What does an event manager do when gatherings are forbidden?

Kerry Bate - Polka Dot Events
Kerry Bate - Polka Dot Events

“Lockdown has forced us to find new and innovative ways to do things, but I genuinely feel that what we do now will change the way we meet and network in the future.”

Kerry Bate of Polka Dot Events has many years of experience in event and project management but when social distancing became second nature to us all back in March, she was forced to rethink her core business, at least temporarily.

Her strong belief in the importance of interaction and networking between businesses led Kerry to set up Business ONline Networking. Off the success of that, later this month will see the first Business ONline Showcase – a virtual business exhibition, run via an online conferencing and networking platform, but following a familiar format.

“Naturally, the events sector was hit very hard by lockdown restrictions and so my only option was to embrace the virtual online world,” said Kerry. “Networking has always been an important part of my business, I love meeting and chatting to people and I didn’t want to lose that. A lot of networking groups have moved online, but I set up Business ONline Networking with the specific intention of remaining online even when lockdown is over.

“Online meetings are an exciting prospect because they open up the opportunity to widen networking out from a relatively small geographic area at a physical meeting, to anyone, anywhere in the country, online.”

For £5 per month members can attend one or both of two meetings (on the first and third Wednesdays of each month), be part of a social media group and access the business online spotlight which showcases a different organisation each month.

On Wednesday 29 July, the first Business ONline Showcase will take place between 10am and noon and then 1pm and 3pm. Up to 20 businesses will be able to book a ‘room’ where visitors can ‘meet’ with them to find out more about what they do and the services they offer. Visitors will be able to join as many rooms at the showcase, which will be hosted on a conferencing and networking platform, as they wish.

A room will cost £40 and visitors will pay £5 each to visit. All profits from the visitors’ fees will be donated to Age UK. Two keynote speakers are also being lined up to take part in the event. Kerry said: “Lockdown has forced us to find new and innovative ways to do things, but I genuinely feel that what we do now will change the way we meet and network in the future. “For instance, I have often found that when I have a particularly busy period at work, in the run-up to an event, say, then I simply don’t have the time to go along to networking groups or business exhibitions. When you factor in the travelling time, it’s often too much of a commitment to leave your desk, but that means you’re missing out on valuable networking interaction.

“The technology to work, meet and network online has been there for some time, and a lot of people were using it, but recently people have been ‘forced’ to trial it and from that have seen what benefit it brings. Now that they’re familiar with it, it will make a vast difference to how they approach virtual platforms. “With remote working, for example, I believe a lot of employers will have a very different view after this because they will have found that people can work equally efficiently and just as hard when they have the flexibility to work from home. “Similarly, we’ve all got used to Zoom meetings and know how straightforward they are, and there’s no reason why we can’t continue to do that after lockdown rather than everyone wasting hours travelling to and from meetings. “Of course, face-to-face interaction will always be important. We enjoy social events and I don’t think there’s any chance that we won’t go back to that to some extent, but we have opportunities to carry on using technology to make our lives a little bit easier. “I wanted Polka Dot Events to adapt and be agile in the face of an extremely difficult situation, and I think we’ve done that. We’re embracing technology and building on the lessons of the past few months and finding new and interesting ways to do things.”

Contact Polka Dot Events on 01536 860710 or visit www.polkadotevents.co.uk