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Pros and Cons of Online Fairs in Terms of 5 Senses, Mind and Emotions

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Author – Natalie Prokopchuk, Organic Component Coordinator
Swiss-Ukrainian Program “Higher Value Added Trade from the Organic and Dairy Sector in Ukraine”

I have visited the world’s leading trade fair for organic food BIOFACH in Nuremberg 12 times (for 12 years). This year it has been by first experience of participating in the online edition of BIOFACH eSpecial.

I would like to share my view of pros and cons of online fairs.

Pros of an online fair:
  • One can see the exhibitors’ profiles, photos/videos of products, and attend various events (conferences, round tables, product presentations), etc.
  • One can hear the best experts of the organic world.
  • Online is cool and innovative! Recordings of interesting conferences are available at any time (within 6 months following the event) on the online platform with good information structuring.  
  • A unique opportunity for participants’ teleportation (switching from one conference to another at any time).
  • Saving time, because one does not need to travel.
  • Parallel presence – one can attend interesting sessions at the fair and continue working (attend other working meetings, send or reply to e-mails, make calls, etc)
  • Saving money – for example, the cost of visitor’s ticket is 35 euro (e-ticket to the online fair) instead of about 1,500 euro (travel expenses, accommodation, meals, insurance, entrance tickets) for 4 days at the offline fair in Nuremberg
  • Same as with the offline participation, the online fair brings new ideas, there is exchange of views and experience.
  • There is an opportunity to hold personal meetings online at the fair or after it.
  • One can organize meetings with potential partners in one click instead of running a long distance from one pavilion to another, which, at the end of the day, could reach 10-20 km. This is a great advantage as the useful area of the fair was impressive 83 000 m2 last year and it has been growing every year (organic ladies, especially high heels lovers, know what I mean).
  • Your mind is involved 100% for information perception, analysis, remembering and decision making based on the tasks set (one is not distracted by household issues). 
  • You can store all the information interesting for you in an electronic form and, correspondingly, you do not need to bring printed catalogues, business cards, packages with different promotion materials etc and process them after the fair.
  • The online format allows those who cannot come to the fair to participate (those with little kids, lacking money or interested only in 3 sessions taking place in 3 different days and then dealing with other matters).
National Ukrainian Pavilion common photo at BIOFACH 2020
Cons of an online fair
  • Technical support is not perfect (the participants complained of the platform loading slowly, system failures, inability to find a desired importer or appoint a meeting).
  • No taste or smell of organic food, as BIOFACH is a celebration of taste and smell.
  • No possibility to satisfy one’s gastronomical desires which appear when the BIOFACH visitors visit the culinary shows at the exhibitors’ stalls and 100% organic restaurants.
  • No physical feel of products, expositions, people (hugs and kisses 😉).
  • No collective meetings of friend and partners (for example, favourite celebrations and parties at the stalls, especially during the Blue Night Party which is traditionally held after the 2nd day of the fair to loud music and treats from different corners of the world).
  • No after-fair meetings with friends during joint dinners or walks along the evening streets of Nuremberg.
  • We miss physical meetings and joint photos to update our photo albums on Facebook or Instagram with a hashtag #we_love_organic
  • We have less emotion than during the offline fair.
  • Possible connection problems (Internet/power cuts).
  • Huge load on eyes, as all the work at the fair is at the laptop or smartphone screen.
  • No new records in a number of steps during the day.
  • Everything is in 2D, but not in 7D as at the offline fair.
  • For residents of Nuremberg and surrounding town/villages it’s a huge lost profit and decline in jobs required for servicing the offline fair and visitors (there are thousands of jobs at the exhibition centre, hotels, restaurants, shops, airports, taxi, etc).
Conclusions

Some people told me that they prefer participating in the “normal” fair, because there are often technical problems and there are no face-to-face meetings over a cup of tea or coffee.  

Looking for positive things in everything, I think there are a lot of advantages which can and should be used now and in future, and the disadvantages should be worked at (for example, to avoid technical problems or for everyone to learn using innovative tools of our digital era).

You should remember that challenges create opportunities and you should be open to changes.

I am sure that after the pandemic is over, both in the world and Ukraine there will be a new “normal” reality where physical presence and online opportunities will be combined, and the world has already been transformed. And I believe that this will bring more effect and better results of participation in various events (including fairs) for exporters, importers, associations, authorities, mass media, etc.

I wish you to be organic in all aspects of your lives!

Note: Swiss-Ukrainian Program “Higher Value Added Trade from the Organic and Dairy Sector in Ukraine” is funded by Switzerland and implemented by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL, Switzerland) in partnership with SAFOSO AG (Switzerland), www.qftp.org

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