EXCLUSIVE: Bar Convent Berlin Director Petra Lassahn Details Plans For Virtual BCB 2020

By Gustaf Vincoeur |

Like many other industry stalwarts, Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) previously announced plans to hold the 2020 edition of their annual trade show in a virtual format. ‘Virtual’ is a common buzzword in this COVID era, but what does that really mean?

Fortunately, BCB Director Petra Lassahn was available to provide some details about what the massive BCB event will look like this fall. Lassahn detailed new platforms, tasting boxes, and weighed in on the industry’s future. Check out the interview (translated from the original German) below.

What will BCB Special Edition look like? Can you provide some examples of events that we can expect?

The online format comprises three primary components: The first is made up of virtual product presentations and tastings, while the second features high-quality content, presentations and seminars. The third component is the heart of the BCB: active exchange amongst our visitors around the globe and the promotion of new business relationships. These ties will be fostered through our matchmaking platform, which brings together our exhibitors and visitors according to their interests while making it possible to hold meetings online.

Personally, I am really looking forward to the tastings – we will be sending a limited number of tasting boxes to people all over the world so that we can all try them out virtually at the same time. A particularly fascinating example: the Double-Blinded Spirits Box. It is a project unlike anything we have done before. 

BCB Director Petra Lassahn [Courtesy Reed Exhibitions]

Will the virtual show also be held over three days, or will it be more of a rolling event over an extended period of time?

We have extended the event to an entire week. We will be holding the trade show as BCB Barweek from 12 to 18 October. There will be digital events and presentations taking place during this time, and we will be offering most of the content on demand, to ensure that our visitors in different time zones are not disadvantaged in any way. This means there will be lots of flexibility. In fact, our matchmaking platform will be going live even earlier. 

Is BCB looking at smaller, satellite events, and if so, can you please describe what these might look like?

We are in discussions with numerous bars in Berlin and around the world, and we would be delighted if as many of these establishments as possible were able to offer smaller side-events in parallel to the digital BCB. We will compile these events and communicate them to our visitors.

Anyone who would like to take part and become a BCB host should simply contact us. This might be for a tasting or for guests shifts, for example. These events could also be filmed and made available on our platform. We will ourselves be organising an event at Berlin’s Amano Hotel for a select group of bartenders. 

What has BCB learned from their online/virtual efforts so far?

Right now we are learning something new every day. While it is true that we have also offered digital solutions in the past, such as matchmaking, moving an entire trade show online in just a few short months is clearly something unprecedented for us. Even so, we welcome the challenge, as this format offers us so many possibilities. We will be able to try out a lot of things that we hadn’t even dreamt of six months ago. 

Reed/BCB place a heavy emphasis on digital tools at their physical shows. What type of technology is the team using or developing to facilitate a digital show?

We have commissioned the configuration of our own platform for BCB 2020. We can draw on our group’s experience for this task, and we are currently developing and testing new digital formats in numerous markets and countries. We are in constant dialogue with our colleagues worldwide and want to make sure that we bring the very best formats to BCB. The BCB platform will be suitable for individual adaptation and use.

What changes in the bar/spirits industry do you think will result from the pandemic? What do you think will be the greatest obstacle to reopening bars?

Firstly, the coronavirus has changed day-to-day business significantly. Hygiene measures and distancing concepts have become a fact of life – with all their effects on the situation in bars, on personal interaction, and not least on sales. It was certainly the biggest challenge for the reopening, and we will have to live with the effects for quite some time yet.

What we are also seeing, however, are creative new business ideas for all aspects of the bar scene that are coming into being right now, including bottle cocktails and excellent concepts for outdoor bars and restaurants. Lots of bars have also increased their communication with their communities and have become much more active in social media. I believe that people have come to value going to the bar even more now than they did before the lockdown. They are more aware of how special it is – not just the social component, but also the high-quality of drinks and food. Ensuring sustainability will be an important long-term trend for the industry. 

How is BCB working to provide support to the industry?

As a trade show organizers, supporting business and generating knowledge are our primary responsibilities, and to do this, we have created an effective platform that we are offering to our visitors free of charge this year. This is more necessary than ever before on account of the crisis, as many of our visitors are fighting to save their businesses. We give them the chance to see at a glance how their colleagues around the globe are dealing with these challenges, uncover the new possibilities for reaching customers, find out what innovations are taking the markets by storm, and possibly even discover tomorrow’s trends. Our exhibitors, on the other hand, need to be in touch with their customers. This involves more than just business, because direct feedback from the industry plays a major role in the development of new products. 

What can we expect from BCB in 2021?

In 2021 we want to implement the ‘City Life Spirits’ concept that we had planned for 2020. We will be moving to Berlin ExpoCenter City, and we can hardly wait to welcome the community ‘live’ again.

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