Last week I had a "lunch 'n learn" webinar with a vendor. I've done that before, but I've never had the lunch delivered to my office as part of the hosted experience.
The company I was learning about is called eatNgage (which makes it hard to start a sentence with their name while keeping proper branding). They offer webinar hosts the ability to provide meals for registered webinar attendees. It's a fascinating new wrinkle on the age-old problem of how to boost online meeting attendance.
The basic idea is easy… eatNgage finds local restaurants with delivery services and has food delivered to your webinar registrants at a given time - preferably in conjunction with your meeting. But there are several options that add value to the process.
The hosting company starts by specifying a budget per meal. This includes the price of the meal, delivery, tax, and tip - as well as any intermediate aggregator "middle man" costs. $25 per meal would be a typical minimum, with higher prices allowing a wider range of options for providers and meals.
eatNgage maintains relations with well-known national chains such as big name pizza franchises, as well as aggregator companies that manage delivery services with restaurants in different localities. Webinar participants enter their delivery address on a web page and see a list of offered meals and providers that are auto-selected based on the operational criteria for that meeting.
While eatNgage has a partnering arrangement with Zoom web conferencing, which allows for tight integration of registration and reporting, hosting companies are free to use other conferencing technologies. In a similar type of "ours or yours" flexibility, eatNgage can handle all email communications with participants or can call on your preferred email marketing platform (MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc).
One particularly nice feature integration lets a meeting host offer a set of time and date choices to participants. This is great for things like sales presentations, interviews, demos, and other one-to-one meetings. You can avoid a lot of back-and-forth on trying to find a mutually convenient time to connect.
Other hosting functionality and flexibility includes a selectable option for whether participants should be allowed to share the meeting invitation with colleagues or not, and whether meals should be offered to all registrants or a subset. A hosting company can set automated criteria based on "lead qualification scoring" from registration questions or can manually review and choose which registrants should get the extra perk of a delivered meal.
I asked some additional questions of Rachel Yelin (VP of Product Development) and Rory Conley (Sales Manager) at eatNgage. They confirmed that at the moment, meal delivery service has the most arrangements with United States cities. They have begun expansion into major Canadian metropolitan areas, and UK/European expansion is being eyed for future development.
If a host prefers, eatNgage can provide participants with a more traditional incentive in the form of a restaurant eCard voucher, which allows you to provide gifts for people in more difficult geographies, or for meetings outside of convenient meal times.
They currently are set up for individual meal selection from each participant rather than "catered tray" deliveries intended for rooms full of people. I was pleasantly surprised when they told me that registration in most cases (dependent on the food provider) can be extended to 2 or 3 hours before meeting time.
Hosting companies can also opt for additional help with full campaign management, webinar promotion, lists, ad buys, and so on. This is offered through eatNgage's parent company, Marketech.
I asked about use cases, and again got a surprise. I thought the service would only be used for one-on-one meetings, or very small group conferences. But Rachel told me that they have supported webinars with several hundred participants. At first I couldn't imagine cost justifying such an expenditure. Then I adjusted my thinking to my old life as a director of product marketing selling commercial software that could command many hundreds of thousands of dollars for a contract. We thought nothing of booking hotel meeting rooms, having catered meals brought in, flying presenters to a site, paying for attendee parking, and using up our presenters' time before and after the meeting on unproductive travel. Compared to that, the cost to have a meal delivered to participants at their own workplace and get them to attend the same presentation becomes much more attractive.
I am always happy to see new innovations that extend and enhance the effectiveness of webinars. I think this is a great option for many companies to consider, and may well be a useful tool to improve online attendance rates in larger web events or to build receptiveness in smaller web conferences.