Building bridges, not barriers: Post-event B2B networking best practices.
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Digital X was once again an exciting place to be for everyone who wanted to feel the digital pulse of the future. But that’s not all. It was also the perfect opportunity for expanding horizons and creating meaningful (business) connections with experts, influencers, and simply interesting people from all over the world. After all, Digital X is known as a dynamic congregation of visionaries and trailblazer
And trust us when we say that this international feeling and the intense atmosphere of connectedness was especially present at this year’s event, as attendees and speakers representing a kaleidoscope of nations, from the United States to Ukraine, Switzerland to Sweden, descended upon Cologne. We feel incredibly thankful and proud we were able to be part of this significant event, embracing the vibrant spirit of this global symposium.
Maybe you were not as lucky as our team was and couldn’t make it to this year’s Digital X. Or were you on site but not able to gather your thoughts just yet due to the intense sensory overload? No worries! We want to share our experience at Digital X 2023, which was nothing short of exceptional, with you in detail in this article.
The event allowed us to connect with esteemed business associates from diverse corners of the world, setting the stage for enriching interactions that transcend boundaries. In our relentless pursuit of global marketing excellence, we’ve come to acknowledge the pivotal role played by platforms like LinkedIn and other social networks. They serve as the lifeblood of our international connections, nurturing and amplifying them with every interaction. We also want to explore the symbiosis between the digital and physical world of events, unveiling how they seamlessly coexist and thrive in today’s interconnected global landscape. So, let’s dive right in!
Our key takeaways at a glance:
Let’s start by taking a quick look at our key takeaways.
- Exceptional experience: The Deutsche Telekom team created a fantastic lineup of speakers that our team enjoyed, providing us with valuable insights and connections.
- International networking: We had the opportunity to connect with esteemed business associates from diverse parts of the world.
- Enriching interactions: These connections led to enhancing interactions that transcended geographical boundaries.
- Social media’s mole: We recognized the pivotal role of platforms like LinkedIn and other social networks in nurturing and amplifying our international connections.
Continue reading for in-depth explanations, unique insights, and great best practices showing you how you can share your personal experiences with your network.
1. Continuous learning: The keystone of international connections
Understanding and truly engaging with your target audience are paramount in today’s fast-paced B2B marketing world. The digital age, where decision-makers are bombarded with constant information and content, accelerated this trend even more. No wonder the ability to build and nurture international connections grounded in trust has become a cornerstone of success.
Research consistently highlights the significance of these principles. Studies like the Edelman Trust Barometer reveal a global trust decline in businesses, emphasizing the need for authentic connections in an age of skepticism. LinkedIn’s data underscores the importance of relationship-building, with 84% of B2B decision-makers starting their buying process through referrals.
Moreover, personalization, a powerful tool in any marketer’s arsenal, is validated by surveys showing that 88% of marketers believe prospects and customers expect a personalized experience. Live events like Digital X play a pivotal role in this landscape, with 80% of marketers recognizing their critical importance, according to the Bizzabo Event Marketing Report. In essence, continuous learning and genuine interest in your target audience are not just buzzwords but proven keys to thriving in the international B2B arena.
After the standstill caused by the pandemic and the clear trend toward digital, our team felt it was great to connect with people in person again, turning Digital X’s motto “Be digital – stay human” into reality.
Remarkably, forging bonds with clients and business partners extended beyond the confines of the Digital X campus. Whether during train rides to and from the event, at nearby restaurants, or even during a spontaneous sightseeing adventure through Cologne’s historic city center, we found ourselves engaging with kindred spirits who had converged on the area for the event. So, it’s not exaggerated when we tell you that events like Digital X offer a unique bonding experience.
Building international connections at business events can open doors to new opportunities and collaborations. But even if you are the most eloquent speaker and outgoing person, connecting with people from all over the world requires some preparation. Here are our top tips to help you make the most of your event attendance:
- Research attendees: Review the attendees’ list before the event and identify individuals or companies from your target countries or regions. This will give you a clear focus on who to connect with.
- Use social media: Leverage platforms like LinkedIn to connect with potential contacts in advance. Send personalized connection requests and let them know you’ll attend the same event. It’s a great icebreaker.
- Language skills: If you’re attending an event in a foreign country, basic language skills can be invaluable. Even a few greetings and phrases in the local language can help break the ice and show your respect for their culture.
- Attend networking sessions: Most events have dedicated networking sessions or receptions. Attend these and actively engage with other attendees. Be approachable, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.
- Attend international sessions: Look for workshops focusing on international markets or global trends. These sessions often attract attendees with an international mindset.
- Exchange business cards: Have a stack of business cards ready, and collect cards from others. Make a quick note on the back of each card to remember key details about the person.
- Follow up promptly: Follow up with your new contacts promptly after the event. Send personalized emails or messages on LinkedIn, reminding them of your conversation and expressing your interest in continuing the discussion. Here are some more tips on how to follow up and nurture relationships.
- Attend industry-specific events: If possible, attend events specific to your industry. This will increase the chances of meeting professionals with shared interests and goals.
- Cultural sensitivity: Be aware of cultural differences and respect other cultures. Learn about their customs and etiquette, which can vary significantly from one country to another.
- Offer value: When reaching out or networking, focus on what value you can provide to your new connections. Offer to share insights, collaborate on projects, or provide assistance in their areas of interest.
- Attend post-event activities: Often, attendees gather for informal dinners, tours, or activities after the main event. These relaxed settings can provide excellent opportunities for deeper conversations and relationship-building.
Remember that building international connections takes time and effort. Be patient and genuine in your interactions, and prioritize building relationships over immediate business transactions.
