ABOUT THE HOST: The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) is Canada’s largest trade association dedicated to natural health and organic products. It is committed to helping Canadians achieve better health naturally. Driven by their mission to create opportunities for members to thrive, and cultivate an innovative industry through advocacy, education and experience, it is proudly representing over 1000 member businesses across Canada.CHFA is also known for producing the best trade shows for natural health and organic industry. The goal of these trade shows has always been to connect manufacturers and brokers with retailers and distribute natural health products far and wide.CHALLENGE:CHFA Connect was initially planned as a live physical event, but the pandemic upended all plans and preparations that were underway. However, they did not let the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 dampen their spirits. CHFA is a strong advocate of continuous innovation which they believe to be a key driver of sustainable success. Instead of canceling the event, they looked for alternatives that would not just meet their requirements but also align with their goals and objectives for the event.CHFA partnered with a platform they knew would help exhibitors (manufacturers) and attendees (retailers) engage and network amongst themselves, create a favorable experience for them, and help them stay true to their event. Their trade shows are traditionally vibrant and colourful, and they wanted the virtual experience to emulate this.STRATEGY:CHFA, in collaboration with vFairs, wanted to establish a virtual events platform that would cater to their key objectives. These were the same as their live physical events, and the level of expectations did not alter even with a change in platform. CHFA was looking to:Facilitate salesFacilitate networking between industry professionalsProvide product education On September 29th, 2020, amidst a raging pandemic, CHFA Connect inaugurated its three-day long virtual trade show. Click here to access the event. Let’s explore in detail some of the key features and tools that allowed CHFA Connect to deliver a ground-breaking and successful event: DELIVERING A VIBRANT AND COLORFUL EXPERIENCE:CHFA Connect was very clear about one thing from the very beginning: They wanted an event that resonated the same energy and was an honest reflection of the real event. They wanted to deliver a near-to-life experience for all their attendees, bridging the gap between physical and virtual events as much as possible. Keeping this in mind, the lobby was carefully constructed to offer a real-life experience through easy navigation.CREATING VALUE FOR EXHIBITORS:Exhibit Halls had booths that hosted multiple exhibitors. Retailers who were attending the virtual trade show could easily scroll through and click on any exhibitor to know more about their product. These individual exhibitor pages allowed them to:showcase their product through product videos, images, or advertisementsamplify their social media pagesengage with their audience through video, audio, and text chat options FACILITATING ENGAGEMENT BETWEEN MANUFACTURERS AND RETAILERS:CHFA Connect wanted to facilitate optimal engagement between exhibitors and attendees. For this purpose, there was a vast distribution of halls for the exhibitors. This was to ensure that each booth had a chance to be seen, as there were a total of 256 exhibitors. The layout was also kept easy to navigate, and each hall was of a manageable size. CHFA Connect wanted to replicate the live event, where attendees would walk around and stop at booths that interested them. So, with the scrolling option within each hall, attendees could do just that.The virtual trade show did not reduce the level of engagement between the exhibitors and attendees. Both were able to:Share resources: Exhibitors had the option to share resources, product information, and video, whereas the attendees could download valuable information and access it later when the event was over.Network seamlessly: Retailers had the option to engage in live video, audio, or text chats in order to interact with the manufactures and develop a closer understanding of their products and gain more knowledgeCustomize booths: Manufacturers had the option to brand and customize their booths as per their requirements, which brought to life elements from the physical event. MAXIMIZING AWARENESS THROUGH WEBINARS IN THE VIRTUAL AUDITORIUM:Various webinars were lined up in the virtual auditorium. Attendees could easily navigate to the auditorium from the menu bar at the top of the page, where they could access speaker sessions on a variety of topics. These included sessions on finding motivation in the pandemic, racial biases in the hiring process, regulations in the industry, organic standards amongst many other interesting topics. A mix of live and pre-recorded sessions were available for the attendees to view at a time and place of their convenience. These webinars were very well attended by the retailers. ENCOURAGING ATTENDEE PARTICIPATION VIA LEADERBOARD :A leaderboard was created to encourage attendees to visit a maximum number of booths, attend webinars, say hello to exhibitors, save/view documents, or visit the networking lounge. Attendees would earn points with each action. Anyone with a maximum number of points would be eligible to receive one of the sponsored prizes. vFairs offers this gamification feature, built into the platform to ensure maximum engagement between manufacturers and retailers. This also incentivizes the attendees to extend their stay at the event. DOWNLOADABLE MATERIAL:The attendees had an option to download resources and documents to view them later. These included presentations, price lists, etc. which could be added to the swag bag. Attendees also had an option to email these documents to themselves. CHFA Connect wanted to have a platform where they could share resources with retailers that would help them enhance their businesses further, and this option helped attendees keep a record of all the materials that interested them.ADD ITEMS TO CART FOR PURCHASE:CHFA Connect was focused on one of their primary objectives, which was to facilitate sales and connections between manufacturers and attendees. For this, vFairs added a feature where attendees could browse through a manufacturer’s products in their respective booths or search for them directly. They could add items they wanted to purchase in a cart and proceed to place and confirm their order. RESULTS:As a promise to continuous innovation, CHFA ventured into the virtual events arena and delivered a successful event. This event allowed them to create a platform that helped them in their goal of facilitating connections between the manufacturers and retailers. Retailers could:Get business education and resources to advance their businessesWatch product videos to get detailed information about manufacturers and their productsNetwork with a huge number of exhibitors at their own time without any time restrictionsInteract with the exhibitors through live chat options in real time This was the first virtual trade show that CHFA hosted. According to Irina Costachescu, Manager of Events and Education, the event received a lot of positive feedback from their manufacturers and retailers alike. CHFA prioritizes exhibitor and attendee satisfaction, and they managed to appease both via this virtual event. She expressed her excitement about the successful event saying “this was the right first step that brought people in the ideal frame of mind for virtual events. It has opened new possibilities for future virtual events”.vFairs developed a 3D platform that was as close to reality as possible. Even though the pandemic forced CHFA to backtrack on their initial plan for the trade show, they did not cancel the event altogether. They were not looking for the usual manufacturer/products links and descriptions which did not allow any margin for interaction and networking between the exhibitor and attendees.Additionally, the virtual event allowed the host to eliminate a lot of the hassle that goes into putting together a physical event. There were no travel costs incurred, no waste, zero shipping cost, and lastly, there was no set up and breakdown of the entire event, that usually takes up time in a physical event. All this made the entire setup convenient and resulted in a successful experience for all those part of the event.ABOUT VFAIRSAt vfairs.com, we strive to build a top-class online event platform that will help event organizers make memorable connections with their target audience. We’re obsessed with taking out the hassle normally associated with physical events, leaving organizers and exhibitors to focus on what’s most important – engagement with the audience. Get in touch with an expert to learn more about vFairs here.