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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.