Hey you, Business Development Manager, do you remember the good old times, when you could actually attend partnering events, exhibitions, congresses, and meet lots of people whom, like you, we’re willing to make new contacts and evaluate new possibilities? Do you remember how it felt to shake hands, drink a coffee or tea together, and scrutinize (without been noticed, of course) the other person to see if you could get any hint at her/his true intentions? How a look could tell you if you were talking to someone who was genuinely interested in what you had to say or if that very same person just accepted to meet you to fill an empty half an hour on the agenda?
Well, if you have more than 3 months of experience, you must remember all of this, and maybe you already miss it. The current pandemic saw the postponement or cancellation of many of the events we used to attend in order to generate new business: last, but not least, a very big one which was scheduled to take place in Milan next October (I won’t mention it, but we all know what I’m talking about). That was a great hit, as one event like that can keep a Business Development Department busy for months afterward. But not all was lost, though. Just like remote working helped companies not to stop during the lockdown phase, the very same technology allowed for moving lots of events from real to virtual. Through different platforms, it has quickly become very common to arrange virtual partnering events: participating seems to be a must if you want to generate contacts and new potential partnerships.

How do you choose the right one for your company?

As mentioned, the number of these kinds of events is quickly increasing (maybe I should say they are “mushrooming”) and it is quite complex to choose which ones one should attend. There’s no magic recipe to decide whether attending one or not, but of course, there are some indications to follow:

  • First, just a quick check at the number of participants compared to the previous year/event (usually organizing secretariats are very cooperative in sharing such data). This will help you understanding if the previous event was a successful one (for the participants, of course) or not.
  • Second, go for the ones you already know and trust. If they can arrange a partnering event with a few hundred attendees in the same place, they are also able to arrange one in a virtual room.
  • Third (and worst of all), some long and tedious work in analyzing the websites of the participants, whether there are enough attendees that really fit with what you are looking for.

Are these meetings the same as the old  (real) ones?

Well, no, they really are not the same. You will miss all the very good things a meeting in person can offer and which I mentioned at the beginning of this article:  a handshake, a look, the truth-telling reaction to something you say. Plus, sometimes the connection may slow you down, especially when you try to share some heavy files like a portfolio or corporate presentation. You must adapt to the situation. You must be prepared, as always and maybe even a bit more, and get ready for good improvisation. You must sometimes exaggerate your facial reactions to make sure your spokesperson understands what you really mean and at the same time be totally careful to catch any telling reaction. But you can also turn this into an opportunity, of course, when you want to mask something or keep it safe to use information when the negotiation is a more advanced status. Plus, virtual events allow for saving a lot of money (traveling, hotels, and so on) which in situations like the one we’re living is good for every company.

In conclusion

As already said, it seems as participating in online events has now become a must, something we really need and want to do. And I can say they work, so do not hesitate to attend them just because you are scared that no results can be obtained by doing something different from what you always did in the past (that’s how a company dies if you ask me). But, truth be told, I cannot wait to go back to the old style ones!