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Was that handshake government approved? Smiles replace masks as face-to-face business networking returns in Dundee

“I looked on the email for the login details and then realised I’d have to get in the car.”

I could easily understand the confusion of a business owner as we chatted at the first indoor face-to-face business networking event in Dundee for almost 18 months.

Recent tech arrival Zappaty attracted around 50 people to a networking event at Dundee One today.

On one hand, it was certainly refreshing to speak in person after countless hours staring at a screen on Teams and Zoom.

On the other, it was a bit disconcerting sharing a room with 50 non-family members again. Was the handshake I’ve just accepted government approved, I wondered?

Smiles replace masks at Dundee networking event

Just 20 seconds into my visit, the first comment was made about the strangeness of the occasion – a line about sharing a lift with a stranger.

Thoughts that it might be hard to recognise people behind masks were quickly disregarded as it was clear this was a mask free event.

Yes, people were smiling, laughing, nodding and introducing each other.

Permitted within the latest rules, it is another small step towards the return of normality.

But, I’ve got to admit, as someone who has worked from home for the past 524 days, it took a while for my brain to reset.

Networking in Dundee.

I half expected police to flood in and break up the meeting like a prohibition drinking den in a Hollywood film.

The fact it was occurring at the same time Nicola Sturgeon wasn’t ruling out a Scottish circuit breaker also didn’t escape my attention.

But around the room there were no worried looks, only smiles.

A well-dressed man confided his main concern wasn’t Covid but fitting into his suit trousers. I could relate to that.

‘Interaction is so important’

The lunch event – no buffet, sealed Tesco sandwiches and bottled water – was on the theme of tech in Dundee.

I asked Zappaty’s marketing officer Spencer Buchan – why did you feel the need to hold the event in person?

“I believe it’s much easier to do business face-to-face – you can communicate better than in a virtual world,” he said.

Attendees at the Dundee networking event.
Attendees at the Dundee networking event.

“It’s the interaction element that’s so important.

“We are so happy that almost 50 people attended.  I think it shows the power of people wanting to get out and communicate in a different way than Zoom.”

That urge for human interaction was clear. Attendees stayed well beyond the end of speeches from Zappaty, Zudu’s James Buchan and Doug Young from Dundee City Council.

Concerns of overstepping comfort zone

Elaine Fleming, a director at Ginger PR, said it was a joy seeing “people’s expressions, body language and the natural flow of conversation”.

She said the impulse to shake hands when being introduced was strong.

“That muscle memory doesn’t take heed of a pandemic,” she laughed.

Elaine Fleming of Ginger PR at the Dundee networking event.
Elaine Fleming of Ginger PR at the Dundee networking event.

“It felt really natural to shake hands again.

“But the awkwardness of wondering if you are overstepping someone’s comfort zone is very real.

“It also takes a moment to realise if you don’t know someone’s name, you have to remember it when you’re introduced – it’s not on a screen.”

I really enjoyed catching up with people and hearing speeches on the latest tech developments in Dundee.

The benefits of face-to-face communication are clear.

Was I truly comfortable and ready to put my Covid concerns aside? Not quite yet.

Back in my car my hands were sanitised to within an inch of their life and I’ll be taking a lateral flow test tonight.

But, if restrictions allow, I’ll also be attending the next one.

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