Many industries that once relied on live and in-person events have adjusted to online and virtual set-ups with significant success. London Fashion Week, a highly coveted series of events, was hosted entirely online in 2021. It has been said that the virtual nature of the catwalks and clothing presentations offered brands a unique opportunity to be more creative with their shows.
With the ability to host more attendees, reach a wider audience, and their more cost-effective nature, it is very tempting to consider moving our networking and trade events online permanently. However, this set-up just doesn’t work well for certain industries.
Live events just aren’t the same through a screen…
The creative industries, particularly music and theatre, thrive on live performances, making most of their income through ticketed events, food, and merchandise sales. Food and hospitality businesses have been hardest hit by the pandemic. If large industry events become entirely virtual, they could continue to feel the effects. The BBC GoodFood Show attracts over 250,000 visitors to their live events every year. Food vendors and brands use the shows to market their goods and network with bloggers, influencers, traders, wholesalers, and journalists, to benefit from the content and press that is produced from these live and in-person events. They are also a valuable platform for trialling new products and gaining market feedback on new and existing items.
Educational and entrepreneurial benefits for SMEs
As we adjusted to conducting business entirely online, we may have forgotten the benefits of the in-person networking that events like The International Franchise Show and MarTechFest encourage. Many events, conferences, and trade shows facilitate mass networking between industry experts and host informative seminars. Small business owners or blossoming entrepreneurs benefit immensely from the educational resources on offer at these events, especially the chance to ask for advice from experts and industry heavyweights. The ability to network directly with potential clients and consumers gives small businesses and new brands their moment to shine and establish themselves amongst bigger competitors with larger marketing budgets.
The most significant benefits of networking in-person are routed in the social nature of people and in our ability to present the most authentic versions of ourselves. Pitching brands, products, or services directly to clients or investors offers space to highlight unique selling points and special features or offers that allow a business to stand out. Being able to put a face or a name to a brand or business creates more meaningful and memorable interactions, meaning people are more likely to follow through and establish a more permanent, online connection.
Getting back to socialising
Finally, the social aspect of networking is important. While online platforms allow us to grow our network exponentially, in-person events focus on the quality of introductions rather than the quantity. Creating strong and impactful impressions on people in your industry could lead to a powerful contact that helps you take the next step in your career or introduces you to your next big client.
In-person networking establishes more trust between individuals, not only in that a person is who they claim to be, but that the values and interests align between like-minded parties.