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May 6, 2022

Event Networking: Will the future be virtual?

Networking as we know it is on the brink of a revolutionary change that could permanently alter the way we do business. Our willingness to change with the times may inevitably define our success — will you answer the call?

As the world marches on toward the digital future, it’s important for us now to begin mapping the road ahead. It would seem that the train moves on regardless of our opinion, good or bad — and our future successes may hinge on whether or not we decide to jump on it.

The next decade will be a period of adjustment to the ever-changing landscapes of work and social life — our ability to adapt and overcome will be challenged unlike ever before.

But what exactly will this new landscape of business and networking look like? Will we cling to tried and tested traditional methods or, will we evolve with the times?

Eco-conscious networking

In our last article, we discussed at length the environmental impact of online vs IRL events — and the statistics were shocking. The long and short of it is that virtual networking events have the capacity to drastically decrease carbon emissions.

This article on nature communications found that in physical events “the carbon footprint per participant reaches up to 3000 kg CO2, ... suggesting that the annual carbon footprint for the global event industry is of the same order of magnitude as the yearly GHG emissions of the entire United States (U.S.), responsible for more than 10% of global CO2 emissions.”

The sheer amount of travel involved is a significant factor, but not to be overlooked are the myriad physical contributors such as abundant food, plastic, and paper waste. One such answer to this is the simple, yet revolutionary virtual business card platform, Contapp.

As we continue to navigate through digitisation, physical business cards will likely fall out of being — an archaic relic of traditional business practice. Much like the trusty Rolodex, many may still cling to them in future years — but this could be portrayed as an unwillingness to change with the times.

Alternatively, they may become a novelty for infrequent or special occasions. One thing is for certain — we simply cannot overlook the sheer amount of wasted paper. What’s more, there’s no limitation on location in the digital world.

Location, location, location

Location has historically been an obstacle to networking, matchmaking, and general business practice. Swathes of businesspeople commute high and low across the world every day to reach new customers, clients, and partners.

Gone are the days when we were limited to interactions with whoever happened to be in the same room, city, or event country as us. The world is getting smaller by the minute, and we now have the ability to forge connections with an entirely new pool of individuals, companies, and associations.

Virtual networking can aid in not just broadening your reach, but also vetting new contacts to assess their relevance to you. It’s not a new approach, it’s been saving many companies time and resources for years — but as it shifts into cultural acceptance, it’s time to start capitalising.

Virtual business cards furthermore promote breadth and longevity in these new connections — giving rise to a new pool of potential contacts that you might otherwise have fallen out of touch with.

“Whereas typically, one’s ability to network and connect was dependent upon proximity, the number of social media tools and resources created or further developed during the pandemic has spurred global connection in a new and fascinating way.” — Stephanie Burns, Forbes.

Many professionals have posited that the virtual future will break down longstanding barriers to connection.

As Renee T. Walker puts it “now, everyone has the unlimited ability to connect, collaborate and engage with people both near and far around the globe.” But expanding your contacts, and storing them virtually, isn’t just for networking.

The business benefits

Globalisation has been an incredible sight to behold, but as the world gets smaller, it’s important for your company to move with the times. The way we network today will, most likely, look completely different to networking in 2030 — so keep up, or risk losing valuable contacts.

But expanding contacts isn’t the only business benefit — there’re myriad more to consider that could boost revenue and efficiency. It’s important to recognise that digital connections are a two-way street, and now the face of your company can be seen far and wide.

“In today's globalized economy, businesses are having a difficult time micromanaging customer support and hosting live events where potential investors and customers can engage directly with the face of a company.” — Mike Swigunski, Forbes.

Due to the nature of the acquisition, these contacts often become digital collaborators, opening up the potential for not just synchronous, but asynchronous working together. This type of work can take place across the continents and time zones that would otherwise prevent it.

Though there’s no downplaying their role in society, hosting in-person events can come with quite a hefty price tag. If you think your networking event could be the same or better online, there’s no denying the appeal of saving money on the venue, food, travel, staff and every other mounting cost we may have forgotten.

However, although these new leads, partnerships, clients, and savings “often lead to more revenue, a focus should also be geared towards monitoring trends and staying relevant.” In the long term, this should be your main goal — not everything will be available or achievable all at once, but planning ahead for the years to come will be crucial to your future success.

Flexible work = flexible life

It’s been estimated that 70% of the world’s workforce will be working remotely for at least five days a month by 2025. The way that businesses operate is changing rapidly, and the benefits are being reaped by employers and employees alike.

Many studies have shown that remote and flexible work improves employee satisfaction — saving time, money, and mental health. “Less time in the office means more time for one’s own interests and virtual networking capacities.”

As a team working flexible hours ourselves, we can attest to the myriad benefits that it brings. Flexible work not only prevents scheduling conflicts but promotes trust, accountability and ownership within the team. Having the freedom to work where we want, when we want and how we want has been essential to our growth and innovation.

“I believe that the working from home trend will continue as it provides employees with more flexibility, time and control over their professional and personal life. This means that networking will change. Most physical events will require a virtual component and events that are virtual only will happen more frequently.” — Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

Despite what was once popular belief, it is possible to make real connections online. The way we approach networking in business and life is changing — regardless of how tightly you hold onto that Rolodex.

Just as texting once felt strange and unfamiliar at first, we will become literate in virtual networking in time. If you want to try out a mixer online, head over to Tevent to get started, store your contacts virtually with Contapp, and get ready for the digital future.

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