The return of in person networking

On the 4th of November 2021 I attended the North East Expo held at Newcastle Falcons Stadium. The North East Expo welcomes businesses from across (you guessed it) the North East of England. It offers a great opportunity to get to know other local companies and build meaningful relationships. This was my first trade show in a post lockdown world. Although it was great to see so many businesses together and thriving, it felt very alien. 

The North East Expo – The day

To start the day I registered my attendance. I was asked to pick a badge to say whether I was happy to either handshake or fist/elbow bump. Oddly, there was no option for neither. Possibly because you are exposing yourself to rooms full of people they might not have thought it appropriate. However, if someone wished to attend masked and wearing a badge that said “no contact” I believe they would be entirely in their rights to do so. 

Once I collected my badge I took a stroll around the floors and looked at the various stalls there. To my surprise hardly anyone was masked. People were happily walking from stall to stall exchanging pleasantries. Even when I attended seminars, people comfortably sat in seats next to each other and waited to shake hands with speakers. For a short period of time, it was almost like covid had never existed.

This all felt very strange to me. When we are on set we have very strict covid measures in place. Rapid tests on days before and on mornings of filming, masks, social distancing, etc. To walk into an environment where everyone could be in close contact without any of these precautions felt odd. I’m sure for many people at the event it was a welcome and refreshing experience, but for me it was a little overwhelming. 

Covid wasn’t the only consideration

Putting all things covid aside, I was also slightly anxious to meet new people face to face again. There’s something settling about meeting someone through a video call in your own environment. So much so, that talking to people face to face again almost felt like having a safety blanket pulled away from you. I will admit, my first couple of conversations could have flowed a little better. Mostly it was my fault, my awkwardness creating a barrier. However, as the day went on meeting new people became a lot easier! By the afternoon it was refreshing to talk to people face to face again, and I met some really great people.

This reminded me of how great networking events can be, and helped me realise that things are returning to how they were. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but it’s also good to get out of your comfort zone, and I’m glad I did that there. 

So will I be back in 2022? Absolutely. The fear of a few awkward conversations can’t stop me from making meaningful connections.

May Sweeney

Marketing Executive