Like many organizations, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) has been largely operating in a work-from-home format since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although most of USGC's work around the world remains virtual, staff and members continue to find creative ways to grow outreach with global customers while adapting to ever-shifting constraints from pandemic restrictions.
With a relationship-building model at the forefront of USGC’s outreach around the world, going virtual seemed like a challenge. Using platforms like Zoom and Teams, however, has allowed USGC to become more nimble in creating relevant programming, offering access to a wider variety of speakers and consultants and increasing attendance rates among buying executives who may not have been able to attend in-person programming.
“Being able to focus on specific subjects for a specific audience and having speakers and participants from around the world is what makes virtual programing unique,” says Cary Sifferath, USGC senior director of global programs.
“Our global staff continue to find ways to make our virtual programs timely, with the latest information and specialists from around the world to keep things fresh as we continue to stay engaged with feed grain importers and end-users globally.”
As the pandemic emerged and dynamics changed, USGC and its staff have worked to adapt, keep markets open and ensure grain is moving around the world. Programs to reach customers, end users and consumers have included offering online corn quality reports in Southeast Asia and technical seminars in Central America, to best practices workshops for grain handling in Mexico.
USGC has also discussed corn and sorghum harvests with stakeholders in China, the top purchaser of both grains, as well as barley malting workshops to engage new potential customers.
USGC has shown that hybrid events are possible as well, allowing attendees to join in-person or virtually for the 61st Annual Board of Delegates Meeting in Des Moines in July. The hybrid model allowed guests to choose to be in-person or join via a virtual platform.
USGC worked hard to give those virtual attendees the full conference experience, offering virtual social networking and live-streaming all sessions and meetings, while also incorporating virtual members in question-and-answer periods.
As each region of the world has experienced COVID-19 differently, the USGCl has remained flexible, assessing each situation based on the location’s individual circumstances.
“As things stand today, USGC’s fall programming will look much like it has for the past 18 months. We will continue to be creative and focus on specific needs of individual groups, however, the majority of our programming will remain virtual for the time being,” Sifferath says.
USGC staff are eager to return to in-person operations, but will continue to monitor the progression of COVID-19 in the U.S. and around the world until it’s safe for all employees to return to travel and in-person work.