By Tyler Betts: FX Risk Manager at Infinity International

It is not uncommon for many industries to have marquee networking events throughout the year where having a presence is an expectation in order to remain relevant.  This is not only time consuming but is also a significant cost to the business; with a key challenge being it’s difficult to accurately forecast the revenue benefits.

To illustrate the point, this happens in an industry that I am involved with, the super-yacht and maritime community.  Having friends working in the space meant that 6 years ago we started to work with several crew and a handful of suppliers to the industry.  As we tried to broaden our approach through direct sales, we encountered the same response.  “Are you attending any Boat Shows this year? Let’s try and catch up out there” … and so we did.

With excitement and trepidation, in 2014 we booked flights and a hotel and ventured out to what is the most prestigious event in the yachting calendar in September.  Initially fashioned as an event for yacht brokers and the super-rich to meet and discuss the sale and purchase of the world’s best yachts, in recent years it has transitioned into a more supplier focused event, with less footfall from billionaires and more from business owners and sales people trying to grow their share of the super-yacht market.

It’s no secret that at a networking event, it can be a nerve-wracking experience to ‘doorstop’ people for a chat, but we persevered and had some conversations.  This was the starting point for us to get a foothold and where we met some great contacts and learned about the industry.

Our yearly calendar now includes events in Southampton, Palma, Monaco, Amsterdam and London (I really struggle to get motivated for the overseas trips, especially when it’s blazing sunshine!).

What we learned about this community:

If you don’t show your face regularly, you’ll struggle to gain any traction.  Everything in this world is built on recommendations and trust through consistency; with the same commendations that can build you up also able to quickly destroy your reputation.  All the major players know each other and talk regularly, so bad news travels fast, but if you get it right, you’ll fly – what a minefield!

There are numerous articles that suggest COVID-19 may change life as we know it, from a both a social and professional perspective.  Will this change the way that these blue-ribbon events are perceived?  I’m not suggesting they could be replicated by video call, but will the major players still want to participate in such events if it’s been proven that business can be conducted over the internet in many cases?

I honestly hope not, as the events are usually some of the best times of the year to not only do business, but to spend time with network contacts who in many cases have turned into great friends.

So, what about business meetings?

I do believe that things on a more localised level will change, will we really be expected to ‘show our face’?  The shift will be that some people will not want to meet face-to-face, especially when we’re all going to be experts at video conferences.  I guess this also saves the effort of travelling in addition to the environment if you don’t have to get on a plane.

In the market we reside, we’re lucky to have clients from across many sectors and locations, but with a large portion in London.  It’s no secret to anybody that knows me that I’m always keen to suggest meeting over a coffee (sometimes beer) … and many great working relationships have been struck in this fashion in and around the Square Mile.  I can only pray that this element of ‘doing business’ resumes as quickly as possible!

I would be interested to know how you feel about how things may change?

Message me or leave a comment on LinkedIn.