In light of continuing challenges due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the American Society of Baking (ASB) made the decision to take its BakingTech conference completely virtual for the 2021 event, to be held Feb. 16-18, 2021. In preparation for the virtual event, ASB presented a webinar with its virtual event partner JDC Events to help attendees, exhibitors and sponsors get the most out of their virtual BakingTech experience.

“When we decided on the theme for BakingTech 2021 — Innovating for a Competitive Future — little did we know what 2020 would have in store for us,” said Kent Van Amburg, executive director, ASB. “One hundred percent virtual BakingTech is a major innovation in how ASB is providing the wholesale baking industry with valuable education and desperately needed opportunities for networking with our peers and business partners.”

To ensure a smooth online experience, ASB’s BakingTech 2021 First Look webinar offered the baking industry a look at how to get the most out of the virtual conference experience. Webinar attendees got a sneak peek at the keynote speakers, breakout session topics, MarketPlace and how networking will work online.

ASB in partnership with JDC Events has also made it possible for attendees to experience all of the aspects of BakingTech they expect in-person: the Baking Hall of Fame, Product Development Competition, keynote presentations, technical papers, MarketPlace and networking receptions.

While many of the in-person events have been brought online, attendees should be aware that the schedule has shifted to accommodate the virtual nature of the program. For example, the conference now features three full days of educational sessions, and the opening general session has been broken up into individual events and presentations that attendees can choose to attend.

Keynote speakers include Ross Shafer, an award-winning comedian and author; Alan Beaulieu, an economist who will provide a look at the 2021 economic landscape; and Javier Gonzalez, executive vice president of Grupo Bimbo, Mexico City. These speakers will be featured at 10 a.m. every day of the event.

The afternoons will consist of technical presentations on ingredients, consumer trends, technology and food safety. New this year will be the engineering ask-the-expert lunch and learn series happening every day. These informal sessions will allow attendees to hear from experts in the field and get advice about their engineering challenges. Topics include ingredient handling, ovens and bagging/packaging.

To facilitate networking, ASB will be hosting its traditional Welcome Reception and Young Professionals Happy Hour online. This year’s event will also include a morning Coffee & Conversation Break, Baker Brain Dates and Baking Break One-On-One networking.

“Networking is just as important as the educational component and the virtual event doesn’t lack opportunities for attendees to network,” said Tawnee Brydebell, director, meetings & operations, ASB.

ASB also had to reimagine the MarketPlace, the exhibitor hall where attendees can meet with suppliers about their latest innovations. The virtual MarketPlace will be open the entire show hours, but there are MarketPlace exclusive hours when no other show content will be conflicting with the exhibit hall. JCD Events walked webinar attendees through the event platform’s many features to help them make the most of both networking opportunities and the virtual MarketPlace.

Every attendee will have their own customizable profile on the event platform. Through these profiles, attendees will be able to request meetings and video chats with each other, replicating the casual meetings in conference halls.

The virtual MarketPlace offers exhibitors their own customizable pages with capabilities to host happy hours, giveaways and provide attendees a place to download resources, schedule meetings and watch videos of the exhibitors’ offerings.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to download a virtual swag bag. Exhibitors can contribute to the swag bag, which will then send attendees to their virtual booths in the MarketPlace. 

As the baking industry navigates COVID-19 and what that means for conferences and tradeshows, Ms.  Brydebell stressed ASB’s commitment to working with the industry to make this conference a success.

“This may be your first time as a virtual attendee, exhibitor or sponsor. This is our first-time hosting BakingTech MarktePlace 2021 virtually,” she said. “I hope that you’ll share in this journey with us. We’ll be here every step guiding our exhibitors, sponsors and attendees through the process.”

Watch the full webinar here.