Taking place on April 5 & 6, Virtual Producer & Roaster Forum offers an opportunity for coffee producers, roasters and other coffee professionals to meet and network on a virtual platform.
There are more than 1,000 producers and 100 coffee roasters planning to attend the event so far, with many more expected in the coming weeks. For many, it will be the first time attending such an event virtually – so, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we’ve had in the lead up to Virtual PRF.
The green coffee buyers and roasters attending Virtual PRF come from many different countries across the world, including in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe. Each of these roasters has different approaches to how they source and purchase coffee, and who they choose to enter into partnerships with.
Some may be looking for larger amounts of coffee, whereas others may be looking to meet producers who create smaller or high-scoring microlots. Many roasters are looking to not only find producers to work with, but to engage with a producers’ community and to be involved in social and environmental projects. Some buyers may prefer to work with female producers to promote their work in the industry, whereas others may prefer to purchase from cooperatives of several producers working together.
I HAVE NEVER ATTENDED A VIRTUAL FORUM – HOW DOES IT WORK?
The Virtual PRF has been designed to work very much like any other forum or coffee event you may have attended. There are spaces where you can watch and comment on lectures, workshops and panels, which are listed on the schedule.
After you purchase a ticket, you will be directed to the Virtual PRF platform. Here you can see a schedule of lectures, panels and workshops that will take place over the two days. You can add the events that interest you most to your calendar, so you don’t miss them when the event is underway.
Once you log into the Virtual PRF platform on April 5 & 6, you can begin watching the lectures and panel discussions, or begin networking and holding discussions with green buyers and coffee professionals from across the world.
HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT WHO IS ATTENDING THE VIRTUAL PRF?
In the lead up to the Virtual PRF, there are a number of ways you can connect with the different attendees and speakers. We recommend the following:
Read the schedule
By examining the list of scheduled lectures and panels, you can see both the topics of conversation and who is speaking. This will prepare you to engage in conversation and networking with like-minded coffee roasters at the PRF.
Research the Speakers
Via the Virtual PRF platform, you can see a list of the speakers and panelists. By clicking on each speaker or panelist, you can learn more about them, their company and the work they do. This will allow you to communicate with them more effectively during and after the Virtual PRF.
Use social media
Utilise social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to learn more about the roasters, green buyers and companies attending the Virtual PRF. You can start by following Producer Roaster Forum via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, then searching through the posts to learn more about who is attending.
If you are attending the Virtual PRF, let your network know! Be active on social media and promote your attendance, and see if your contacts, friends and colleagues are also attending. The more attendees you are connected with, the easier it will be to further network during the event.
Sign up for the newsletter
Stay informed about updates to Virtual PRF speakers via our digital newsletter. Click this link, head to the bottom of the page and enter your email address to receive emails with details about speakers, panels, attendees and sponsors.
HOW DO I NETWORK WITH GREEN COFFEE BUYERS AT THE VIRTUAL PRF?
The Virtual PRF offers a number of ways for coffee producers to meet and network with green coffee buyers:
Acting as a casual area to spend time between lectures, panels and workshops, the lounge is a virtual space for you to meet and connect with other producers and green coffee buyers. Each attendee in the lounge will have their information available to you, including their name and their contact information. Simply click on someone’s name, send them a message and get talking!
Join a table
In both the Lounge and Arena there are virtual ‘tables’ that you can join in order to network with other coffee professionals. You will be able to see all the tables, who is sitting at them and the topic(s) they are discussing. Some tables will have a limited number of seats for closed discussions, whereas others will be open for you to join.
If you have a specific topic you wish to discuss, you can create your own table and give it a label, for example: ‘Methods for growing Parainema’. Attendees will be able to see your table and join it to discuss this topic with you. Or if you’re on a table and wish to continue a conversation with a coffee buyer elsewhere, you can move to another table together.
Booths in the Arena
There are a number of sponsors and different organizations that have virtual booths set up in an area called the Arena. In this Arena, you can visit these booths, talk to the staff members stationed at them and join a virtual table for networking and discussion.
In addition to the social lounge area, the Virtual PRF also offers a Matchmaking service. In the PRF Matchmaking, you enter the Matchmaking space and are paired with another PRF attendee for a quick networking session. We recommend trying this Matchmaking as a way to refine your networking skills, and to meet new people.
You can also reach out to Exporters in Honduras who are involved in Matchmaking, to see whether they can help you establish contact with green coffee buyers. We recommend this for those who don’t have experience with direct trade or exclusive partnerships. Working with these exporters, you can learn the steps involved in preparing your coffee for export and what is essential for establishing future relationships with coffee buyers.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO APPROACH GREEN COFFEE BUYERS AT THE VIRTUAL PRF?
The Virtual PRF has been created as a space to network, share knowledge, make new connections and establish long-term relationships between coffee producers, green coffee buyers and roasters.
If you are a coffee producer looking to approach and connect with green coffee buyers, we recommend the following:
Establish a relationship first – The Virtual PRF is a networking and matchmaking event, aimed to connect you with coffee roasters. If your first communication with a roaster is “I produce coffee, you should buy it”, then they might be discouraged from further conversation. Try to first find common interests and points of discussion, in order to get to know the roasters and what they are looking for.
Listen and ask questions – Ensure to listen to what the coffee buyer wants and learn what type of buyer they are. It is no use saying “Buy my 86+ coffee as it’s the best” to a buyer who only buys organic coffees scored around 80 points. Take the time to listen and gauge the needs of each buyer, and let them tell you what they are looking for in a producing partner.
It is also extremely useful to ask the roaster questions about their history, business and the work they do. Engaging in these conversations will help you to understand what kind of coffee buyer or roaster they are, and what they’re looking for.
Think long term – Most roasters aren’t just looking to establish partnerships for one harvest; they want a partnership that will last years. Try to communicate with coffee buyers and roasters about your plans, ambitions and desires for the future (e.g. improving processing facilities, planting more varietals, and so on).
Look for common values – Spend some time looking at businesses the green coffee buyers and roasters work for. You may find that they have a particular vision, philosophy or purpose in their work, which may or may not align with your approach to growing coffee.
Represent your product – As coffee producers, you are business owners with unique knowledge and insight about the world of coffee cultivation, growing and harvesting. This information is invaluable to coffee buyers, and you should not be afraid to demonstrate your knowledge. Talk to coffee buyers about how you grow your coffee, why you grow it that way (e.g. with special fertilizer) and what the end result is.
Know your coffee value proposition – Understand and know the value of your product. Once your coffee is on a cupping table and being tasted, it can speak for itself – until then, you need to speak for it and let buyers know why it is a great option for them. Take your time to tell the story of your farm, how you came to work in coffee and specific details about the coffees you farm, such as flavour descriptions, harvesting times and collaborations.
As coffee producers, you understand better than anyone how the coffee is grown and behaves. By knowing and sharing the value of your coffee, you will have a better chance of engaging with a buyer who will represent and share your coffee in the best way possible.
Have your details prepared – If you have a successful networking session with a coffee buyer and they’d like to speak to you further, it is essential to have your contact information ready to go. If you don’t have your email address and/or phone number attached to your Airmeet profile, make sure you have this information ready in case someone asks.
It’s also worthwhile having information about your farm and coffee ready to go. Information such as farm size, production volume, location (department), altitude and harvesting practices is of great interest to coffee buyers.
For more information on Matchmaking and Networking at Virtual PRF, get in touch with a member of the Producer & Roaster Forum team.