2. Trade shows and conferences: Where the world converges
International trade shows and industry conferences are vibrant hubs where digital and human connections intersect beautifully. While digital interactions have become integral to our lives, they are complemented, and at times surpassed, by the profound impact of face-to-face meetings.
This assertion finds validation in the data. According to the Harvard Business Review, in-person meetings are 34 times more effective than email correspondence when it comes to fostering new business relationships. Properly planned and executed, trade shows and conferences offer a fertile ground for connecting with both existing and prospective clients and partners from across the globe.
As this year’s Digital X theme suggests, “Be digital. Stay human.” – we’ve all grown accustomed to the convenience of digital connections, but the enduring power of in-person meetings remains unmatched. Effective planning, making the most of your time during the event, and executing a well-thought-out follow-up strategy, as we discussed in our previous blog post, are the pillars upon which the full potential of such gatherings is realized.
Planning to attend in-person business events involves careful consideration and preparation to ensure a smooth and productive experience. Here are our top tips to help you make the most of your event attendance:
- Advance Scheduling: Mark your calendar well in advance. Business events typically plan ahead to ensure your schedule allows for your attendance.
- Budgeting: Assess the financial aspects. Calculate the costs of attending the event, including registration fees, travel expenses, accommodation, and meals. Create a budget and explore potential sources of funding or sponsorships if needed.
- Travel logistics: Book your travel arrangements early to secure favorable rates. This includes flights, train tickets, or other means of transportation.
- Accommodation: Research and book accommodation close to the event venue. This saves time and allows you to network more effectively, as we mentioned earlier.
- Event registration: Register for the event as soon as registration opens. Many events offer early-bird discounts. Securing your spot early also ensures you don’t miss out.
- Networking strategy: Plan your networking approach. Identify key attendees or speakers you’d like to connect with and research their backgrounds and interests. Prepare a brief introduction and conversation starters. We have some more tips on how to network right here for you.
- Schedule flexibility: Keep your schedule flexible. Events often have last-minute changes or opportunities you’ll want to take advantage of, so leave some room on your schedule.
- Tech and materials: Pack essential tech tools such as chargers, devices, and business cards. Also, bring any materials or presentations you might need for meetings or presentations.
By meticulously planning and considering these aspects, you can make attending in-person business events a successful and rewarding endeavor.
3. The role of social media: Bridging distances
We all know by now that physical presence isn’t always feasible – and that’s okay, thanks to social media as a potent and indispensable tool. It not only serves as the conduit for building and nurturing relationships but also acts as a versatile instrument for market research, keeping a pulse on local trends, connecting with key decision-makers, and disseminating influential content.
Statistics substantiate the pivotal role of social media. According to Hootsuite’s Global State of Digital 2021 report, there are 4.33 billion social media users worldwide, accounting for over half of the global population. This massive user base underscores the vast networking potential these platforms offer.
In this recent Straight to Business Podcast recording, sponsored by ReadyForSocial, Sebastian Foerster from Henkel explains the unique role of social media in bridging connections established at events. As we navigate the intricacies of cultivating international connections in B2B marketing, it becomes evident that a holistic approach is imperative. This approach harmoniously combines social and digital channels with live events, catalyzing global business growth. But social media is more than just a bridge in this context — it’s a dynamic tool for relationship-building, market understanding, trend-spotting, decision-maker engagement, and content dissemination. It also lets you keep your team members who could not attend the event up-to-date. These elements weave together seamlessly to unlock a world of possibilities.
Our experience at Digital X 2023
As an entirely remote and virtual team scattered across Europe and the US, our presence at Digital X was both exhilarating and enlightening. Meeting clients and partners in person added an invaluable dimension to our already strong online connections, cultivated through platforms like LinkedIn and frequent virtual meetings.
Let’s take a look at what we learned and how our team members shared their experiences with the world.
What we learned:
- The power of in-person meetings in strengthening bonds.
- The camaraderie flourishes when the team comes together.
- A wealth of knowledge is garnered from industry experts, from AI to the art of social selling.
The most important lesson, however, was that Digital X isn’t just an event; it was an embodiment of its motto, “Be digital. Stay human.” In an era where digital connections dominate, our team reveled in the opportunity to connect with people on a personal level, transcending screens and borders. It was about more than just business; it was about bonding. A unique experience was taking morning train rides with our virtual team, capturing the essence of togetherness, which we couldn’t resist sharing on social media for that extra bit of traction.
As Digital X is the event of one of our biggest clients, the ReadyForSocial team had a strong in-person presence at this year’s edition:
Milan Ruzicka, Co-Founder, COO Global, and CEO Europe at ReadyForSocial, summed up his experiences in this LinkedIn post:
Amber Jones, Director of Operations at ReadyForSocial, used the opportunity to re-share Milan’s post to round up her attendance at the event for her network.
Bettina Sterngold, Head of Business Development and Account Management Europe at ReadyForSocial, engaged with one of her client’s posts in a casual and fun way – showing that engagement with the content of other’s can be as simple as that sometimes.
Kathrin Wollin, Account Director at ReadyForSocial, shared her personal highlights with her network.
Pamela Palos, Account Manager at ReadyForSocial, offers another excellent example of a LinkedIn post rounding up an important event such as Digital X 2023.
The perfect blend of online and offline
Reflecting on these takeaways reminds us that building international connections requires a dynamic blend of online and offline interactions. Digital X served as a testament to the boundless opportunities that arise when we bridge the gap between the two worlds.
As we conclude this chapter of our Digital X journey, we look forward to the future, where new horizons of connection and collaboration await. Let’s continue cultivating these international bonds until we meet again at next year’s Digital X or its digital realm, embracing the spirit of ‘Be digital – stay human.’