Interview: This was not a normal EuroTier

03-03-2021 | |
Ines Rathke, project manager at the German Agricultural Society (DLG). - Photo: DLG
Ines Rathke, project manager at the German Agricultural Society (DLG). - Photo: DLG

Due to Covid-19, the international animal husbandry trade show EuroTier was held completely digitally for the first time in February 2021. What did that mean for exhibitors and visitors? How does the organising German Agricultural Society (DLG) look back? What elements will return in future editions of EuroTier? DLG project manager Ines Rathke explains.

When comparing the event to your expectations, would you consider the digital EuroTier a success?

“EuroTier digital was the first event of its kind! Expectations often mean we have some experience, like the result of a past event. Here, we started something completely new and we are very happy with the debut. An event of that scale – with 1,200 exhibitors and 300 professional events – resulting in 41,000 visitors, 250,000 engagements and 780,000 page impressions, surpassed our expectations.”

When did DLG seriously consider going completely digital?

“Digital events are not new to DLG. Our club called ‘Young DLG Club’ is a network for young farmers and students in Germany that was already offering webinars online. In 2020, we simply expanded our online range, hosting 3 online events per month for farmers and experts – a total of over 30 online events in 2020, covering specific issues in international livestock topics for all species. Our contingency plan for EuroTier to go digital developed early on, but to go entirely digital, only became a serious proposition when we had to call off the Hanover event in early November 2020.”

Where did you look for inspiration to build such a platform?

“We analysed different approaches of different industries, since we aim to offer additional value for the future and not ‘just’ focus on a one-off digital replacement for an event, that is not possible to have this year.”

What were your expectations with regard to visitor and exhibitor numbers?

“This was a completely new concept. Never before had anyone in agriculture created an event of this size online, so the truth is, it was difficult to make good estimates. But once the concept became reality, it became clear to us from the strong interest from both exhibitors and visitors that this event had a strong backing already before the event had taken off.”

What pig innovations could be found at EuroTier? Pig Progress made a pre-selection

It is said that suppliers in the pig industry were hesitant about the digital platform and that that is the reason they missed out on the innovation medals. Could you comment?

“Due to the pandemic, we had less registrations for an innovation award, and initially, some exhibitors, notably in the pig area, were still considering their participation in the exhibition. However, this meant that some companies missed the deadline for the registration of their innovation. 1 of the initial criteria for getting an award is of course to register the innovation in the first place so that it can be judged by experts. After the deadline had passed, a significant number of companies in the pig area decided to book a stand at EuroTier digital. This means there are still many interesting pig solutions, many of the these may be award candidate material, but obviously did not make it to the nomination list.”

Looking back, which elements of the digital platform are you happy with?

“In general I am very proud of the knowledge density provided by 9 channels. At the DLG headquarters in Frankfurt, we set up a professional DLG Studio, which included the opening event with a live speech by the German federal minister of food and agriculture, Julia Klöckner, alongside the president of the DLG, Hubertus Paetow. Also the Cattle and Pig event, which included contributions of pig farmers and the European Pig Producers Club, was presented live and received much feedback from the audience. The fact that we had events going on all the time was an amazing buzz.”

Julia Klöckner, the German minister of food and agriculture, addressed EuroTier visitors in their homes. - Photo: Vincent ter Beek

Julia Klöckner, the German minister of food and agriculture, addressed EuroTier visitors in their homes. – Photo: Vincent ter Beek

Which elements of the digital platform would you organise differently if you had to do it again?

“No project is perfect or ever will be. But we definitely want to become more stringent – the registration and log-on process for example are not where we want them to be. The platform needs to be responsive on all devices. I thoroughly believe in the elements we have established. But with the entire technology being new to our participants, we will see more use and interaction as time goes on and as people get more familiar with the functions and opportunities we are offering them. Were I to do it again, I would like to have the privilege of more time.”

What was the average connection time of the 41,000 visitors?

“An outstanding average of 5.19 hours per day! We had no objectives to aim for – people usually spend all day at a fairground. Digital is very different, you get distracted easily, something urgent comes up, you manage your working-routine whilst still taking a look… Farmers do not block their calendars for entire days to join an online event, they are more flexible and make exceptions and therefore I am absolutely thrilled by this achievement. It gives credit to everyone involved in putting together a programme of such relevance.”

If EuroTier 2022 is back on as normal, will there be digital elements?

“If? You mean when! And yes, definitely. Once this pandemic is over, we will not forget the advances and developments that we made in these unusual times. But I believe people need people – and nothing beats a personal relationship. Digital opportunities offer complementary events supporting our trade fairs in the long term and we have now proven this can be done successfully. The new digital platform offers a good choice for anyone unable to travel to the event and enable to opportunity to network and do business.”

Screenshot of one of the functionalities during the digital EuroTier: the 'wheel' shows the number of contacts made at the show. - Photo: DLG

Screenshot of one of the functionalities during the digital EuroTier: the ‘wheel’ shows the number of contacts made at the show. – Photo: DLG

Which elements are likely to return?

“Nothing is set in stone yet, but the combination of conference, innovation and networking is key to our 360 degree approach.”

Will digital ingredients take over some of the usual offline components?

“Some things can only be done digitally. For example, the moderated chat function during an event which can take place while a speaker is presenting. This chat function further allows additional information to be delivered to viewers and, above all, enables users to take a proactive part by asking questions while the speech is on-going. Additionally, the discussion forum that we organised after each speaker session allowed face-to-face questions in which you can directly see others on screen, including their reactions. That is not possible in a presentation room when everyone is facing the speaker in a conference room. So digital events can offer additional features that are not used at a physical event.”

What has been the feedback you got from exhibitors and from visitors after the event?

“For the exhibitors, this has been a new experience too and the learning curve for all of us has been steep. It is not like manning a stand, but rather about being proactive. Exhibitors and visitors had to get used to a new environment at the same time. There were different expectations that we have tried to meet, but of course, it’s not ‘a normal EuroTier’. The curation of the technical programme was great, but once the handling becomes more natural with time, the entire experience will benefit even more. Anyone expecting some 160,000 visitors like last seen in Hannover will find it hard to acknowledge that 41,000 participants is a success. But we are speaking of 2 different events here and digital was a premiere, therefore I am very proud of what we have achieved.”

Has the digital EuroTier changed the nature of the trade show forever?

“This pandemic has been troubling us now for nearly 1 year. Online communication has existed for 20 years, but exhibitions have existed for hundreds of years. I believe in the ‘people business’ and exhibitions are important for farmers to make sound decisions for their future machinery needs on the farm! People thrive on interaction with each other. The best ideas are generated through inspiration. For that to occur, we need to use as many of our 5 senses as possible. I firmly believe that people’s thirst for this experience will be even greater in the future.”

The full EuroTier event programme is still available as on-demand videos until mid-April.

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ter Beek
Vincent ter Beek Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world