After two years of virtual events reigning supreme, in-person is making a comeback in 2022. In fact, in-person events already account for more than 70% of our events, and the year’s not over yet!
While the pandemic ebbs and flows and the nation’s workforce continues on a virtual track, the desire for face-to-face connections has returned. Networking via emails, phone calls, or even video meetings can’t replace the value of in-person networking. From clients and prospects to vendors and partners, that desire is strong across all industries and professions, and for good reason.
The Unique Benefits of In-Person Networking
In 2009, Forbes asked executives why they prefer face-to-face meetings and conferences over technology-enabled meetings.1 Although that was over a decade ago, the top answers—stronger, more meaningful relationships; the ability to read body language and facial expressions; and more social interaction—still apply today, showing the lasting power of in-person networking.
Stronger connections lead to greater trust and loyalty, which in turn lead to stronger and longer-lasting partnerships, whether that’s a supplier finding a new client or a young professional finding a mentor.
In addition, the ability to read nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions and hear tone of voice means there’s clearer communication and fewer misunderstandings. When verbal and nonverbal cues align, they create deeper connections by increasing trust, clarity, and rapport. Finally, more social interaction may seem obvious, but what it really means is the benefit of real-time communication. In person, questions are asked and answered faster, connections made faster, deals sealed faster, the list goes on.
All this may seem intuitive, but it’s supported by research and statistics. A study shared in Harvard Business Review, for example, found that face-to-face communications are 34 times more successful than email communications for a simple but important reason: People are more persuasive in person. Email may be easier, but nonverbal cues “made all the difference in how people viewed the legitimacy of [the interaction].”2
Quick Facts About In-Person Events
One study3 specifically focused on the importance of networking for business relationships—including clients, customers, partnerships, and vendors—found that:
- 75% of customers either require or prefer in-person meetings.
- The close rate for in-person sales meetings is 40%.
- The most common place to form face-to-face relationships is trade shows with networking as a top reason for attendance.
- 48% of professionals attend trade shows primarily to network with vendors.
A Real-World Example: M&IW Summit
One example of the desire for in-person networking is our very own M&IW Summit. Our signature event, which is held every August, brings together the M&IW team, our valued clients, and our trusted suppliers. It includes an in-person trade show called the Supplier Showcase which has had overwhelming—but unsurprising—interest this year from both clients and suppliers who are more than ready to be together again.
“The Supplier Showcase is always one of the most popular aspects of the M&IW Summit, so the 2022 agenda was built around it,” said Executive Producer Nicole Raudabaugh, CMP, CIS. “When we started planning, the very first decision made was to continue to have an in-person trade show with space for as many sponsors and exhibitors as possible.”
“We always have strong interest from suppliers, but this year’s response has gone above and beyond expectations,” said Sponsorship Coordinator Denise Farrell. “Last year’s Showcase was in-person but on a smaller scale because not everyone was able to travel for a variety of reasons. This year, clients and prospects are all ready to get back and meet face-to-face, and suppliers are well aware of that and are making sure their spot is secured early.”
A Word from Our Sponsors
But don’t just take our word for it! Over 93% of our 2021 sponsors and exhibitors indicated they plan to participate again and would also recommend participating to other industry vendors. Here are some of their responses when asked what they liked best about the M&IW Summit and Supplier Showcase.
“This event was so well orchestrated and enabled peers to come together in a safe and comfortable environment. Nothing compares to face-to-face interaction. Thank you for bringing us back together, live and in person, so that we can celebrate our partnership and reunite. It was absolutely time well spent!” –Crystal Chism, Senior Sales Executive, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
“One-on-one appointments are always my favorite, most beneficial portion of the event. It is helpful to hear planners’ thoughts, trends, concerns, etc. in person.” – Kimberly Carbajal, Director, Group Sales, Swissôtel Chicago
“It was so great to be at a live event with great partners! To be able to catch up with all levels of M&IW in person was so fun and informative.” – Daniel Klink, National Account Manager, FedEx
1 Forbes, 2009
2 Harvard Business Review, 2017
3 Apollo Technical, 2022