Distributors are also embracing virtual platforms for hosting and attending industry events — the benefits of which include reduced travel times and expenses, more efficient meetings and the ability to reach a wider audience.

“The best way we can use these virtual platforms for industry events is to try and recreate the in-person feel that we’re used to,” says Clark. “If you’re an attendee, look for a chance to ask questions and interact. If you’re a presenter, engage with your audience, otherwise it’s easy for them to check out.”

Brame Specialty Company is planning its first virtual sales meeting and trade show for approximately 500 attendees. According to Stanfield, the event has been in the making for months.

“Start your planning early,” he says, “and if you’re hosting a meeting, make sure that you look presentable, you’re on time and you’re prepared.”

Indeed, distributors should practice using their virtual platform of choice and rehearse their role — whether it’s hosting an event, conducting an interview or training an employee. When Kelsan Inc. implemented Microsoft Teams, the distributor mandated that its employees pair up with a colleague to practice scheduling and presenting video meetings.

“You can still communicate virtually as well as you can in person if you practice and you’re prepared,” says Clark. “You have to get comfortable with that uncomfortable feeling by doing it.”

Finally, whether hosting a video call or attending one, learn to accept the inevitable challenges and possible interruptions that arise with this form of communication.

“You’re going to run into issues with technology — and we’re all living our lives, so you’re going to see animals and kids,” says Stanfield. “It’s a glimpse into people’s lives in a work environment — and that can be fun. So you have to get used to potential disruptions and learn to adapt to them.”

Kassandra Kania is a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is a frequent contributor to Sanitary Maintenance.

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