There I said it!...
…Something I never thought I’d say after the world went virtual, when overnight we all ditched the commuting to events in favour of the online equivalent.
Sure, online is appealing. That is because it’s easy - especially for the host.
The virtual versus in-person debate is a subject that has popped up time and time in conversations - only this week, the excellent David Bell and Nick Looby touched on it during one of their breakfast podcasts over on Chatbox Productions. And until the last couple of months, I was firmly in the 'virtual' camp. I really thought I’d always be attending and hosting online events. Gone was any worry or anxiety about walking into a new room/event for the first time or as a host, spending time working on room-layouts, setting up rooms or even how to get people in the room.
Online works, clearly has several advantages over in-person and has been a life-safer during the last two years. I should know, I’ve hosted countless online sessions, webinars, networking events and in total have attended almost 200 online events since March 2020 (top tip – check out the FSB events page for free events for online events all over the country – you don’t even have to be a member to attend! 👍).
Like I Said, as a host, online events are easy. Easy to organise. Easy to control. As an attendee; they’re even easier. As a platform, it will evolve and get better and may, in time, replace in-person.
So what changed for me?
Quite simply, being back in the room.
I attended an in-person event hosted by Opportunity Peterborough and the buzz, feel and vibe I got from actually being with other people made me realise that, right now, like many others I feel the best way to grow a solid connection is to do it in person; online can be the introduction, but in-person seals the deal!
After that event, I decided to switch my future online events back to in-person and haven't looked back. Since then, my monthly in-person Link4Business networking events here at Workspace House have been fully subscribed. Each one has attracted a great mix of members, first time visitors and returning non-members (several have since signed up to become members).
I won't lie, compared to online these events feel chaotic and unscripted; it’s harder to control the timings, they are noisier, substantially messier, but fun. A bit like real life! And that suits me, the attendees and @Link4Business just fine.
For example, our January event followed our usual loose structure – no muted microphones when entering the room here! We opened with chat, coffee and generally saying "hi" to familiar faces and "welcome" to new ones. Up next, we zoomed round the room with everyone giving an insight into who they are, the problem (s) they solve and occasionally glimpses into their business and challenges. Then we paused, as always, to grab a drink and chat – not break-out room chat just, chat.
Fully refreshed, we sat down to a talk on stress and mental health from the awesome, Huntingdon based Suzi Gibbs Chalmers. The interactive, easy flowing and well-presented session was great for breaking down barriers, remembering that we all face (different or same) challenges and getting everyone focused on the positive. Check out Suzi here on FB - https://www.facebook.com/TopazHealthTraining - and I’m working on getting her back again for another session (but keep that between you and me as I haven’t asked her yet!).
And that was it. 90 minutes had flown by, and the meeting was officially over. But and here is another benefit of in-person. People stayed. People continued talking, discussing, networking. Some had to head off elsewhere, others interrupted ongoing chats to make last minute introductions and swapped details as they headed out the door (even though we do that for them in the post-event email). Of course, just like online, the event itself was simply a pre-cursor to follow-up meetings, flurries of emails, connecting with new people, generating business. All the things networking should be about irrespective of where and how it happens.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be going online to events, running online events and Link4Business will continue to host online events. It’s a great, cost-effective way of extending your audience, adding value to members and non-members. But with restrictions relaxing, rules and guidelines changing I’ll be making sure to include more and more in-person events to support my online activities. In fact, my next networking event is already scheduled and live. It’s on Thursday 17th Feb, 10am, and it will be here, in-person at Workspace House (PE2 7JE).
Free for members and first-time visitors, you can find out more and book a ticket here: https://bit.ly/L4B-BuildingBonds-Feb2022
So, if you enjoy your networking but miss the buzz of being in the room, if you want to step back (or even take your first step) into business networking. If you like an informal (definitely), relaxed (not for the host), supportive and informative networking event for all, check out www.link4business.co.uk or indeed any other in-person networking event that gives you what you want. Also, to see what events, webinars, networking are being hosted here at Workspace House check out and bookmark our events page.
Look forward to seeing you in a room, sometime soon.