VIRTUAL MID-SOUTH FARM AND GIN SHOW
The annual Mid-South Farm & Gin Show is a beloved institution for the Memphis region’s cotton sector. With the help of Behind the Scenes and our partners, going virtual in 2021 wasn’t just a pandemic safety measure; it was the kick-off for a new era of shows.
Co-sponsored by Delta Farm Press and the Southern Cotton Ginners Association, the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show is the biggest of its kind in the South. The Show plays a critical role in connecting key players in the cotton industry, and it educates tens of thousands of attendees every year on the latest agricultural products and services on/in the market.
Despite the disruption posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Farm & Gin Show organizers were initially hopeful that they would be able to shift back to the traditional gathering. The Show’s manager noted that organizers did everything possible to ensure an in-person event - even getting the City of Memphis involved.
But with one door closed, another opened – this one leading to an entirely new model for the annual Farm & Gin Show. Behind the Scenes and V2 Media stepped in and developed a virtual show format that would not only be used for the 2021 event, but influence the direction of future events, even when in-person options become a possibility.
Our approach was guided by several considerations. To be faithful to the Show’s unique character, we had to ensure that every virtual attendee walked away with new knowledge or a special memory, as in-person attendees do each year. The virtual event also needed to be educational, collaborative and accessible to attendees all over the world, as the client’s goal was to expand the Show’s audience.
Behind the Scenes and V2 Media conceived a comprehensive virtual Show. Together, we designed a visually engaging, easily navigated central website for the event that served as the Show’s “front door.” Access to the site was regulated by a virtual ID badge, similar to how a traditional ticket or badge would work.
Once on the virtual portal, attendees navigated a map of virtual booths, giving them the ability to chat and perform Zoom calls with each of the exhibitors. The exhibitors uploaded content in the form of videos, brochures and white papers, and they could also stage contests and prizes in their virtual booths.
Attendees also had access to new product reviews, a library of links, and extensive industry resources. The BTS-V2 Media team also put together an easy and engaging video guide to help with any site navigation questions. We also managed and coordinated each exhibitor’s presentations and live streams, and at the close of the two-day Show, we supplied detailed back-end reports on every exhibitor’s booth.
The question of how to make events last beyond the day of the gathering was answered in part by making the virtual event portal available for a full year. Attendees only needed their virtual ID to gain access to Ag Outlook seminars, exhibitor booths, articles and materials through early 2022.
Renasant Convention Center, the typical venue of the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, will be fully renovated by next year’s event. But this doesn’t mean virtual is going away.
Taking the Show virtual in 2021 also meant going global, with attendees from dozens of countries who could not otherwise travel to Memphis in person. The ability to access seminars and resources on-demand, as well as navigate the Show at an individual pace, was frequently praised by both attendees and organizers alike.
The show manager is looking forward to using Behind the Scenes and its partners to bring a hybrid model to life next year. “We very much see this as an investment in the future,” he said. “However disappointed we felt about not being able to see each other, the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show not only reached the thousands of attendees we do each year, but we watched our audience expand exponentially.
“The impact of this on our ability to network and educate farmers everywhere on best practices and innovations can’t be overstated,” he added. “And none of it would be possible without such attentive event producers.”