As it’s been quite a while since our last blog, I am here today to tell you a story about true engagement.
I usually say that, as a newbie who entered the business events industry right before the pandemic, I am coming out of the shell only now that everyone seems to be raging to organize and attend all events that were cancelled in the last two years.
We at ENITED finally have old and new projects to work on, different industry events, engagement activities, etc. which are keeping us quite busy at the moment. And I am finally networking and meeting lots of people which I knew just from reading about them or seeing them on social media.
Here is where Irina Graf comes into play. Irina is a blogger and a social media expert in the business events industry (you might know her as the person behind “The MICE blog” or “Event Planners Talk”), quite active online and with very good and valuable content, which is why she immediately caught my attention while my only contact with the outside world was through the screen of my computer or my phone.
We connected over social media and interacted with each other at different online events and platforms, and only last May 2022 we accidentally bumped into each other at IMEX Frankfurt. Our talk was very short but felt super refreshing and warm to see her face to face, as a human being and not just a voice or an Instagram account.
What I didn’t expect is that this conversation would lead to Irina offering me to speak at her latest project, called “The Event Series”, where periodic online discussions would be held on Hubilo about different topics among eventprofs and experts in various fields, in an informal and conversational format. This new initiative of hers, she told me, would start in July and expand until December 2022, and I would be one of the eventprofs leading a session in order to bring the perspective of young newcomers in the industry.
I was, of course, flattered and highly excited that I was asked to speak at an event for the first time, plus with someone whose work and business personality I liked, so I accepted at once.
After some time, we talked about the details of the content I wanted my session to be about, the structure, times, dates, etc. We agreed that I would talk about my experience so far in business events, having to deal with the whole pandemic right after starting, and, specially, how I see engagement being under 30 years old. And Irina added yet another element to the equation: she wanted to include a “pre-session” at an earlier point in time, in order to introduce the event itself, the speaker and the topic, raise some interest on the matter, have people contribute their ideas to it, and try still another platform. In this case, Linkedin Audio.
Now, at this point I was a bit hesitant about the purpose and format of this pre-session, since as far as I knew, Linkedin Audio was basically a copy of the far-outdated Clubhouse, and I didn’t really see how yet another hour of discussion would add value to the session to be held later.
However, I couldn’t be more wrong. We hosted our Linkedin Audio meeting on 7 September 2022 and I must say I was highly and positively surprised to discover how nice it felt to just have a safe and comfortable space for a casual chat without the pressure of a camera, with random people joining from completely different contexts (outside of business events, even) and adding their point of view, asking interesting questions and exchanging opinions on diverse aspects of engagement.
When I recapped with Irina after closing the room, we both commented and praised how much we enjoyed the experience, how well it worked and how many insights we took from the discussion. Irina was also trying Linkedin Audio for the first time, but we loved the fact that people we didn’t know jumped into it and connected with us after discussing a common point of interest for everybody. My biggest realization about it was, in fact, that it was the closest experience I had ever to real online networking. It wasn’t forced or fake, it just happened, just like in a physical room.
So, actually, I didn’t see much difference between Linkedin Audio (or Twitter spaces, for that matter) and Clubhouse, but I think what Irina achieved there is to find a PURPOSE for such a space: in this case, you don’t need much preparation, it is just a short, relaxed session somehow connected to a bigger event which will help to shape such event and fill it with interesting content.
In conclusion, that was for me the magic of true engagement and networking: interacting with someone on social media, meeting them in person after a while (so building that relationship online and offline) and ending up COLLABORATING with this person. And, on top of that, trying something new together and creating a dynamic experience by which we connected with many more people within the project we had in common.
For this reason, I want to thank Irina again for creating a wonderful community and always being on top of the new trends and ahead of the industry’s sometimes slow pace. And specially for making others part of it, motivating and exciting them to follow suit.
I cannot recommend enough to check Irina and her “Event Series” out, and of course I encourage you to join my upcoming slot on Thursday, 27 October 2022, where we’ll continue the conversation about engagement. Hope to see you there!