French Tradeshow Pioneers New Winemaking Tool: Human Interaction
I had the great fortune to attend the 2013 SITEVI agricultural trade show in France the last week of November. It is a long-established olive, vine, wine and fruit and vegetable trade show that happens every other year in Montpellier and is attended by thousands of agricultural professionals from Europe and all over the world.
For three days, industry members gathered to gander at the latest vine-growing and grape-squishing equipment, attend panel discussions and collect bags full of brochures and product information.
There were plenty of these:
And of course these:
But the most innovative tool I witnessed, one actively being promoted at every venue and exhibit floor over the entire week, was person-to-person interaction. Each vendor had high top tables, cushy poufs or chat-inducing seating grouped in their booths. Everywhere I looked, professionals were enjoying snacks and beverages together, whether at 10:00 in the morning (espresso) or four o’clock in the afternoon (Champagne). There were no mobile devices in sight. People were actually talking to each other (gasp!).
The exposition “floor” itself was spread out over several adjacent buildings rather than being packed into one big hall. This allowed for a bit of separation between the agricultural sectors, but a perhaps unintended, though extremely important, side-benefit was the lowered decibel level. Unlike at some trade shows I’ve attended, where all the vendors are packed into one big echo chamber, at SITEVI we could actually hear each other talk.
And talking, really talking (the look-into-my eyes-not-your-smartphone kind of conversation) seems to be a critical part of living, working and conducting business in France. No business is done unless you’ve shared a meal (or at least a macron or three) with each other. No where do you see iPads, laptops or mobile phones interrupting an interpersonal transaction. SITEVI set up a special room called the International Business Club where delegates from other countries could find someone who spoke their language, get an internet connection (for the few times we had to check in), and to meet each other. People kiss each other on the cheek here (in Provence, they do it three times), after all. The French understand that indeed, “Winemaking Begins With People”.
Happily, two of the SITEVI organizers whom I met are going to be joining us in Sacramento for the 2014 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium next month. I am on the Program Committee and am excited to introduce them, and some of what I learned in France, to my fellow organizers. Thank you, SITEVI, for a wonderful experience chez vous- I’m lobbying for more cocktail tables and an increase in the macaron budget!
Photo Credit: Alison Crowe 2013