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The Fieldays Online digital event ran over a multifaceted platform – total digital visitors hit 90,455 with attendees from over 75 countries

Fieldays sets the benchmark for virtual events

Faced with cancelling the Southern Hemisphere’s largest agricultural event as New Zealand went into full lockdown in March, the New Zealand National Fieldays Society (NZNFS) set about building a wholly virtual event – one that would prove to be a resounding success and set the benchmark for future large-scale digital events.

The Fieldays Online concept and digital platform was created in just 108 days through a partnership between the NZNFS and Satellite Media, a digital innovation, activation, event and content creation agency based in Auckland.

“To build this platform in just over three months was astronomical. An event of this size and scope usually takes over a year with a large dedicated team. We’re grateful for our partnership with Satellite – their team went over and above to help us deliver Fieldays Online, and it really paid off,” says NZNFS CEO Peter Nation.

Nikki Streater, general manager of Satellite Media, says the virtual event was a unique and unparalleled opportunity to engage with the country’s top agritech companies. “In the same way the physical event works, visitors could go directly to their favourite sites or browse through the many exhibitors to look for content, deals, competitions and offers, but all from the comfort of their own home.

“With connectivity at the centre of the event, combined with innovation and adaptability, Fieldays Online was all about delivering the event on multiple devices, so audiences could engage at a time and in a format that suited them.”

A significant undertaking

In 2019, Fieldays generated $549 million of national sales revenue and generated over 2000 jobs, injecting $247 million into the national GDP. “As the country went into full lockdown, we were faced with cancelling the event for the first time in its 52-year history,” says Mr Nation. “Going from a thriving events business, with Mystery Creek Events Centre, to zero income almost overnight was a huge blow. We immediately began to look for alternative opportunities to fill the void.”

Fieldays was reimagined as a digital event, accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time. “Reminded of our commitment to education, globalisation and innovation, a virtual event fulfilled all these objectives,” Mr Nation adds. “Working alongside key supporters and sponsors we wanted to ensure we could keep the Fieldays brand and greater New Zealand brand sustained, even though our borders remained closed.”

It was a significant undertaking requiring immense collaboration with all stakeholders as there was no benchmark of its kind for reference. “We were grateful for the encouragement and support from industry experts and forward-thinking brands who jumped at the chance to be a part of Fieldays history. These partnerships resulted in high-quality exhibitors, internationally and locally renowned speakers presenting on relevant issues, and over 20 hours of engaging content.”

Digital visitors

The success of the event, which was held during 13–26 July, was measured in several ways, from visitor numbers to global reach. Total digital visitors hit 90,455, with attendees from over 75 countries accessing nearly 300 exhibitors and over 24 hours of Fieldays TV content. Digital adoption in higher age groups exceeded expectations, with 40% of registered users in the 50+ age group. 

The event wasn’t without teething issues and the site crashed on its opening day as visitor numbers skyrocketed. This was quickly fixed, and the digital gates reopened again for keen attendees.

“The analytics show great viewership and engagement with the explosion of international visitors and, locally, a much higher regional spread beyond the traditional Fieldays,” says Mr Nation. “The success of this year’s event is testament to the strong collaboration with our exhibitors and our relationships with industry leaders that got behind it.”

The multifaceted platform included content from Fieldays TV, the Fieldays Innovation Awards, the Health and Wellbeing Hub, and a large exhibitor network. The event was opened virtually by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with an address from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. Several exhibitors made use of the Fieldays TV service, filming live content in a studio which was then made available on-demand throughout the event. 

The best of both worlds

Peter Nation says that in a year littered with uncertainty, it was truly heartening to connect with industry leaders and friends to bring Fieldays Online to life. “We were reminded of the Kiwi can-do attitude in the face of the unknown and couldn’t have achieved any of it without coming together, despite the challenges.”

He acknowledges that the online and physical Fieldays are two different types of events built to achieve different goals and speak to different audiences, but there is now the opportunity to bring the two together next year. 

“Whatever 2021 holds, we know that the online and physical Fieldays will combine the best of both worlds. The return of Fieldays physical will bring back the tangible magic of the event that cannot be replicated by the digital one, while the online platform will continue to play an important part in disseminating information, both nationally and internationally – keeping our brand and reputation for innovation and smart thinking alive globally.”

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