Initial registration put attendance for the inaugural United Fresh Live convention June 15-19 at around 8,000, but as soon as the show hit the airwaves, more people started to register.
I hopped on a Zoom to discuss initial show impressions with Mary Coppola, vice president of marketing and communications for the United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458 and she said by Wednesday more than 11,000 had registered.
That’s not surprising to me because I didn’t even get registered until Monday morning.
United Fresh’s board took the bold action to pivot to digital early on in the COVID-19 crisis, announcing the change in late March. The decision wasn’t without risk, and it cost the organization about $1 million in revenue, Coppola said.
“If you go back to mid-March, and you think about what happened, especially with restaurants and hospitality, overnight, losing 80 percent of their business, we were in a place where it was all the association could do to ensure that we were making resources available to our industry as much as we had and as much as possible,” she said. “We were all in survival mode n March, and a lot of people still are.”
Making the platform free for attendees was just one of the measures United Fresh took. Paywalled content on its website also is available for free for non-members.
“So that was all more of a bigger strategy to ensure that we were helping the industry as much as possible in a time of need,” she said. “And it’s certainly translated onto this platform as well.
And everyone’s watching. Everyone wants to know how this will go, in the age of uncertainty when it comes to live events in the produce industry.
As the Produce Marketing Association has 12 days left on its own deadline to decide the fate of October’s Fresh Summit, I’m sure the feedback from this virtual event will weigh heavily.
Read the full video transcript here:
Pamela R. :Hey, this is Pamela Riemenschneider. I’m the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services and I have Mary Coppola with me from United Fresh and we are talking United Fresh Live. It’s only Wednesday. We still have another couple of days to go. So far, how is United Fresh Live working? What kind of feedback Are you getting?
Mary Coppola: Hey, Pamela, thank you for connecting with me this morning. I know I’ve seen you online a couple times this week already. And that has been the sentiment United Fresh is going. United fresh Live is going very well. Right now. I think it really was a transition for a lot of people to take these in person connections onto a digital platform. But now that we’re in day three, and we’ve got another Thursday and Friday, two more days to go. Folks have finally gotten to the point where I think we’re comfortable connecting online, and we’re finding the value of connecting online.
PR: I know I fished around on day one. I’m just like everyone else and from the women in produce reception that was actually really fun where they kind of sucked you into different Zoom sessions. It was like speed dating and maybe you had a being assigned to a table basically. That was also … my experience mirrored a lot of other people’s experience where it was it was like, well, I wasn’t sure if I could go into a booth if somebody would pounce on me. I didn’t get a lot of chat requests at first. And then yesterday, when I started going through booths, people jumped on me right away, and in a good way. I’m checking saying, Hi, I’m checking to see if I needed anything. People that I knew people that I didn’t know. So that was fun. And the other part of it that I really enjoyed is the on-demand nature of this. How long are those going to be around for people to enjoy as well? I want to know, because there are some I knew that I didn’t get to yet.
MC: Yeah, you know, I think that’s one of the biggest pieces of feedback that we always get in our in person events is Oh, I had to choose this one session over this other one and I’m so bummed I missed it. Well, now you don’t have to miss it all of the content is on demand our workshops and our General Sessions and a couple of the coffee talks, it’s a little different. When you have all those breakout rooms, you can’t record, you know, 10 different rooms that are happening at the same time. But certainly the content that happens before and after those breakouts is recordable recorded and can be left on demand. And all of that content will be up on the United Fresh Live platform through September 1. So folks will have the opportunity throughout the summer to go back in and catch all those sessions that you may have missed, or we heard this a lot after Michael Muzyk’s presentation on Monday. You can go back and just rewatch some of the inspirational messages that you saw across the platform.
PR: Yeah, there were I mean, his opening session address was fantastic. And I did feel like…I was actually down in the living room applauding when it was done. It’s been a different experience for a lot of people. And it’s a different experience for you guys as well. This, you’re the first in our industry to go to a virtual platform instead of either postponing or canceling. What kind of implications to that have for United Fresh? And, how do you guys feel about this decision so far?
MC: You know, I’ll tell you it’s a really short conversation, we got our board’s encouragement and buy in back in March, as soon as the pandemic became evident that we were not going to be able to gather in person this June. And they encouraged us to make this pivot and do it well and get out there and get ahead of it. And so in two and a half months, here we are. I think it speaks for itself as far as what we’ve been able to accomplish. And we’re feeling we’re feeling proud that we were able to give the industry a place to gather. I know you just mentioned that with the chats, you’ve, you’ve been connecting with people that you know, and folks that you don’t. And that’s kind of been the benefit of this platform too, is that we’re seeing so many people that have either never attended the United fresh Convention and Expo or haven’t been to United fresh event period, coming onto this platform because it is free for attendees. And they’re engaging with the industry in ways that they haven’t in the past. I just had a couple retail dietitians on the morning coffee talk say the same thing that this was their first United Fresh experience within the fresh produce industry. And I think that’s really impactful and shows the value of this platform and why we needed to make this transition.
PR: The transition wasn’t 100% easy for you guys because an in-person event is also a revenue generator.
MC: Yes, that is true. United fresh did forfeit about a million dollars in revenue, making this transition and there’s a little button at the bottom of the page that says support United Fresh, and you can hear it from Michael Muzyk. He’s got a video play on there sharing why it’s so important to support us when we’ve created this, this platform that engages everyone, and it brings attendees in for free. That was that was kind of the key piece that we’re talking about right now making that decision. And I’ll tell you why we made that decision. If you go back to mid-March, and you think about what happened, especially with restaurants and hospitality, overnight, losing 80% of their business, we were in a place where it was all the association could do, (phone ringing) excuse me. And this is real life. It was all the association could do to ensure that we were we’re making resources available to our industry as much as we had and as much as possible, because we were all in survival mode in March and a lot of people still are right now. So not only was the decision to make the platform free for attendees, we opened up all of our paywalls on the website. So all of our resources that traditionally are free for members, but are paid for non-members, those were all available, they still are. So that was all more of a bigger strategy to ensure that we were helping the industry as much as possible in a time of need. And it’s certainly translated onto this platform as well.
PR: You can hear a little ping reminding me that the opening organic general session starts in 15 minutes, so we can wrap it up here, a lot of contents still coming today and through the rest of the week. And then of course, she’s mentioned, through September 1, the pain, the replays of the sessions will be available. So a lot of exciting stuff. Thanks so much.
MC: Listen, listen to her pings. Pamela. I do want to say, you know, we’ve had over 11,000 And users register to be on this platform. And we’re seeing about an average of 6000 users per day on the platform, both attendees and exhibitors. So I really encourage folks to continue to learn the platform and learn how to reach out directly to people through chat or message. There’s so much on here that, you know, we’re just scraping the tip of the iceberg on connectivity. But I imagine that the future of engagement, whether in person or otherwise, is still going to have a virtual component. So yeah, technology
PR: I alluded to, I mean, I compared what finding some of these things in some of these virtual booths is like a video game easter egg. Oh, really cool stuff in there. If you take the time to look around. And the support united fresh button with the extra video from Michael Muzyk is kind of one of them. It’s a great message to go over there and see, and to also support the organization. Yeah.
MC: Thank you. Appreciate that, certainly Easter eggs across the platform. So keep exploring. It’s open 24 seven, and again, all the way through September 1. So I look forward to seeing people online and feel free to connect with me and visit the United Fresh booths while you’re on the platform.
PR: All right, thanks Mary
MC: Thanks, Pamela.