Even the scenario planners can’t plan!

As I write this comment my thoughts drift towards the EuroBLECH 2020 exhibition, which was due to begin on the 27th October 2020. Like many others the EuroBLECH exhibition has been postponed until 2021 and hopefully it will eventually take place. There were many organisers that were ambitious and initially postponed their exhibitions to later this year but most of those have now either been postponed to 2021 or even drifted further out to 2022. This is a reflection of the uncertain times that we live in.

EuroBLECH has always been an exhibition that is well-attended by South African visitors. I have attended since the early 2000s, such is how important I view attending international exhibitions like EuroBLECH. There are too many reasons to list them all. This year will also be the first time that I have not attended an international exhibition in a calendar year, since 1989. I wonder now if EMO 2019 will be the last one that I attended internationally. I certainly hope not. The reality is that none of us know. Even the scenario planners can’t plan these days.

COVID-19 is hitting all of us hard and has changed the world around us. We don’t yet know the impact it will have or what our new reality will be. Certainly not for the coming months or years. Needless to say, a lot of uncertainty lies ahead. But that doesn’t mean we should not plan for the future. In fact, we must. This is what scenario planning is for. But just when you think you have a grasp on the situation the pandemic and governments throw in a curve ball.

Understandably exhibition organisers and manufacturers have hurriedly put together virtual exhibitions and I think they are done very professionally. Many others have done online presentations or a Web seminar, more commonly known as Webinar. This form of onscreen PowerPoint presentation has actually been around for over a decade and can be a very effective way of communicating. In my opinion though they are generally too long and one-sided towards the presenter’s belief or the company’s product/s. Generally a Webinar is set up like a press conference and I have attended many press conferences where I thought to myself that it was boring and not informative at all.

Webinars can also be very intimidating, especially if you are not a confident person. You would love to ask a question but feel that the audience would be too critical so you keep quiet. Not so if you are at an exhibition and you are having a face to face conversation. Even if your question is a dumb one it will not be recognised as such.

Webinars, Zoom meetings and other similar events are all important and will continue to be budgeted for and be part of the mix. If you think of the cost savings that companies and individuals are realising now compared with holding or attending a conference, they are enormous. Even more so if international travel is involved.

But do you honestly believe that, whether you are company executives or an individual, you get the same benefit from a webinar as compared to exhibiting, visiting and networking at an exhibition or conference? I am not so certain about that. That might sound like old school thinking but person to person networking, whether it is in your business or personal life, will always surpass any form of electronic acquaintance.