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The return of in-person events: You’re no longer on mute!

In our latest blog, account manager Libby, shares why she's loving the return of in person events.

After eighteen months of virtual-get-togethers, the war between Teams fans vs Zoom, and constantly reminding colleagues that they are on mute, it has been great to return to in-person events and reconnect with others working within our key sectors.

During the autumn at Refresh, we’ve returned to in-person client meetings, attended industry events such as UK Construction Week and PHEX, and even held our annual Heating Installer Awards. Looking back at the success of these events, we realised how important it is to meet in real life, how much we’ve missed it, and how in-person meets can significantly impact relationships and commercial success.

With this in mind, we wanted to explore why in-person meets have such a significant impact on our ideas, the way we work, and most importantly, the people that we work with.

1. Keeping a pulse on the market

One thing that I don’t think any of us realised quite how much we missed during the pandemic was networking. Video calls have been a true blessing throughout COVID-19, and in many ways, they’ve made us closer to clients and suppliers than ever (various pets and children have made special appearances and we’ve even enjoyed comparing who has the most windswept hair)! But one way in which we keep on top of innovations in our key industries is by talking to people we don’t speak to on a day-to-day basis. Through interacting with others, we are able to keep a pulse on the market, stay in touch with current trends, and meet prospective clients, partners, and mentors.

And it isn’t just about new business – far from it, in fact. Interacting with people from different professions, areas of the supply chain, nationalities, and cultures gives you a better understanding of the industry as a whole, as well as a broader scope of life in general. By engaging with people at all levels within an industry, it increases your open-mindedness and helps you to understand differing opinions, challenges, and goals across the sector, which may be outside of the key points you consider in your day-to-day. These insights are often huge eye-openers, and can even lead to big breakthroughs that completely change the direction of a campaign or project.

Ultimately, success in a career or project is largely attributed to the pool of information or ideas you have garnered over the past. But when new networks have been created, it fosters a trade of ideas that can both test your knowledge and change your perspective. By having conversations with people that you don’t ordinarily speak to – or have never even spoken to before – you will open yourself to new insights that will both inspire new ideas and inform ideas you have had in the past.  

2. Holding their attention

After the last 18 months, it has become clear that video meetings are rife with communication disconnects and technical errors, causing the “Zoom fatigue” phenomenon that we are all too familiar with. In contrast, during in-person meetings, people are able to recognise non-verbal cues and don’t have to deal with the frustration of audio or video cutting out. They can form a stronger emotional connection, engage more freely, and establish a trust factor—and on top of that, at in-person events, people can tangibly see or try a product if applicable. All of these elements are crucial for business development and retaining clients. And not to mention, both parties are less likely to get distracted by an email notification or a different browser tab. 

Communication mishaps aside, virtual events don’t leave a lot of room for spontaneity. During an in-person trade show, attendees walk around the hall keen to get the most out of their visit. Sure, we often have a pre-set schedule of companies we want to talk to, or talks we want to listen to. But as we walk around, a uniquely designed booth or particularly engaging person might catch your eye, and we stop to learn more. That’s not something a virtual event can successfully replicate. 

3. The human touch

In-person events are so effective because they offer the chance for human connection. Ultimately, it comes down to the simple fact that people want to connect with other people. No matter how authentic and personable your online content is, it’s still only content. People can’t grab a drink with an article. They can’t have a laugh with an infographic.

Even if your authentic, personable content generates impressive results, with many of us receiving hundreds of emails a day, it is too easy for people to ignore or miss some of your communications. And often this is purely because there’s no face to those emails. People don’t feel personally obliged to respond because they haven’t already invested time and energy into meeting and building a relationship with another person. However, when that in-person connection is established and your team builds rapport with a contact, communication becomes far easier.

Not only is that communication easier, but it’s also more valuable. Your team has actually met with the person. They’ve heard about their frustrations. They know what they’re struggling with internally. They know their sense of humour, and possibly a little about their home life. With that knowledge, the team can provide a more personal service, put together a more bespoke proposal, and even have a friendly catch up or a giggle in the process. And these qualities don’t just make the day a little brighter but can have a significant impact on commercial success. After all, “people buy from people,” is a saying for a reason.

The proof is in the people

All in all, networking in-person has always had a great impact on business success. It is great for business development, inspires new ideas, and ultimately, helps to generate leads. But to us, the most important part of attending “real-life” events is the relationships that can be built.

Personally, I had moved into entirely different industries to where I had worked previously, and I didn’t realise how much I had learnt until I got chatting to others from all areas of the supply chain. Speaking to new people tested my knowledge and as I spoke, I realised how passionate I was about the work my clients do. More importantly, as I listened, I realised how interesting the industries - and people - I work with truly are.

It is easy to put a webinar on while making a coffee then see an email come through that you want to respond to resulting in your tuning out on what is being said. But in-person, when you have someone in front of you speaking passionately about the day-to-day impact of some of the larger issues within an industry, you focus, you hone in on what they are telling you, and you walk away knowing a little (or a lot) more than you did before.

Now that we are able to, we should all get out and about to explore what our industries have to offer. Because it isn’t just about business development, innovations, or even education. It’s about building strong relationships. It’s about actually having a laugh. Because after all, we spend a lot of time at work, so we may as well make it enjoyable.

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