The Women's Foodservice Forum (WFF) works to accelerate the advancement of women leaders in the Food Industry. Since their founding in 1989, WFF continues to provide unmatched leadership development, role modeling and strategic networking for women and supports the Food Industry in cultivating the next generation of leaders.
registrants across two hybrid events
attendance rate at 2021hybrid Leadership Conference
engagement points tracked at 2022 hybrid Leadership Conference
The Women’s Foodservice Forum (WFF) works to promote greater career advancement for women in the food industry by helping individuals to hone new skills and companies to create inclusive environments to help women thrive. Krista Gibson, Chief Marketing Officer, notes, “The Women’s Foodservice Forum is a nonprofit organization serving the foodservice industry and our mission is really about accelerating the advancement of women in that industry through professional development, inspiration, and a sense of community.” Their events program consists of networking events, lunch and learns, leadership workshops, and their marquee Leadership Conference.
Krista’s extensive experience in the restaurant industry and her appreciation for the WFF’s central mission inspire her work within the organization. “I always had a personal passion for helping women and was very familiar with the Women’s Foodservice Forum,” she explains. Krista now leads a team of event professionals and marketers who leverage events as a key marketing channel for the organization. Their annual Leadership Conference brings together industry professionals from across the country to network, learn best practices, and improve their skillsets.
A trusted technology partnership: WFF and Cvent
With a robust events portfolio, the small team relies on close industry partnerships to support their total events program. “First of all, we’re such a small team putting on a big event, so we definitely rely on the resources and the partnerships we have to help put on fantastic events,” insists Krista. The WFF leverages a broad portfolio of Cvent solutions to support their total event program, including the Registration tool, OnArrival, Attendee Hub, Mobile Event App, and Appointments. They also utilize Cvent services and have an integration with Salesforce.
During the height of the pandemic, the WFF team knew they needed to shift at least part of their conference to virtual to accommodate attendees who were unable or unwilling to travel. They also wanted to maintain the invaluable connections created onsite since networking is a cornerstone of their conference programming. “It was really important for us to stay connected to women and to provide the services that we do for women in the industry,” explains Krista. They decided to first host a hybrid conference in 2021, followed by another hybrid conference in 2022. Across the two conferences, they utilized different several different solutions to create impressive virtual and in-person experiences.
Krista notes that their first hybrid event took place when vaccines were just emerging and many restrictions were still in place. They naturally saw a much larger virtual audience for the conference and decided to tailor the in-person portion of the event to be more like an elevated studio experience. The 2021 conference saw a total of 1,673 registrants with an impressive 93% attendance rate. For their second hybrid event, the attendee mix shifted. They had nearly 2,000 in-person registrants and over 770 virtual registrants, bringing their total to 2,786 registrants.
Powering WFF’s hybrid Leadership Conference with Cvent solutions
For both hybrid conferences, the WFF utilized the Attendee Hub to house all sessions within a single system. This created a consistent, user-friendly attendee experience for both audiences. Attendees could easily navigate from the home page to view featured sessions and manage their personalized agenda. “We streamed the sessions with live speakers onsite in addition to breakout sessions streaming virtually,” Krista explains. The concurrent sessions typically sit across multiple tracks, including tracks for emerging leaders, executives, and CEOs. “Within each track, there are multiple offerings and that’s what creates the complexity of our event,” explains Krista. In total, they managed 289 sessions in 2021 and 132 sessions in 2022 through the Attendee Hub.
Each session included session details and speaker information, as well as relevant documents and links. Embedded Q&A, chat, and polling functionality also helped drive engagement across each session. “We also had our team in the chat, answering questions as another way to ensure attendees felt like they were engaged,” notes Krista of their 2021 event. In 2022, they provided dedicated Q&A sessions as an elevated experience specifically for the virtual audience. In 2022, they also used gamification to drive specific actions like attending a session or completing a survey. Impressively, the WFF team tracked over 66,280 engagement points across the event. Built-in session and event-level surveys also allowed for deeper insights into speaker, content, and overall event performance.
In addition to driving engagement, Krista’s team needed to foster networking experiences across the conference. “One of the hallmarks of our events is networking, so the biggest challenge was in figuring out the virtual side of the networking to ensure a sense of connection and community,” she explains. The WFF team created networking rooms through collaborative sessions with assigned leaders to help drive the conversation amongst online attendees. They also used push notifications, which could be pre-scheduled or sent in real-time, to communicate with their attendees during the event. In 2022, they added Discussions, a feature wherein attendees can meet virtually to discuss topics of interest. Moreover, attendees had access to one-to-one messaging or instant networking as a means of brokering even more connections.
Virtual sponsors and exhibitors could easily reach more attendees by leveraging virtual booths, complete with embedded videos, collateral, and collaborative video chat. Exhibitors could also drive inbound leads through contact forms. Moreover, they were able to access detailed reports via the Exhibitor Portal to track leads and measure engagement. In fact, the 2022 conference saw nearly 4,700 virtual exhibitor activities with an average 394 booth views per exhibitor.
The WFF relied on support from their Cvent team members to execute such a large and complex event, including the Attendee Hub 360 team. These dedicated Cvent staff helped facilitate the event build from start to finish while providing reporting guidance, webcast support, video capture and editing, and much more. “There are a lot of players involved, from the Cvent person who's helping us with the app to the person who is helping us with the livestreaming,” notes Krista. “They provide fantastic support leading up to the event.” The team also offered dedicated training and dry runs for all speakers to make sure they were comfortable and prepared. Post-event, they ensured session content was readily packaged for on-demand consumption.
