African community

Just because the physical African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa conference couldn’t take place in May due to COVID-19, didn’t mean potential attendees couldn’t still meet up in the virtual world to keep communication lines open during a time of uncertainty.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 2-2020.
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Travel restrictions may have rescheduled the conference from its regular May slot to November, but loyal attendees still took up the opportunity to attend through an online platform, the Virtual AUW. “There was still a business imperative to connect, engage and create an opportunity to learn between peers and regions,” said Event Director Evan Schiff.

“That’s why we decided to host the digital version. There was and is a need for people to engage and we take our responsibility as a platform for the industry very seriously. That’s why we took the decision to host a virtual conference – we still see that need for the industry to learn and engage, especially when normal business has been interrupted.”

Schiff believes that now is actually a perfect time for Clarion Events Africa to step into the digital world as the continent has enough digital infrastructure to make webinars easily accessible: “Internet data availability and speeds are actually fine on the continent for people to engage in these sorts of meetings.”

Taking its cue from a global Clarion Events webinar series in April, which concentrated on how utilities around the world were keeping the lights on amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Virtual AUW dealt with some of the immediate concerns of the power, energy and water sectors and provided an opportunity for attendees to make contact with each other.

“By adding the AI-led Matchmaking system we still have the ability to provide targeted matching to make really sure attendees and participants of the virtual event have the opportunity to engage directly with each other,” said Schiff.

Attendees who registered to attend the webinars answered questions about the type of work they do, what kind of people they would want to meet and what services they needed. An AI-driven algorithm ranked and scored answers to make relevant matches and suggest potentially interesting people to meet in a video call, if that was what both parties agreed to.

“The software tools we have at Clarion Events allows us to do this to allow for business and connections to take place. It leverages off the connections we have built over 20 years of operating in the industry to bring relevant and timeous content, speakers and learning to the market. We see the need for this to take place – this is us answering the needs of industry,” said Schiff.

This new digital engagement comes about not only because Africa’s digital infrastructure can now support this kind of engagement, but also because the way has been smoothed by Clarion Events Africa’s media arm in the form of trade publications (ESI Africa, Smart Energy International, Mining Review Africa, and Power Engineering International), which have embraced digital and key event partnerships to create 360-degree live visibility and accessibility.

Ross Hastie, Group Director Media, Clarion Events Africa, explains that at a time when many media houses are struggling to keep traditional publishing business models viable, Clarion Events Africa has differentiated itself by being part of the industry and sourcing content by the industry, for the industry it serves in the energy, power and mining sector. “As publishers we have the unique opportunity to distribute content to the audiences attending our events – to have an entire industry community under one roof is a marketer’s dream.”

But, these conversations don’t stop at the end of the events. “We’re about to continue the engagement for the other 362 days of the year. This way we offer a seamlessly connected and holistic solution to clients by offering webinars, videos, interviews and social media campaigns along with the flagship print publications. “A major part of our value proposition is to give our clients and partners access to Clarion’s truly global network of expertise. This enables us, while retaining local expertise, to harness the influence and competence of Clarion’s worldwide reach,” said Hastie. ESI

Download the Virtual AUW recordings at www.esi-africa.com/webinars and register to attend the in-real-life event in November at www.african-utility-week.com