Public Sector Networking in 2020
Here's our thoughts on procurement events, and public sector networking, in 2020 and beyond!
We all know that 2020 has thrown up some barriers when it comes to public sector networking. Social distancing is the norm and large events are shelved for the foreseeable future. We’ve seen some big events in the procurement world already get crossed off of the calendar and there will probably be more, no doubt.
One thing that is evident from the changes we’ve seen this year – and we’re not expecting these changes to be temporary! – is that networking and engagement between buyers and suppliers has been rethought.
The new normal for networking?
Before government enforced lockdowns and changes to the business landscape at the beginning of the year, we saw a fair amount of procurement-focused events dotted around the calendar. Ranging from broad GovTech conferences, to more niche technology and framework sessions.
We all know that this is no longer viable with Covid restrictions, with organisers and venues doing their upmost to make these events as safe as possible for delegates. This has led to the rise of the digital event!
Many event organisers have moved their conferences online, such as the GovTech conference or the Digital Identity for Government event. In the age of Zoom calls and webcams, the ability to livestream talks and panels is a useful tool for many. The speakers aren’t always live either, pre-recorded events are becoming more common. Saving the embarrassment of technical mishaps.
Crown Commercial Service – who run many of the routes to procurement – are currently holding all of their supplier engagement events online too. So that no one misses out.
But where does this leave the networking side of things? In a surprisingly okay place, actually. Many events now are catering for those looking to meet others and get their services in front of the right people by using software that facilitates networking. Platforms such as Airmeet or Digilounge incorporate virtual meeting rooms and tables into their software, giving users the chance to take a seat and chat to other attendees. In fact, this can work surprisingly well and creates a more open experience, being able to see job titles and target specific attendees (if you wish to).
Are face-to-face events now history?
For a while, yes. Many events aren’t planning for face-to-face versions of their events in 2021. The risk for them is too high. As well as there being no assurances they’ll go ahead. Holding digital versions is much more cost-effective. It also seems to be filling the gap nicely.
We’ll definitely see events start slowly returning though, as long as things start to ease when it comes to Covid lockdowns and regulations. So face-to-face networking will start returning.
However, we don’t expect everything to go back to complete normality!
The future of public sector networking
As we said, when things start to die down, we don’t expect everything to revert back to the old style of running events completely. Hybrid Events are something we’re seeing more and more of. These include a mixture of Live face-to-face elements but incorporate digital aspects too. For example, holding smaller sessions with fewer attendees but streaming the event for online ticketholders to watch. Or incorporating networking apps to help delegates get communicating during the conferences.
Hybrid Events have been very successful in the past and with social distancing and lower capacities for venues becoming the norm, we fully expect to see more of these pop up.
The benefits also mean that for those attending the events, location doesn’t matter as much!
As a supplier, what should I do?
In short, keep signing up to events. Keep networking. The public sector have not stopped buying services and your public sector strategy should keep rolling on. The good news is that many of these events are now cheaper, or even free, to attend. Also, without factoring in travel to your plans you might be able to attend more of these digital sessions!
Also, don’t stop your other networking efforts. Social Media is a great tool for getting in front of the public sector and engaging in excellent discussions. Make sure you’re following those in the know, and keeping up to date with events and engagement sessions.