The past year has brought virtual and hybrid events to the forefront of the business world. This shift in technology has forced many small business owners alike to rethink how they can present what their company has to offer on camera from the comfort of their own home to a virtual audience.
We recently sat down with Lorraine Fagela, founder and developer of Lorraine’s Gluten Free, to discuss how she put together her virtual cooking demo to showcase some of her products during the Nourished Festival earlier this year. The Nourished Festival is the largest gluten free, allergy and specialty diet festival and a yearly in-person event that recently went completely virtual.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your company.
Lorraine: I am the founder and developer of Lorraine’s Gluten-Free, the gluten-free all-purpose flour blend. It was born when I developed a gluten-free allergy while living in Singapore. And I love to eat. I dedicated a lot of my years to developing the products that will be the best flour substitute for gluten free baked goods. My goal was to make sure that it doesn’t compromise taste or texture or anything like that, where people can tell that it’s actually gluten-free.
And so I co-owned a local cafe for about a year and a half here in Maine and our customers basically became my focus group when it comes to my gluten-free products, mixes, and also my baked goods. We didn’t market it as gluten-free because we didn’t want to shrink the demographic at the time. And then so from that feedback, it became like, “Well, you know what? I’m just going to launch and concentrate on my flour blend so I can teach people how to make stuff gluten-free, I can teach them how to bake and what to look for and basically show them how easy it is to make anything gluten-free.” That’s the struggle of a lot of people that just recently became gluten-free.
Q: When you decided to take part in the Nourished Festival in March, did you have experience presenting or putting together a cooking demo for either an actual or virtual audience?
Lorraine: No, actually I have never done it. What I have done is when I train my staff, I look at them and then train them and show them. And then I just go by cues in their facial expressions. And then that’s how I know like, “Okay, they’re getting it.” My passion has always been to teach people how to make something, especially if it’s something that I know. It’s like, “Gosh, this can be done. I’m going to show you how easy it is.”
And so I think that’s where my enthusiasm and passion comes across, when I’m on the screen. It’s like, “You guys, well this is just easy, you can do this, we can make it.” So, through that and encouragement, hopefully my energy will get them to like, “Oh, if she can do it then I can do it as well.”
Q: What were some of the challenges that you experience while presenting to the virtual audience?
Lorraine: So, for the virtual audience, I was thinking, “Well I’m hoping that there’s another view, so they can see everything I’m doing from the top down, that kind of thing.” And so that was my challenge. Because like I said earlier, I love to teach people and I tend to feed off of my audience’s energy and enthusiasm. I had to just harness from within so that I can give them the energy, something new, and a new experience for them. The limited view definitely was a challenge.
Q: What did you enjoy about hosting a virtual demo through Showmetry’s platform?
Lorraine: Well, I liked the questions feed. I used my computer because I didn’t know what the capabilities would be logging in from my phone. So initially what I was told was like, “Well, you can see the chat from one device and then you have your video.”
I was able to incorporate those questions into the teaching part of [my cooking demo], like, “Oh, okay. So this is what I would do. It just flows with the whole teaching part of it. So it doesn’t seem like it’s broken, because I knew it was going to be recorded anyway. I wanted to make it as fluid as possible, the whole process.
Q: Was there any preparation involved, maybe with the recipe or getting ready to interact with a live, albeit virtual audience?
Lorraine: Yeah because I needed to show them the finished product. I had to bake two batches. The first batch was the finished one. So, it was baking while I was doing a presentation. The next one was, I had to do the dough the night before, because it needed a two-hour chill in a refrigerator, so that it’s workable. And then, so those were the only prep that I had to do. But as far as rehearsing the teaching part of it, I did it just because I have baked so much. And like I said, it’s one of those things that I’m passionate about.
Q: What are some tips or advice you can share for presenting to and engaging a virtual audience?
Lorraine: It is all about the angle, I think. There’s one video where I watched somebody making a pie. It was hard for me to follow, even though I wanted to be really interested in what they were trying to show me, but the way she had the camera set-up, it was difficult. One thing that I would probably change for me as well is adding a second camera view so it could be a side by side, so the audience can see what I’m doing from the top-down.
Otherwise, just be prepared, and show your energy across the screen because that’s how you connect with people. I don’t like watching people that are boring because I can’t really absorb the information that they’re trying to portray. I think a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm goes a long way, especially if you have an audience that is not in the same room. That’s the only way a virtual audience can feel your energy.
It’s never going to go the way you planned it to. Things will fall on the floor and you have to go pick it up, sometimes the views are off or are malfunctioning, or something could happen to the equipment that you have in your kitchen.
Q: In terms of your energy, you reminded me of those YouTube channels like BonAppetit, have you seen those cooking demos?
Lorraine: I love the Bon Appetit session actually, because it’s very casual to see how they’re just like, “This is how you make it.” And bringing up that reference is great because I mean, that wasn’t my intention at all. I was just like, “This is how I know how to do it.”
Q: How did you interact and engage with the audience post-event?
Lorraine: Actually, we had a great turnout, feedback for the product, and record sales. Attendees found me on social media and sent me messages, like, “I saw your class. It was quite interesting. I love it”. And a lot of them had become a solid follower, just because they liked what they saw.
And then I also set up meetings afterwards, like 10-minute meetings. So that filled up, where people signed up to have a chat with me and have questions for their specific needs. So, yeah, it was great. I mean, I’d love to have more engagement with them.
Those kind of things just brings me joy. Knowing that the effort and the time that we’re putting in into our product is worth it, right? Because it’s reached a lot of different people and a lot of them have learned from that virtual cooking demo. And from following me, whether it’s social media or on our website, they’ve learned a lot.
Q: And is there anything people should be on the look for from Lorraine’s Gluten Free?
Lorraine: We’re actually launching three more mixes soon. That includes a bread mix and a pizza mix that are basically a base. Whenever we come up with a mix, it’s basically something that is flexible. With our sweet dough mix, you can make donuts, babkas, or stuffed donuts. That’s the goal in doing another mix, which is our bread mix. You can actually make seeded bread with it. And on our website, we’ll show you how to make brioche from our bread dough mix. So, we’re going to have a bread mix, pizza mix, and then chocolate cake mix coming out in the pipeline soon.
If you’re planning on running your own virtual demo, a couple of lessons to keep in mind include: bringing the energy to your audience and not fretting when things go awry.
Thanks again to Lorraine for taking the time to share some of her knowledge, as well as some baking tips. Be sure to check out her website if you’re interested in her recipes, products, or cooking classes.