Latest news from British Pest Control Association

13 May 2021

PestExtra reviewed

EVENTS | PPC103 MAY 2021

Trying something new is always nerve-racking. However, the BPCA team is nothing if not adaptable.

When Covid-19 cancelled international shows, the Association pivoted its usual PestEx event; determined that pest professionals should be able to connect, share and learn together.

On the 16-18 March 2021, BPCA held the biggest online gathering of UK pest professionals in the UK. Here’s how it went.

 PestExtra 2021 review the pest managment show online

Over three days, 1,780 visitors attended PestExtra from around the world. Completely free to participate in, PestExtra combined an action-packed conference schedule with a digital trade show.

Accessible through an internet browser, PestExtra was designed with the spirit of its parent show - PestEx, the largest pest management show in the UK.

Feedback was better than we could’ve hoped. One of the attendees captured the atmosphere perfectly, saying:

“It’s incredible that we got to attend something like PestEx in these times where it’s impossible to move around in the real world. It’s good that you could review items on-demand – especially when you’d like to be in two places at the same time to see it all!

“The informal atmosphere when Q&As were conducted after a speaker made you feel a part of it. These things often become very high-level and thereby lose technicians and new persons in the business - but PestExtra was different.

“Another good thing was the different time slots during the three days, which made it possible to take care of other things at ‘open hours’. Thanks to all at BPCA for the effort.”

Too much to see?

Between five seminar theatres and 46 exhibitors, we did have to put our hands up and admit that there was probably too much to do at PestExtra.

The seminars and lectures were the best things by a long way. I actually enjoyed the research talks so much that I now think I’m more of a nerd than I realised.

That being said, visitors certainly made the most of their time. One visitor’s feedback read:

“I think PestExtra really captured the feeling of the real PestEx events as well as an online event could! I thought the exhibitor stands (especially the ones with a virtual interactive stand that you could explore) were very good.

“The seminars and lectures were the best things by a long way. I actually enjoyed the research talks so much that I now think I’m more of a nerd than I realised.”

Thankfully, many of the presenters generously let us post their talks on the BPCA website.

Innovations everywhere

Across the virtual trade hall and in the innovation theatre, it was clear that manufacturers of pest products have been extra busy in the R&D departments.

BASF’s Selontra, with its unique cholecalciferol active, certainly drew a crowd. Appropriately, a digital pest management theme ran across the show with Bell Laboratories, Edialux, Bayer and ServiceTracker all showing off significant developments.

Environment and sustainability was another critical area of innovation. Killgerm’s unusual looking bait box got its first outing at a UK trade show.

Edialux, Syngenta, Killgerm, Barrettine and Bayer had so much to show off that they created immersive virtual stands where you could interact with their various products, adding another level of interactivity.

PestExtra in numbers

PestExtra in numbers 2021 the pest managment show online

What goes into a virtual event?

We were extremely fortunate with PPC Live 2020 in that we managed to run this safely and successfully the week before the UK shut down and a pandemic was declared.

Ever the optimists, we carried on with PestEx plans for March 2021 as much as we could.

When this dragged out over summer 2020, and online events popped up everywhere as the only option, we began to explore what a digital trade show would look like for us. Where do you even start?

  • We popped into loads of online events and spoke to other event organisers in a similar situation
  • We sat through numerous demonstrations with online platform providers
  • We agonised over quotes and budgets to see if we could keep the event free to attend and affordable to exhibit at.

At the start of October 2020, we decided that we couldn’t put it off any longer – PestEx wouldn’t be going to ExCeL in 2021. With the backing of BPCA’s Executive Board, PestExtra was given a green light.

Everyone wanted to see what it would look like. After all, it’s hard to get people involved in something they don’t fully understand.

The queries were many: what will my stand look like? How many people will attend? What work do we need to put in? Will people talk to each other? What will PestExtra feel like?

The pest community supported us. Exhibitors took a leap of faith with us, including many of our members. We’ll always be thankful for that support. There would have been no PestExtra without them.

If it felt like stepping into the unknown for you – just imagine what it was like for the BPCA team!

The pest community supported us. Exhibitors took a leap of faith with us, including many of our members. We’ll always be thankful for that support. There would have been no PestExtra without them.

We learned how to use the software, set up studios and load mountains of content to all the stands – feeling our way as we went. Some presentations were recorded in advance and needed to be edited, optimised and often revised numerous times before making their way to the platform.

The mammoth seminar schedule was only possible because of our headline sponsors’ support and the generous donation of time and expertise from our speakers.

Going digital meant that we could invite friends of BPCA from around the world to speak, giving the show its unique atmosphere.

PestExtra people from around teh world

One nightmarish evening we noticed the links hadn’t gone out to access the system for the exhibitor practice sessions.

To make sure we got this fixed, our Events Manager Lauren Day set her alarm for 5am the next morning as that’s when our New Zealand-based account manager would next be at his desk.

The platform providers were great, and not only fixed the notifications but taught us how to sort it ourselves to avoid another sleepless night. What a learning curve!

We filmed how-to videos (which used more takes than we care to admit), and the team called hundreds of BPCA member companies to make sure that they could attend the show.

We tried everything we could to make sure people not only registered but attended!

Over the event, the whole BPCA staff team turned attentions to making it a success. A group of five set up base in the Covid-secure BPCA HQ. You’ve never seen so many screens in your life! It felt a bit like mission control at NASA and a BBC studio rolled into one.

The at-home team focused on handling the BPCA stand, moderating theatre sessions and generally networking with attendees.

A big thanks goes to everyone who took time to send us messages of support. It takes hundreds of hours of preparation to get something like PestExtra to happen - so thanks to everyone who participated.


Technical hiccups

PestExtra ran smoothly for the most part, but there are certainly challenges with digital events that only experience can prepare you for.

When you’re not only relying on your own technology but also the devices of thousands of participants, the pressure is on! While the BPCA team managed to get 99% of the people that called for support into the event, some devices just wouldn’t connect.

Many of the person-to-person video calls were inconsistent, and the software we used to connect nearly 2,000 people was certainly power-intensive.

Virtual events software is a fast-evolving sector in itself. It’ll be exciting to see what else is possible in the next few years.

The only session that didn’t go ahead as planned was Dr Nicola Gregg’s talk on the future of biocide regulation. Sadly her internet connection gave out at entirely the wrong moment. We’ve since managed to record her session, so head to the BPCA website if you want to review it.

Digital or ‘IRL’ events?

As we suspected, while people enjoyed PestExtra as a stopgap event, many are keen that ‘in real life’ events return as soon as possible.

Digital pest control shows PestExtra

PestEx will be back at ExCeL in London in March 2022 (Covid-permitting). Inevitably many of the lessons we’ve learned from PestExtra will trickle into PestEx over the coming years.

As a standalone digital event, will PestExtra return?

Maybe, in some shape or form. Digital events are a considerable commitment, and at the moment the BPCA team is focusing on reopening physical events safely and continuing Digital Forum and webinar schedules.

Watch this (cyber)space!

Video wrap-up

A review of PestExtra – the pest management show online.

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