Ensuring a single source of truth with seamless MarTech integrations
By utilizing the Attendee Hub in conjunction with the Cvent registration tool, the WFF is able to automate processes for quick and accurate updates. Attendees could self-modify registration and the data would automatically sync in Attendee Hub, eliminating the need for back-and-forth emails or manual list syncs. Moreover, they are able to integrate Cvent with their Salesforce instance. Through this integration, the WFF is able to track marketing engagement and overall campaign performance. Any unique registration requirements are automatically updated, which mitigates potential data gaps or errors. Krista explains, “We have companies that send blocks of people and so tracking group codes is all integrated right between Cvent and Salesforce.” Her team can also sync contact updates and activities as well as automate task and opportunity creation within Salesforce.
Importantly, this integration means WFF marketers are able to capture the entirety of the attendee journey for more targeted campaigns and better follow up. Krista notes that ensuring accurate data across their events - whether virtual, in-person, or hybrid - is crucial for the organization as a nonprofit. “The integration with Salesforce is really important,” notes Krista. “We call it our source of truth, and it’s where we capture all of the data on all of our members.”
Providing valuable cost savings with the Cvent Mobile Event App
With the larger onsite audience in 2022, Krista’s team decided to utilize additional solutions like OnArrival, Appointments, and Cvent Mobile Event App. The Cvent Mobile Event App is the native app included in the Attendee Hub, offering attendees a consistent digital experience. Attendees could self-manage their schedule, use integrated engagement tools, access exhibitor virtual booths, view custom cards and pages, complete surveys, manage their appointments, and take advantage of networking features. “The mobile app is always a popular tool and a very important one for the onsite experience,” says Krista. In total, the WFF tracked 1,816 app downloads and over 2,890 custom page views within the app, showing clear engagement across the event.
Importantly, the mobile app has also supported the WFF’s goals by going paperless. “One of the things the app has done is that we’ve stopped printing materials,” notes Krista. As sustainability becomes increasingly important, this measure is one clear way the WFF can further support the industry. Simultaneously, the app also provides important cost savings for the nonprofit. “We don’t print anything anymore; it’s either we point people to the Attendee Hub or the mobile app,” adds Krista. “I think leveraging technology is helping us and it’s also a cost savings. It’s just one less thing we have to worry about before the event goes live.”
Accelerating the 2022 Leadership Conference with additional solutions
To encourage networking and drive connections, the WFF team added Cvent’s Appointments tool in 2022. This allowed exhibitors and WFF staff to manage pre-scheduled, one-on-one meetings either in-person or virtually within the Hub. The tool made it easy for organizers to set, edit, or cancel appointments directly within the platform. Appointments could be automatically synced with attendees’ personal calendars for full visibility. Moreover, custom questions helped organizers drive deeper conversations for more qualified leads. The WFF staff also had full visibility into the master calendar to ensure better staff alignment.
Onsite, the WFF team worked closely with their venue to ensure attendee safety through measures like social distancing and proof of vaccines. They also provided color-coded lanyards to signify one’s comfort level with proximity to other attendees. To help ensure duty of care, they created a contactless experience using Cvent’s OnArrival solution. Here attendees could quickly check-in with a QR for an entirely touchless experience. The onsite team was able to instantly print badges in real-time, eliminating queues and any potential errors. The WFF team could also easily manage walk-in registration and the addition of kiosk mode meant attendees could self-manage check-in. “Printing the badges was really important for the onsite experience because we had a lot more attendees and it allowed people to check themselves in,” notes Krista.
From the perspective of the WFF team, they could easily track session attendance and control access to breakout sessions through sessions scanning. On-demand reports through OnArrival gave the team full visibility into onsite attendance in real-time, allowing for more in-depth analysis of attendance trends in their post-event reporting. In fact, they tracked nearly 2,700 onsite check-ins across the conference. They also received onsite technical support from the OnArrival 360 team, who helped manage setup and teardown, training, and day-of support for OnArrival software and hardware. In summarizing her team’s experience with Cvent services teams, Krista says, “The support from the Cvent team is fantastic.”
Expanding the future of the WFF Leadership Conference
As they evaluate how to best balance the virtual and in-person components of the Leadership Conference moving forward, Krista notes her team remains committed to using event technology to power their events - no matter the format. Their longstanding relationship with Cvent is something she continues to value and it’s one that she believes is truly reciprocal. She shares, “One of the things about us being a smaller nonprofit is we really need to rely on technology, and I think that’s one thing Cvent appreciates about us - we like to give feedback.” This feedback not only helps improve product functionality, but can also influence future product development. “It’s a really nice partnership for that reason,” Krista believes.
As Krista reflects on the possibilities of the new events landscape, she is eager to impact even more women in the industry through the power of hybrid events. “We had global attendees at our event who probably ordinarily would not have been able to travel to our event,” she says. “There’s something about this chance to reach more women, not just across the country, but across the world that is very encouraging to us in terms of expanding reach and helping more women. And I think for us as an organization where our mission is about helping women, the chance to help more through these events is exciting.”