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What it really means to stay connected

Jewell left her position as vice president of marketing at Watsonville, CA-based California Giant Inc. to start her own business focused on marketing and creative for the fresh produce industry.

We have all learned new ways to connect with friends, family, and colleagues in the produce industry this year.  While some have been kicking and screaming the whole way, others are embracing the change and thriving in a virtual atmosphere.

Personally, I teeter between both extremes.  I have loved learning new ways to connect with industry friends using features like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.  In many cases, we are much more productive and stay more focused on business agendas so the time we take together is valuable and results oriented, especially as we begin to experience Zoom fatigue.

Now, our industry associations have shifted into virtual trade shows  for 2020 which also requires us as attendees and exhibitors to step up our game capturing those valuable customers on our computer instead of a show floor, a meeting room, or the hotel bar.

As a marketer, I am focused on ensuring visual tools, new programs, and now trade shows booths and materials are easily translated to a digital world.  What we are also learning is that our industry (just like our families) have different levels of expertise and comfort with maneuvering within this new platform.

Thanks to the United Fresh Live Convention last month, we all were able to get a taste of our first ever virtual trade show.  If you missed it, you can still check it out as the platform will stay LIVE for a while longer.   I know I am not alone in putting together a long list of all the things that I enjoyed about the show and all the things I will do differently for the next one as an attendee making the best use of my time.

What I enjoyed the most about the United trade show was the ability to visit booths beyond show hours.  I spent one evening at home, enjoying a glass of wine walking the show floor leaving messages for friends that I would normally see at the Convention in their booths.  It was so gratifying to receive several returned messages the next morning as they each arrived at their booths.

Getting ready for what is next, here are a few recommendations for our next Virtual Trade show, (in addition to making sure you have a strong internet signal and a camera on your monitor):

  1. Make sure you schedule this convention as real ‘out of office’ time.  Don’t try to juggle trade show events into your regular work week.  Pretend you really are Out of Office!
  2. Pre-register so you can receive all the event updates that will surely be delivered to your inbox helping you to better organize your schedule during the show
  3. Take time to visit booths, talk to exhibitors through the platform, and download the materials shared.  Even if you don’t have time to review information while at the booth you will have the content on-hand later.
  4. Attend the general sessions and workshops every day.  It’s a great time to connect with colleagues and hear from industry experts in the comfort of your office.
  5. Attend the happy-hour sessions and network with friends even if you are in the wrong time zone!
  6. My list is much longer for my exhibitor partners and I am excited about what we can do together as an industry to bring the next virtual show to life.

As this shift in how we communicate may be a part of doing business in the long term, I am excited about collaborating with other marketers, our trade associations, and customers to help make our future virtual communication productive, easy and most importantly, enjoyable until we meet again.

Cindy Jewell is the President of Jewell Marketing, providing strategic marketing results for brands in the produce industry. She is passionate about telling the story and connecting brands to their audience for long term loyalty.