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Bar Convent Berlin gears up for 2020 digital show

Ahead of the digital edition of Bar Convent Berlin next month, SB spoke to director Petra Lassahn to discover what on-trade professionals can expect from this year’s week-long event.

Bar Convent Berlin is being held online this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic

Like the majority of events this year, on-trade show Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) was forced to switch to an online schedule for 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Organised by Reed Exhibitions, the show had been scheduled to take place at exhibition centre Messe Berlin from 12-14 October. This year’s show would have been BCB’s first year at Messe Berlin, a much bigger site compared to the previous location at Station Berlin.

However, because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, BCB will host a week-long digital event from 12-18 October, called Pouring Digital. Throughout the week, trade professionals will be able to immerse themselves in seminars, panel discussions and tasting events, while discovering a range of new products and embracing the networking opportunities available.

Furthermore, BCB Pouring Digital will also partner with its Berlin and São Paolo events, plus Imbibe Live, to offer even more advice, insight and networking opportunities throughout the week as part of the collaborative Global Bar Week, which will take place simultaneously from 12-18 October.

The Spirits Business caught up with Petra Lassahn, director of Bar Convent Berlin, to discover more about this year’s BCB Pouring Digital.

Petra Lassahn, director of Bar Convent Berlin

How long have you been director of Bar Convent Berlin?

Since 2015; at that time the company I worked for, Reed Exhibitions, one of the largest exhibition organisers in the world, joined BCB. I’ve been in the trade show business for more than 30 years.

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

I have worked for many industries in 33 years as you can imagine, but BCB is really a unique fair for me. It’s a real project of the heart. What I love most in the business is we bring people together from all over the world and in the end exhibitors and visitors benefit equally, and the drinks industry especially is always open to new ideas and so creative, and sees more fun than other industries.

In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, how important is Bar Convent Berlin for the on-trade right now? 

We are aware of our responsibility because we usually unite many thousands of people in one place and it’s a global networking bar scene. We are in the middle of this great industry that is probably facing its greatest challenge ever. That’s why we are offering an alternative event in autumn this year; I think that’s important. That was our idea to show face in the industry where we are working and give our support.

But of course on the other hand a lot has happened on the manufacturers’ side. Companies have been very creative, they were very much online they were productive and they want to show their products, and of course many of our visitors are fighting to save their business. It’s a very difficult period and also for them I guess a very challenging time for most of them.

So, with our digital event, BCB Pouring Digital, we will give them a chance to see how their colleagues around the globe are dealing with these challenges. But also, to discover new possibilities for reaching customers for their bars, to find out what innovations are taking the markets by storm and possibly discover tomorrow’s trends because we all hope there is a tomorrow, a normal tomorrow. We want to support the business and the idea to generate knowledge even in this difficult time – this is what it’s all about.

What can attendees expect from Bar Convent Berlin Pouring Digital?

We have three main pillars, that’s the idea of BCB Pouring Digital: products on the one hand, then education, BCB always stands for education, and then networking. So, as I mentioned before many brands will present their new products and we will have a product segment with tasting boxes and I think they will be exciting. The heart of Pouring Digital is our matchmaking and I really recommend to all participants, to exhibitors or visitors, to join this. They can receive personalised new contact proposals and that’s a great way to expand one’s network and meet new people. And then we will have great talks and seminars, condensed, we have great speakers and topics, we don’t want to just focus on Covid-19 because there have been so many things said about the pandemic already, but of course it will be part of what we offer. And then we have seminars about social and cultural topics, and solid technical input and presentations for all interests. Then on top, we have a ‘seven bars, seven days’ concept and we have plans to present up-and-coming bars from around the world, including London, New York City, Russia and Singapore.

Do you have an idea of how many people you’re expecting to tune into the digital show?

Well it’s a new format of course and we would be very happy if all the visitors of the past years participate. We offer the tickets free of charge, so everybody who is a trade visitor can participate in this event and I hope after this we leave this together with new strength, new ideas and new inspiration for everybody.

BCB Pouring Digital hopes to keep the on-trade connected and inspired through its online events

How many exhibitors will be involved in the digital event?

We are in the middle of planning but I think we will have around 150 companies participating. The exhibitors, they are manufacturers and distributors of spirits, I think we have some producers of equipment, but most of them are spirits.

BCB is joining the Brooklyn and São Paolo editions of the show, and Imbibe Live, to host Global Bar Week. How did this collaboration come about?

I think this is one of the biggest personal challenges in my 30 years of the business. We have always worked very closely together and this digital event gives us a unique opportunity to set up a joint project, and this is really cool and exciting. We have the time difference of course between Brazil and America, London, Germany, and then cultural differences, so this is really a challenge but very exciting.

I think the exciting thing for the industry is we will bring regional market knowledge together and important topics, companies and speakers, and we are different. We have different cultures, we have different ideas, we have different mentalities, so it will be really interesting to bring these differences together in one project.

Are you thinking yet about plans for 2021? Will you be able to continue with your plans for the City Life Spirits concept next year?

I think the digital event is really exciting and it gives a good opportunity to stay connected at this time. But it does not replace a face-to-face show and we would absolutely like to return to the face to face model next year. Personal contact and communication cannot be substituted by anything digital. The digital event is a good alternative and it helps, but for next year we are very confident and hopeful that we will be able to hold trade shows with the regular in-person setup, and this will also be exciting because of the new halls and new venues, and the new City Life Spirits concept which was planned for this year in Berlin.

Once we’re able to do face-to-face events again, will you keep a digital aspect for future BCB shows? 

I think Covid-19 has changed our lives totally and it also has changed our business. So we have developed many features, we’re testing things, and I think some of them will stay with us if they complement the physical show. So yes, we will keep some features and digital aspects of this year’s event for the physical event.

What do you think you’re most looking forward to about the digital event this year? 

The opportunity to bring the industry together and to give support to the whole industry, although we cannot substitute business of course. But I hope we can contribute something to make businesses more successful next year and to support companies as well as the bar industry, to come back to business. That would be my hope that we can contribute to that.

For more information on this year’s BCB Pouring Digital event, visit BCB Pouring Digital is free for trade professionals to attend. 

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