist, the pandemic has fundamentally changed how we connect with others. It’s likely that we’ll see more and more in-person events returning, but it’s also clear that virtual events aren’t going anywhere.