Not Giving up on Networking in 2020

(Image Courtesy: Container xChange)

By Alexa Mc Pherson

Heading into 2020, the Marketing and Sales teams at Container xChange in Hamburg Germany were super amped up and ready to hit trade fairs and conferences across Europe and Asia. Exhibition preparations were underway for Breakbulk Middle East in Dubai, Intermodal Asia in Shanghai, and TransRussia in Moscow. Still reeling from the success of our 1st annual Digital Container Summit in September 2019, we were already looking forward to beginning preparations for the 2020 summit at home.

We managed to get to Dubai for the BreakBulk Middle East Conference, had a great time and achieved our sales and brand awareness goals. The team came back buzzing with excitement and optimism. Next stop, Shanghai! …but wait. And wait… And continue waiting.

Wait for the next governmental update before we apply for our Chinese visas. Wait for the message from the Intermodal Asia organizers before we cancel our flights. Wait on hold for hours on the phone trying to get through to Customer Service to claim our flight refunds. Still waiting for some of these. Also currently waiting to see how the situation pans out in Russia to find out if the TransRussia Conference, already postponed to August, will be entirely cancelled or not.

As an event organizer, it feels like most of 2020 has been a waiting game and endless cycle of undoing tasks that I had already done- plan and then dismantle. The first wave of industry event decisions was all postponements, and now in late May, we are seeing most events simply cancelled for the year.

By now we understand that international travel will continue to be disrupted well into 2021. So when it came time to decide whether to cancel or postpone our flagship summit this upcoming September, the initiative to virtualize it was taken.  And we have just opened for the sale of tickets with the same enthusiasm we had going into 2020.

Like last year, but different

Last year, with coffee in hand, the participants enjoyed a wonderful scenic view of the lovely port city of Hamburg. The weather graced us with only an hour or 2 of the infamous Hamburg rain.

(Image Courtesy: Container xChange)

With the Digital Container Summit this year being an online event we won’t be offering steamy coffee or the same spectacular view. Though they weren’t the main contributors of the event’s success. Nor was it the free food and drinks leading into the late-night afterparty. Though these were definitely plus sides. It was actually the prescheduled 1-on-1 networking sessions as the real reason people came and left satisfied.

We‘ve recognized that it is just not possible to replace the ambiance of a physical summit. The spontaneous conversations with strangers who actually end up the business partner you hoped you’d find, for one example. We aren’t pretending or promising to recreate this either. We’ve already noticed people appreciate that genuineness.

However, that doesn’t mean that we won’t make sure to provide the opportunity to meet other people in the industry at this year’s Digital Container Summit. In conceptualisation, we asked ourselves:

How do we make an online event that provides value to the attendees?

We have taken the most important components from last year’s summit and transformed them into a virtual event. The technology to provide real value for our industry is here – we’ve decided to use it.

(Image Courtesy: Container xChange)

Network, insights, and workshops

Last year, the Digital Container Summit in Hamburg, Germany hosted more than 150 attendees, who were mostly members of our platform on xChange.  Now that it is online, unbound to any physical limitations, we realized that we could open it up for the entire Container Logistics industry to participate.

At the online Digital Container Summit, it’s possible to preschedule 1-on-1 networking sessions. The meetings are carried out via video conferencing on event day. This gives the attendees the opportunity to do business and create new partnerships efficiently and productively.

As with any physical conference, there will also be keynotes speeches by industry leaders. Live streaming with an interactive chat, attendees can engage by asking questions and commenting. Attendees also have the opportunity to take part in virtual workshops on a range of topics. One of them will be how businesses can adjust to remote work. Something many firms are still adjusting to.

All of these features are open to the entire industry, which make it now the only industrywide networking opportunity possible in 2020.

Final thoughts

The digital revolution took off way before the COVID-19 outbreak. This pandemic only forces us to rethink how we utilize the existing and improving technology around us. Going forward, we’re likely to see a reduction in business travel and an increase in online and hybrid events. As they say, with every crisis comes great opportunity- so use it!

You can buy your ticket on Eventbrite and get a 20% discount with the code “SEANEWS20”

Sea News Feature, June 24

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra