The pandemic presented a list of challenges for every business, but maybe none more daunting than for those planning large expos, conferences and tradeshows. The American Society of Baking took a proactive approach this past year, understanding the unpredictability of the current situation. 

Limits on gatherings of no more than 50 people in Chicago meant that traditional BakingTECH events like the opening reception, lunches, the MarketPlace, Casino Night and the general sessions had to be changed. But ASB’s adaptation throughout the pandemic with virtual events like the Table of Ten networking discussions proved beneficial when creating an innovative virtual conference. 

“We have developed creative ways to continue to fulfill our mission to provide education and networking opportunities to our members,” said Kent Van Amburg, executive director, ASB. “We are excited to say that this virtual event is being designed with the latest technology so that we can provide members with more education and more networking than previously possible in the traditional in-person format.”

Planning for a virtual BakingTECH began this spring. ASB staff attended countless industry webinars and started vetting virtual event management companies. Additionally, Tawnee Brydebell, ASB’s director of meetings and operations, earned a digital event strategist certification from the Professional Convention Management Association.

Ultimately, ASB recognized three critical factors to make BakingTECH as success: engagement, choice and fun. 

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BakingTECH will keep members engaged in educational sessions with polls, surveys and Q&As, in addition to networking events, virtual product demonstrations at MarketPlace, Braindates and competitive games.

“Attendees can create their own independent schedules of educational sessions to view and networking events in which to participate,” Mr. Van Amburg said. “They will even have the option of viewing the keynotes and technical sessions a full 60 days after the live event.”

Finally, it wouldn’t be BakingTECH without some fun. The opening reception will have a Mardi Gras theme and include virtual rooms where attendees can choose a general topic of discussion or join less formal rooms for general discussion and networking. Attendees will also be able to watch their friends have caricatures drawn or join a chef to learn how to cook a New Orleans signature dish. A special networking event for ASB Young Professionals will offer an exclusive chance to learn how to make cocktails with a mixologist. 

Tradition is another draw for BakingTECH, and ASB will hold the Robert A. Fischer Award ceremony and the induction of the 2021 ASB Baking Hall of Fame recipients during a virtual watch party. 

“All the traditional elements of BakingTECH will be present: stimulating and thought-provoking keynotes, technical sessions with take-home value that address trending challenges, MarketPlace exhibitors showcasing innovative products and services with multiple opportunities to network and share ideas with peers and potential business customers,” Mr. Van Amburg said.