The Background: What is CFO South Africa?

CFO South Africa is the leading community-based education, networking, business, and news platform for chief financial officers (CFOs) and finance professionals in South Africa. They also organize events and publish magazines for the community and help CFOs grow professionally.

In 2018, after successfully serving CFOs for five years, the company expanded to building a community for chief human resource officers (CHROs). 

For both their finance and HR communities, CFO South Africa conducts the Finance Indaba and the HR Indaba annually, the largest expo and conferences of their kind in Africa. These events enable both aspiring and seasoned professionals to stay up-to-date with industry trends and developments, and exchange ideas with their peers.

But with the Covid-19 pandemic putting an end to in-person events, CFO South Africa had to innovate. They could no longer interact with their communities at event spaces. The events were successfully rebranded as Finance Indaba Network and HR Indaba Network, which facilitate ongoing knowledge sharing and networking throughout the year for professionals and executives. An important component of this engagement is a virtual conference. 

We sat down with Sarah Chalmers, Head of Operations CFO, and Judith Kamffer, Head of Marketing CFO, to talk about their virtual event experience. 

The Challenges: COVID-19 and the State of Existing Virtual Events Solutions

With the onset of COVID-19 worldwide, on-site events in South Africa were no longer possible. CFO South Africa needed a virtual solution for this problem. They had to figure out how they could look after the needs of their community and their partners without being with them in person.  

For this purpose, they went through dozens of solutions and sat through many demos. Most of the solutions were still a work-in-progress and failed to offer the high-quality interactivity that they were looking for. 

The Solution: A Mature, Interactive Virtual Events Platform

Through a recommendation, they got in touch with vFairs team for a demo. 

CFO South Africa was blown away by the comfort offered by the platform! The solution offered an immersive experience with simple, point-and-click navigation, that mimicked in-person events. 

“[The team’s] jaws were hanging on the floor and then we started to get excited because what we’d seen previously was such a letdown and we pride ourselves in doing absolutely five-star events. So when we saw Siraj’s demo, my whole team was like, yep, yep, when are we signing?”
– Sarah Chalmers

Let’s take a closer look at the features that made this experience possible.

1. Ease-of-use software for all participants

an image of a booth at the finance indaba

CFO South Africa felt that the platform was extremely easy to use. People are intimidated by change and don’t look forward to it. But the vFairs experience was so simple that everyone, from the attendees to the exhibitors and also the organizer found it very easy to navigate the system.

1.1. Organizers

CFO South Africa found the event setup really easy to get through. The walkthrough with the team was smooth and the product demo had really simplified things for the team.

They were also able to onboard exhibitors quickly. Sarah stated that “onboarding partners was a five-star” experience. The partners were sent a small document to help with the onboarding process, and it had five quick steps that they needed to follow. Once they went through that, they were surprised at how easy it was. CFO South Africa was also glad that they didn’t have to run after speakers, directing them to the right auditorium, at the right time. 

“At previous live events, I was also always running around, trying to get the right speakers to the right venue. So, [vFairs], to me, was very easy” 

– Judith Kamffer

1.2. Exhibitors

The exhibitors also found it really easy to set up their stands and personalize them. Talking to attendees and pitching them their products was also a breeze. 

1.3. Speakers

The speakers enjoyed the ease of delivering the sessions, as all of them were already familiar with Zoom. All they had to do was click a button to get started with the session without having to worry about being at the right venue. 

1.4. Attendees

The attendees at both the events were also very happy with the simplicity of it all. They were able to ask more questions during the speaker sessions than during a live event.

All in all, all the participants comfortably enjoyed the event without having to contend with technical roadblocks. 

2. Convenient live speaker sessions

an image of the auditorium

CFO South Africa noticed that a major plus with vFairs was the flexibility in terms of attending the speaker sessions. The sessions at the Finance Indaba and the HR Indaba are highly anticipated but in the past, each auditorium would have a cap of 250 seats. This meant that a large part of the audience was either standing or waiting outside the auditorium and several others just weren’t able to attend because of the time clashes with the other sessions.

With vFairs, CFO South Africa could still host the live sessions simultaneously, but they were much easier to attend. Against a 250-seat cap in the past, the vFairs speaker sessions saw an attendance of 500 to 600 executives. 

No one had to rush for the auditorium, fight for seats, and skip out on other sessions. They could simply view the recordings later on. 

3. A branded lobby and custom booths

an image of the lobby

Convincing their partners to exhibit was a hard sell for CFO South Africa. It wasn’t easy to show the benefits of a virtual event from the outset. Several of the company’s usual exhibitors were very nervous about migrating to a virtual platform. They had participated in virtual exhibitions in the past and had been very disappointed by the returns. With the pandemic, it was also harder to make financial decisions and spend money on risky strategies. 

However, CFO South Africa vouched for the product. And once the partners came on board, all their reservations were gone. 

The partners found vFairs really easy to use. The transition had been very simple. They could easily customize the stands with their own logos and standees, much like they used to do for the live events. 

Branding was very important for the partners and CFO South Africa had at least 25 partners showcasing their solutions and services. The organization chose an exhibit hall with ample branding opportunities and an external environment that was close to South Africa’s terrain.

“The feedback we got from partners was absolutely amazing. They were like, ‘this is the best virtual event we’ve ever attended’”.
-Sarah Chalmers

Conclusion: A great success

CFO was very pleased with their entire experience with vFairs. The feedback they got from their partners was phenomenal!

Here are all the benefits that CFO observed:

  • People who had previously been unable to attend the event because of the distance and travel costs finally had an opportunity to attend the indabas for the first time. 
  • There was attendance from all over South Africa and other countries in Africa as well.
  • Participants were glad to have saved money on traveling and living expenses.
  • Attendees could attend all the speaker sessions comfortably.
  • The exhibitors received saw a boost in new leads and generated an impressive ROI from the showcase.

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