Sep 18, 2020
A virtual experience for the 2020 Great Lakes EXPO

Due to COVID-19, many trade shows and businesses have been forced to alter their plans and events for the 2020 calendar year. For the first time ever, the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO will be transitioning to a virtual EXPO for 2020, including virtual booths, educational sessions and more.

Although there won’t be any in-person events, the virtual 2020 Great Lakes EXPO, which will still take place on the originally scheduled dates of Dec. 8-10, will allow attendees and exhibitors alike the unique opportunity of interacting and engaging with speakers, vendors and other growers — all from the comfort and safety of their own home.

How It Works

Attendees will be sent a link to the virtual Great Lakes EXPO platform, which will take them to a lobby. From there, attendees will be able to choose between entering educational sessions or the trade show floor, among other options. 

When attendees enter the virtual “trade show floor,” they will be presented with a categorized list of exhibitors. From there, attendees will be able to navigate between exhibitors and visit their individual “booths.”

For exhibitors, virtual booths will have a similar look and feel to those you see when physically walking a trade show floor. Despite the virtual elements, each exhibitor will start with a “blank booth,” which will allow the vendor to make the space their own with custom signage and company information. Attendees will be able to connect with the exhibitors, ask questions and digitally take copies of any documentation the exhibitor provides.

Ben Smith, the executive secretary of the Michigan State Horticultural Society and EXPO board member, said that the shift to virtual will not only keep attendees and exhibitors safe and healthy, but will also still provide valuable networking opportunities.

“A few of the benefits of holding a virtual EXPO this year are the ability to stay safe and healthy while attending sessions or ‘walking’ the trade show floor,” Smith said. “Vendors and attendees will be able to network while not having to worry about maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask or regularly using hand sanitizer.” 

Educational Sessions

A signature of the Great Lakes EXPO, the virtual EXPO will still feature plenty of keynote and educational sessions. Attendees will not only be able to still attend educational sessions, but the virtual options offer more flexibility with the amount of sessions attendees can attend at any given time.

“Our flexibility of options will be the best ever this year because of (the virtual capabilities),” Smith said. “Some educational sessions will be live and some will be pre-recorded, but all will offer the ability to ask questions of the presenter.  The educational schedule will be expanded to cover more time during the day.  This will allow attendees to attend more sessions than they normally would.  Attendees will also be able to earn pesticide recertification credits on the sessions that offer them.” 

» Related: Understanding soil health at the 2020 Great Lakes EXPO

Aside from the flexibility and health and safety benefits, shifting the 2020 EXPO to a virtual platform also means that the educational sessions will have a wider variety of content and speakers.  In addition, the virtual platform allows us to host individual Q&A sessions separate from scheduled educational sessions.  This will offer significant one-on-one time or small group Q&A with our speakers and researchers.

“One benefit of a virtual EXPO will be the ability of (Michigan State University) to contribute presentations and interact with the attendees in online educational sessions,” Daniel Brainard of the MSU Horticulture Department said. “Under present MSU regulations, staff could not attend an in-person event like the EXPO.”

“We are working to virtually bring in other expert speakers from distant locations who otherwise would be unable to travel to Michigan in December,” Gregory Lang, also of the MSU Horticulture Department, said.

For more information on the virtual 2020 Great Lakes EXPO, registration and educational session details and more, visit www.glexpo.com.





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