The Opportunities NB (ONB) Export Development team is, under normal circumstances, busy preparing for in-market activities such as trade missions, trade shows, accelerator programs, and conferences. With COVID-19 altering everything about the way we do business, however, we have altered the way we support our many exporting companies.

Just like New Brunswick businesses, we recognize that in the face of this global pandemic, it is essential to remain agile and pivot to new business models when possible. We like to call it Export Development 2.0.

We have already outlined the broad strokes of the ONB Export Development team’s response to helping companies in a post-COVID-19 world and discussed moving to an increasingly virtual business environment. Next, we focus on a specific example of the ‘new normal’, a virtual trade show coming in early summer.

What do people need to know about the upcoming trade show that many New Brunswick food and beverage companies will attend virtually in late June?

The Atlantic Food and Beverage Virtual Trade Show will take place on June 24 and 25. Fifteen New Brunswick food suppliers are very excited to showcase their products and pitch to potential new buyers. We are so pleased with the level of interest and see this a sign that virtual is at least an interim if not complementary B2B interaction solution.

The platform will mimic an actual in-person show. It should be thought of as a video game in which buyers enter a building into a main lobby. From there, they can visit various places within the building such as a networking lounge, resource center, conference hall, and trade hall. In the conference room, we can conduct live webinars or host on-demand content that can be viewed by visitors – we have contracted the Kilted Chef to prepare four cooking videos using the products featured.

The trade hall is where the virtual branded booths for each participating company will be. As many as 48 from the region will be set up. Booths will allow visitors to view videos, product spec sheets, multimedia content, pricing, etc. They can also grab materials at each booth to stuff into their “Virtual Swag Bag”.

Because our focus is on making valuable connections, it was critical that we find a platform that would enable visitors to interact live with suppliers. Buyers will be able to interact with booth staff through a secure chat function, which even has real-time translation into multiple languages.

We are starting out “small” – only across two time zones to target North American and Asian visitors. Buyers are being invited through our network of industry contacts and via Trade Commissioners and other partner agencies. They will be made aware of the roster of exhibitors and their product offerings. This show is timely because we know that buyers from retailers and distribution companies are hungry for new suppliers; in fact, we believe we are first in the country to jump at this opportunity.

Throughout the show, we will be incentivizing guests to visit booths and interact with the suppliers – just as they would at a traditional trade show.

We are very excited about this show as it is a pilot of sorts. We have high hopes of rolling out the concept across other sectors and reaching potential buyers and business partners from around the globe that we could never have reached from physical trade missions and shows. We expect this to become an efficient, cost-effective way of facilitating business for our companies. After the show, we will work very closely with our exhibitors to ensure they follow up with leads, send samples, and negotiate product trials and orders.

Participating companies must be ready with their professional virtual content and with their professional virtual selling skills honed. We fully expect that our participating companies will showcase the absolute best of themselves.

Learn more about this virtual event including ONB contact information here.

For more information on how ONB can help with any export-related activity contact our Export Development Team directly.