May 3, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

As the business events community returns to face-to-face networking events, has anything changed in these relationship building forums?

After attending the Exhibition and Event Association of Australasia’s (EEAA) in-person event held last week in a tucked away space at The Star in Sydney, I wondered whether anything would be different about “networking” of this kind.

For the record, I was the Chief Executive of this organisation for nine years until just a month before COVID struck. It’s a community I am hugely invested in. I was there last week in my capacity as a writer for micenet and a freelance advisor in the events industry.

Here are some observations:

  1. The event attracted a good diverse upbeat crowd, with a larger number of younger professionals
  2. The stand-out was that there were lots of new faces
  3. They included people who did not usually attend networking events
  4. There were numerous new members whose stated objective was to leverage the association for profile building and to get their COVID-impacted businesses back on their feet.
  5. The attendees represented all parts of the industry including venues, a broad range of suppliers and exhibition and event organisers.

Among the suppliers was Dominic Le Roy, Managing Director of DesignTeam and co-founder of Spaces Interactive. He said it was good to be back face to face with colleagues and that the event was better than he expected.

He valued the opportunity to meet the new members and said it was good to engage with a lot of people that he didn’t know. He told me he was really surprised by the number of people he did not know.

Le Roy is was of the younger owners and innovators in the EEAA community. He welcomed the remarks of the association’s President Spiro Anemogiannis who encouraged the industry to stay focussed and to keep doing its best by working together.

“I also appreciated that the president of the association was positive about the need to embrace digital technology, given that this is an area that we have invested in with our new business.”

Following the Sydney event on Wednesday, the EEAA ran a second networking gathering at Left Bank Melbourne, on the Yarra River. This followed the Board meeting at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at which the Board heard from Gab Robinson, CEO of Harry the hirer. Robinson has been an outspoken campaigner on the need for Government support for the events industry, especially in Victoria. He briefed the Board on the state-of-play in his business as events resume around the country.

Anemogiannis said it was encouraging to hear of the steady rebuild of the industry and the positive results beginning to be reported. He was encouraged by both the Sydney and Melbourne feedback from industry and said there would be more opportunities in the coming months for the industry to reconnect.

For my part, I was heartened to see the new faces and reconnect with the familiar friends and colleagues. There is no doubt we have resilient and strong DNA and this will be what helps the industry rebuild. It’s fabulous to see confidence returning – although everyone is also realistic that some things are outside our control – and it’s those things that stand in the way of “business as usual”.

The verdict? Are these networking events still useful? The answer was emphatically expressed by many attendees – “now more than ever”.

So if you go to one of the these events in the future, please welcome the new faces, for by working together we will also go much further.