TRENDING: From social distancing to social interaction

by Louise Burgers. Are we all too feral for social interaction after over a year of forced lockdown isolation and social distancing?

by Louise Burgers. Are we all too feral for social interaction after over a year of forced lockdown isolation and social distancing? Can we actually network while wearing masks – which is a bit like a trying to talk underwater in a foreign language to space aliens who have never seen a human before, but are trying hard to maintain first contact protocols. I received my first live and in person media event invitations in more than a year in the last few weeks and decided to accept two, because I need to ‘people’.

First up, what to wear? I have not worn ‘work clothes’ much in the past year. Jewellery and make up is rendered redundant with masks. My lockdown outfits have been uniformly black or grey sweats or lurid lycra workout pants. No point in anything else when your colleagues are kids, cats and dogs, and your office shifts between various rooms in the house for variety (and/or peace and quiet). Despite the brain fog that comes from fighting the tedium of these Groundhog days, I managed to remember the olden days when I actually wore nice things. Although heels were out of the question.

I chose my masks with a smile painted on and protective Perspex face shield because this would be more people than I’ve seen in a while, including the queue at Tops after hard lockdowns. I feel a bit like a superhero in my futuristic shield. If a sword was acceptable attire, I would carry one too. Think we can start a trend?

The halcyon Zoom days

Last year, when events were out of the question and people scurried away in Pick n Pay if you so much as looked in their direction, there were a few clients who embraced the Cult of Zoom wholeheartedly and there were many (so many) online conferences every week, until the novelty wore off and we realised that so many hours in front of the computer actually drained our energy, albeit saving us time in traffic. The best part of it all was the incredible access to international events and global thought leaders to help us through the panic in the early days of lockdown where we were still like stupefied bunnies in the face of this global tragedy.

The most memorable online events from brands that did it right, have been a wine tasting online with La Motte wines; and breakfasts with They were memorable because the brands took the time to make it memorable. We didn’t just get an email link to dial in, we got a proper invite. Once the date was set, and we had accepted, we were asked for our address. La Motte delivered a half dozen bottles of its best La Motte and Leopard’s Leap red and white wines, including its Leopard’s Leap Natura De-alcoholised wine, ahead of the wine tasting with their expert team and Microsoft, which sponsored the media event.

Breakfast at home

OneDayOnly have launched a regular ecommerce briefing for the media, delivering a gourmet breakfast on the morning of each presentation – no mean feat when we are scattered across the country and not all in urban areas. It was delightful and so well organised. And, of course, the content was great in both cases. La Motte has realised that if they want to keep brand awareness in their international markets when travel is restricted, they need to add private online wine tastings to their wine tourism repertoire, specialist newsletters and the like. As a niche deals site, OneDayOnly needs to constantly market itself – and in this case, as an authority on all things ecommerce. Plus, its team are fun and the stats they provide are interesting and feed into what people are buying online and the current mood of consumers.

Out of all the online media events and conferences I’ve attended in the past year, the ones that have stood out are where the presenters have mastered their online presenting skills and moved seamlessly between their slides, videos and speaking or interviewing. Media training and presenting skills will help, but it is important to get the lighting and positioning of electronic devices right too; as well as background if you want to come across as professional and not as a politician. Have you noticed how most politicians have no idea how to speak into a camera, without a live audience? They seem blurry and stilted in their communication. Not to mention all those who have literally, been caught with their pants down in the last year!

Authentic presentations

Mostly, what works with online events is authenticity. Like at any other presentation. Talk about your subject with passion and belief and sincerity – and make sure your screen shows your whole face, not just from the nose up! As for the real time events I attended? I think I’ll stick with online for now. Hardly anyone spoke or ate the food; it is hard to hear anyone with a mask on; and there is no networking. And 50% of the reason you go to an event, is to network, to meet new people and let new clients get to know you, to establish a connection. It’s not possible wearing masks. If you can do outdoors with adequate spacing, this is still the best option, so people can remove their masks to eat and talk and feel safe.

When it comes to food – no one is going to do a buffet or finger food on a tray in a very long time. Food should be served and packaged in individual portions, preferably closed containers. Please give me my snack box that I can take outside and eat away from anyone not wearing their mask properly!

But I commend the clients which made an effort at the two launches I attended in the last couple of months. It is important to start connecting again, but my advice to all events organisers and brands wanting events, is to always, where possible, provide an online option for those who can’t be there or don’t want to venture out yet, to dial in. And if you want to stand out, do a product drop ahead of time, or afterwards. Or delight by inserting a live performance – a comedian or musicians or dancers – both for your online audience and at a live event. We are starved for the arts and many artists are in fact starving. The best part about the launch of the new Cresta Grand Hotel in Cape Town recently, was the Marimba band. It was just wonderful to hear them live and IRL.


Main image credit: Marimba band at Cresta Grand Hotel, Cape Town.



Louise Burgers is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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