Meetings Pro Tip: Now’s the Time to Emphasize Networking at In-Person Events
The natural desire to see people again, mixed with the need to lean on networking for hiring reasons, might be enough to get people to come back to in-person events in 2022.
After two years of virtual and hybrid meetings, signs are showing that in-person events could make a big comeback in 2022, thanks in part to a decline in COVID-19 cases, improved protocols, and a recharged economy.
But a big factor might actually be the networking element—something that Inc. contributor Ken Sterling, executive vice president at the speakers bureau BigSpeak, pointed to in a recent piece, in which he made the bold claim that “2022 will be the busiest year in event history.”
And for associations looking to put on events, there might be a good reason to emphasize networking in the coming months.
What’s the Strategy?
There’s a case to build some of the earliest return in-person events around networking opportunities, as noted by The Wall Street Journal, which said that both traditional conferences and smaller gala-style networking events have started to pick up interest this year.
Even events that have found themselves sitting on the sidelines during the early parts of the pandemic, such as South by Southwest and the annual TED conference, are making their returns within the next month.
And attendees of those events may need to shake off a bit of rust in the process.
“We were joking about how we had to relearn our social skills,” said Lisa Lopez, a psychology professor, in comments to the Journal, about attending an event in San Diego recently. “We’re all developmental psychologists who study social and academic development, and we had to retrain ourselves on social development.”
Why Is It Effective?
To put it simply, people are starved for in-person interaction, so evidence is growing that people who typically attend events might finally be driven to do something in person again thanks to a growing need for networking.
And there’s even an underlying factor making networking important, per Sterling—the Great Resignation. Companies are in need of new employees.
“Many talented people are looking for better working conditions and wages,” he wrote. “One of the best ways to network for and to keep new talent is to send people to in-person events and meetings.”
What’s the Potential?
Beyond the obvious business benefits—the revival and return of the event industry, which could help associations bounce back in a big way in 2022—it also reflects an opportunity to strengthen the bonds that tie your association together.
There are, of course, challenges to consider—including having effective COVID-19 protocols and factors such as social distancing—but networking might just be the factor that ensures a return to event success.
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