How Forum Events went digital: Q&A with MD Sarah Beall
Like all businesses, Forum Events & Media has had to adjust its operations in the face of coronavirus and the resulting lockdown, whilst planning for life in the ‘new normal’.
Here, Managing Director Sarah Beall explains how Forum is using technology to take its events business digital – and reveals what that means for its delegates, partners and the industry going forward…
How has Forum Events transitioned from live to virtual events during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our Forums and Summits are unlike exhibitions or other large scale B2B events – they facilitate supply and demand, and serve their industries by bringing together buyers and suppliers for a series of pre-arranged face-to-face meetings.
We’ve tackled the COVID-19 crisis head-on by using our cutting-edge proprietary matching-making software to create an interface for live video meetings in a ‘virtual Forum’ environment, taking our live experience online.
How was this achieved and what role has technology played during the transition?
Redirecting our focus from live events to virtual means we can continue to deliver expectations to our exhibitor partners and delegates alike. Our appointment setting software is bespoke – we assigned our development team the task of integrating it with a video conferencing platform, so we can now create and deliver a live itinerary of pre-arranged meetings for participants.
How can people attend your virtual events and how do they work?
Our virtual format replicates our live events, bringing together 65 key decision makers with 35 industry suppliers. The event registration process is exactly the same for both delegates and suppliers – the only difference is that all the meetings take place online as opposed to a physical venue.
What do you see as the main benefits of virtual events for your supplier partners?
It’s all too easy to bury your head in the sand and wait for this pandemic to pass – but at Forum we know how important it is to stay in touch with our clients and create new business relationships with future prospects. Our virtual Forums are a powerful way to do business and stay connected from anywhere in the world.
What do you see as the main benefits of virtual events for your attending delegates?
For anyone in procurement, events and meetings are keys to success – relationships with suppliers all start from an initial meeting and product knowledge. But right now companies will want to reduce the risk of their employees catching coronavirus, so we expect they will carry out due diligence as to whether they can attend live events. As a response, we are providing a safe solution for everyone, with buyers and suppliers meeting via video call from the comfort of their home office.
Do you think virtual events will operate alongside live events as part of the ’new normal’?
Live events are where deals are done and new products are put into the hands of a buyer – I do not see that changing. However, as we move out of lockdown hybrid events that offer both live and virtual attendees the opportunity to meet with trusted suppliers can only help expand the marketplace and increase supplier export worldwide.
How does Forum intend to develop its virtual events offering going forward?
Our virtual platform will allow us to hold our Forums and Summits worldwide, enter new industries and connect even more buyers and suppliers.
We cannot wait to welcome attendees back to our live events from September and have implemented a COVID safe risk assessment at all our venues.
But we are prepared and ready to kickstart our Forums from this month across four industries via our virtual platform. And we will continue to serve industries by holding hybrid live and virtual events that are COVID safe throughout the remainder of the year and beyond, if required.