Virtual Exhibitions: The future of Networking?

Made in the Midland’s Backing Britain Virtual Expo is the first of its kind that Minster have taken part in; and we didn’t really know what to expect. The lobby has been designed in a very modern and realistic manner, with set zones for networking, seminars, and virtual stands, making it easy to navigate. As well as this, each stand has a live chat feature to promote networking in as much of a ‘normal’ manner as possible. With just under a week left to go, we have already seen a steady influx of visitors to our stand and we are looking forward to seeing if this type of networking is something that works for us and our client base!

Nevertheless, the current pandemic has brought about a huge shift in the way that all businesses are now having to work, including opportunities to interact with potential new business. This type of ‘Virtual’ exhibition may be the only way in which businesses are able to network in a safe manner for the foreseeable future. In addition to this, experts have predicted that we are now entering a new age of technology, suggesting that all matters of interaction will be technology based.

Of course, there are pros and cons to this situation- with many debating that there is no longer any need for ‘old fashioned’ networking events now that software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom are now being utilised more than ever.

The Backing Britain event has definitely proven to us that it can be done efficiently and productively- but is it the same?

With physical exhibitions, you tend to feel a ‘buzz’ within the arena; a room full of people reaching out to possible prospects and suppliers, in a way that encourages plenty of conversation and the frequent exchange of details. It seems to be rooted in human nature that people feel more comfortable approaching other people, rather than an interactive persona. Another matter that needs to be considered with virtual exhibitions is the lack of ‘passing traffic’. In the virtual setting, it is more probable that you would have a preexisting plan or motive to search, find and ‘visit’ a stand to talk to a company, rather than a company’s stand having the ability to catch your eye and encourage you over to chat about their products or services. This, to a certain extent, prohibits the concept of people finding out about new services and industries that they may be able to utilise to their business’ benefit.

Furthermore, perhaps the question that needs to be asked is, does this type of networking feel a little forced?

In contrast to this, virtual networking has opened up plenty of opportunities for businesses who may not have felt that they had the time nor resources to commit to a physical stand. This use of technology has enabled users to save time- allowing both exhibitors and attendees to access the event anytime from any device.

Either way, in a typically British way, it seems that we are making the absolute most of what we can do in the current climate and we think that it is vitally important for businesses to embrace this new form of networking in order to support each other as much as possible in these trying times. This shift in the way that we are able to network will, of course, take time to adjust and adapt to. Perhaps, if we all endeavor to recognise the efforts of both the organisers and the exhibitors of these virtual stands/events, we may all be pleasantly surprised...

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