The “new normal” for seafood trade shows

October 5, 2020
What does the future hold for seafood shows and expos with COVID-19 posing a major and very real threat? Though no one has the answer yet, there are many ways in which the shrimp industry is adapting to the current “new normal”.

Seafood expos cancelled worldwide

Companies in the shrimp industry greatly depend on trade fairs and conferences to build connections, stay informed about the latest trends, and grow their businesses. Every year, major producing and importing countries hold their own expos and forums, attracting enthusiastic shrimpers from around the world – from farmers to traders, processors to packers, and researchers to media professionals.

However, this year, many were cancelled or postponed due to the health risks posed by escalating outbreaks all over the world.

Seafood Expo Global, one of the biggest seafood shows in the world, cancelled its 2020 edition, which was to be held in Brussels in April 2020. With over 1,600 companies scheduled to exhibit at the event, the expo was slated to be the biggest version ever in its 28-year history. 

Conxemar 2020, another highly-anticipated trade show in southern Europe, was also put on hold this year, along with many other aquaculture conferences such as World Aquaculture 2020 in Singapore and the China Fisheries & Seafood Expo in Qingdao, China.

Seafood TIP connects online

As the seafood industry navigates the “new normal” for events and trade shows, many have turned to online meetings and webinars to connect and build a community.

In September, the Seafood TIP participated as a speaker in the Aqua Expo 2020 held via Zoom by Camara Nacional de Acuacultura (CNA). ShrimpTails Editor-in-Chief Sophia Balod presented an overview of market demand in Europe and Asia amid the pandemic, as well as an informed projection of demand in the holiday season.

“We had a massive and detailed preparation beforehand, interviewing different digital platform suppliers and creating small task teams,” Luis Alfredo Robles, CNA Deputy Executive Director told ShrimpTails. “The main takeaway for us is that with professionalism, transparency, and a committed team under clear leadership, we can effectively adapt to changes, without losing our essence.”

Virtual tour of the AquaExpo 2020. Courtesy: CNA

GOAL 2020: A full-blown virtual conference

From 6 to 8 October, the Seafood TIP will attend another virtual event, which will be a full-blown virtual conference with live polls, online matchmaking and discussions. Ambitious as that sounds, it’s the aim of the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Global Outlook for Aquaculture Leadership (GAA’s GOAL) 2020.

Originally planned to be held in Tokyo, GOAL 2020 will be an entirely virtual conference composed of eight sessions – the very first of its kind in the GAA’s history. The programme features 50 resource speakers and industry professionals from nearly 20 countries providing insights into trends that shape the future of responsible aquaculture practices.

The conference will be live streamed, and will offer real-time interaction through polls and Q & A sessions. Attendees will be able to follow the presentations, participate in surveys, and make their  

own notes on the GOAL 2020’s virtual dashboard.

As you can see, the conference being held online does have its advantages!

Online networking and matchmaking

“People visit GOAL conferences for more than only the content; they come to network and interact with others from the industry,” Steven Hedlund, GAA’s Communications and Events Manager said. “While it’s quite difficult to replicate this at a virtual event, we can still offer a good level of interaction on the platform.”

Corporate members will be able to access virtual networking and matchmaking opportunities, with the option to call “face-to-face meetings” on the conference platform. According to Hedlund, this can be an opportunity for many people to meet new clients and experts who might not have been available at live events. There will be one-on-one networking opportunities as well as options for groups to interact.

The GOAL 2020’s virtual dashboard

What can we improve?

As the shrimp industry navigates this new trend of online seafood shows, certain challenges need to be overcome both by participants and organizers.

One is the difference in time zones among participants from all over the world. Being able to view the presentations after the live stream is crucial for audiences who cannot join live.

Internet connectivity, speed and accessibility, particularly in developing countries, are also factors to consider when hosting webinars, especially those targeted at small-scale farmers or fishermen.

According to Statista, a German company specializing in market and consumer data, only 59% of people worldwide have internet access. Since reliable internet connection is not always a given, participants with internet access are advised to perform a technical check beforehand to see if everything runs smoothly.

Lastly, with online engagement being limited during long presentations, it’s important to tailor to your audience’s attendance and attention span. “We realize that fatigue can set in so we need to be flexible as to how our attendees consume our content,” Hedlund added. “They may be available for one or two hours and will view or download the rest of the presentations later.”

Are hybrid conferences the future?

Whether the trend of online conferencing will last is a question that remains. With COVID-19 still being an imminent threat, webinars are likely to stay here for some time, especially with many countries still having travel bans and restrictions in place.

For now, the GAA can only hope for the best and prepare for the upcoming GOAL 2021, which will be held both online and offline. Using their experience from organising GOAL 2020, next year’s hybrid event will take place in October 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

“We are working hard to make GOAL 2021 as accessible as possible to many participants. We aim to have both in-person and virtual events in this hybrid model,” Hedlund concluded.

While an advantage of attending a webinar rather than a live event is that it’s much more economical, a completely web-based seafood industry is hard to imagine, especially since social interaction and networking are a huge part of developing the sector.

But as times have changed, so have we. The shrimp industry continues to not only adapt and adjust, but also to set itself up for success for years to come.

New dates for live seafood shows: 
November 24-26, 2020, AquaExpo (Guayaquil, Ecuador)
March 14-16, 2021, Seafood Expo North America (Boston, USA)
April 27-29, 2021, Seafood Expo Global (Barcelona, Spain)
May 19-21, 2021, Tuna 2021 (Bangkok, Thailand)
October 27-29, 2021, China International Fisheries Expo (Qingdao, China)
June 14-18, 2021, World Aquaculture 2020 (Singapore)

Upcoming webinars:
October 6-8, 2020, Global Aquaculture Alliance (GOAL) Virtual Conference 2020
October 14, 2020, Infofish Tuna 2021 Prelude

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