Virtual Events, Webinars, and Online Forums for Networking in the Digital Age
Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • January 15, 2024
One of the positives that emerged from the pandemic is the value of virtual events as a supplement (not a replacement) of in person gatherings. I shudder to think about the hit to the economy if Zoom and Teams meetings were not available. While virtual meetings saved our bacon during lockdown, they weren’t perfect. There is no replacing true human-to-human connection.
The pandemic also introduced to many of us virtual events, webinars and forums that were held with mixed success. Some were excellent with speakers who stayed on topic and presented important information without too much self promotion. Some were downright disasters with panels that didn’t seem to understand the topic or spent the entire time talking about products or services you should buy from them.
Many in-person events are back to their regular schedule, which is fantastic. Yet many virtual events are still being held. And that is fantastic as well. These on-line webinars and forums provide almost anyone working in this industry the chance to hear and connect with speakers from around the world that would be difficult to see otherwise.
These virtual events are an excellent way for brands to connect with far-flung designers and customers. The office furniture industry has scads of research and information, but we don’t do a great job communicating this important data. Webinars and virtual events are a great way to change that.
I think MillerKnoll has done a masterful job of organizing highly interesting webinars with excellent presenters through the MillerKnoll Insight Group. Upcoming seminars, which you can sign up for here for free, include discussions as diverse as: “How 4 pillars of health and wellbeing can change your employee experience” with Dr. Stephanie Fitzgerald; “People, Spaces and Flourishing” with Doug Lowrie, global director of workplace experience at Sodexo and Ali Khan, CEO of SHAPE Global; and “The Future of Cities and the Implications for Work and Place” with Lovisa Volmarsson, an advisor and futurist at CIFS.
HNI’s work in this area deserves mention as well. The company and its brands have held a number of powerful webinars that have continued beyond the pandemic. The company also makes use of its website to further the conversation. It’s “Design Speak” interviews like this one with Connor Glass of Perkins Eastman is a good example.
Steelcase also has a number of on-demand webinars for you to watch on topics like “IBM’s Flexible Hybrid Workplaces” and “Technology’s Impact on Learning.” You can find the on-demand webinars here.
OFS is definitely leading the podcasting movement in the industry with its “Imagine a Place” series. You can sign up for information about its virtual events here.
Whether you are a dealer, designer or manufacturer, there are right ways and wrong ways to organize virtual webinars and events.
First, make sure you have something valuable to present. Don’t waste the time of your clients and customers with sales pitches. Second, book solid speakers. A good (or bad) speaker can make (or break) a virtual event. Third, be respectful of people’s time. Don’t go over an hour and make sure to leave time at the end for questions. It’s irritating to get to the end of a virtual seminar only to find that there is no time to ask questions.
If you need help organizing a webinar, there’s help out there. Write Office is a great resource for copywriting, marketing help and webinar creation. I would encourage everyone to consider bolstering your virtual offerings.
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