PiPOV Virtual Networking: Tips for Creating Meaningful Connections

2020 inspired a new wave of virtual-only events before marketers really had time to plan accordingly. In this Pi Point of View, Digital Pi CMO Jeff Coveney asks B2B marketing leaders for their advice on creating meaningful connections in a virtual world. He is joined by Adam Mincham, VP, Executive Global Director, Merkle B2B Group; Marne Reed, Chief Evangelist, Brand Experiences, PFL; Chris Messina, Vice President of Alliances & Partners, LeanData, and Colby Cavanaugh, VP of Product Marketing, Integrate.


Jeff Coveney: How do you manage virtual networking? Everyone’s tired of being online, missing events. So how do you keep the energy up and meet people? Check it out.

Jeff Coveney: How is that going to work? We’re not having drinks in the bar, we’re not going to parties, we’re not talking in the elevator. How is networking happening?

Marne Reed: Sad, very sad.

Adam Mincham: I think they’re going to try, right? I mean, we’re all trying as much as we can. There’s the brain dates that are being done, which I think are interesting, when there’s going to be attendees, going to have the opportunity to talk about general topics or specific work-related topics. I’m a little bit skeptical, to be honest. I mean, it’s hard to really network in these environments. I think you can educate, you can learn, you can spend a bit of time, but real networking I think is a challenge. I’m a little bit of a skeptic and looking forward to getting back in front of people, as I mentioned earlier, but brain dates is I think a good, it’s a good idea and I’ll be attending a few of those myself.

Marne Reed: Well, I think that one of the things that we’re seeing both at PFL and then with our customers is how do you actually bring that real life experience to a person that can’t actually show up in the physical environment? So I’ve seen our customers do it well, where they’re sending out a wine tasting kit to a group of VIP customers and really having that moment of, and infusing a little bit of fun and joy back into people’s lives. And there is nothing like sharing a cocktail together. It listens lips and you get to know people a little bit better, but you bring some great people together and actually just give them an experience in the real world by sending them a wine tasting kit or cooking classes that you can do together. So there’s options there, but I agree Adam, it’s not as good.

Chris Messina: With both of you. I’m looking forward to getting back to in-person events and Barney, to your point. The reason that I love this group so much is because we have shared enough cocktails where we’ve shared some personal stories with one another. But as we’ve tried to move into this environment, one of the biggest things that is a hindrance to virtual networking is the fact that we have a million distractions sitting in front of us. You don’t get to see everything that’s right behind my screen right now, but there are dozens of things in front of me that could distract them. My son’s downstairs doing virtual school, he could have something that he needs to do. My dogs could start barking out the window. So how do we create these experiences? And I think PFL and companies like that are doing a good job of creating more virtual experiences rather than just a two-dimensional virtual networking thing. So I’ll be curious to see what they do at the summit.

Adam Mincham: Going to get a little off-script here, but I think what Marne is talking about is it’s really cool. And I kind of attributed it to like the vinyl scenario, right? I had my dad’s vinyl sent to me from the UK a couple of years back. And as I went through those vinyls from the sixties and the seventies, they were thick, the covers were intricate and the beautiful artwork. And everything was amazing about it, the experience of them is great. And as you start getting to the ones in the eighties and the nineties, the vinyl got thin and cheap and the colors and everything was just overproduced.

Adam Mincham: And then you fast forward to now with vinyl coming back again is they’ve got thick and the quality’s gotten, everything’s coming back, the appearance is coming back and vinyl. And that’s why I think vinyl is become popular again. And we have opportunities to do that everywhere. We can do it with direct mail, we can do it with our event. They got too big, they got too brash, they got too, and I think that there’s an opportunity to bring some of that quality back. So I’m going to go with the vinyl route on this one.

Jeff Coveney: If you have comments or thoughts about where you think virtual networking is heading, send us a line at hello@digitalpi.com. And personally, I can’t wait to see everyone in person at the next event.

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