Much as we like to sing the praises of digital connectivity, there’s sometimes no replacing the buzz of a crowd and the connections you can make by talking face-to-face.
Understandably, a lot of people are eager to get back to attending exhibitions to get in front of potential clients and to learn about new industry developments.
Assuming the Government’s roadmap all goes to plan, that way of networking could potentially be within sight in the second half of this year.
From 21 June 2021 at the earliest, all legal limits on social contact could be removed, and restrictions on large events eased.
This is subject, of course, to the results of the Government’s events research programme, which is trialling pilot events and looking at how well testing and other techniques work to cut the risk of infection.
The accountancy events that are already back on the calendar are taking place later in the year, with the Accountex Summit North scheduled for September and the AccountingWeb Live Expo in December, to name a couple.
Accountex London, meanwhile, won’t be happening until May 2022, and Xero has announced “there is just too much uncertainty” to hold a Xerocon event in 2021.
Even if events are no longer legally restricted, it seems unlikely that they’ll go ahead as normal anytime soon.
The Government guidance page published in February makes a point of emphasising the continued need for caution.
“As we move through each of these phases in the roadmap, we must all remember that COVID-19 remains a part of our lives,” it says. “We are going to have to keep living our lives differently to keep ourselves and others safe.”
‘Hands, face, space’, outdoor meetings, and COVID-secure measures are all mentioned as ways of preventing further spread of the virus even as legal restrictions are lifted.
As anyone who’s been to a packed conference centre knows, following those rules will make quite a difference to the way events are usually run. Some people might still be nervous about close social contact and gatherings at the scale of industry exhibitions for a good while yet – especially those who are not yet fully vaccinated.
And the reality is, things are simply not the same as they were pre-pandemic, and many of the digital trends that were accelerated during that time are likely to be here to stay.
So if you’re relying on in-person events coming back in full swing to boost lead generation for your firm just like before the pandemic, it’s time to rethink.
Virtual events, online talks and webinars can be just as engaging as live ones if they’re run in the right way – and they can also be accessed by a much wider audience, from anywhere in the world.
As well as attending events like these to learn from industry professionals, it’s well worth thinking about hosting your own. This is more cost-effective, generally speaking, than hiring a venue and managing the logistics of travelling there for the day, and by recording your events you could continue to use them as part of your ongoing marketing efforts.
That doesn’t mean you have to give up on in-person networking altogether, however.
There’s a growing focus on ‘hybrid experiences’ in the event planning industry, combining online and offline events in an integrated way, with curated content for each audience.
It remains to be seen exactly what that means for accountancy exhibitions, but if event organisers can strike a balance between the physical and the digital, you should be able to benefit from the advantages of both.
As restrictions ease during 2021, we at Capium are keeping a close eye on the latest changes in the accountancy industry and what they mean for our customers.
changes in the accountancy industry and what they mean for our customers.
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