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It is undeniable that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on how we do business. In light of these changes, we must ask ‘are business trips a thing of the past?’.
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For the past year, travel, for business and pleasure alike, has been grounded in a bid to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. These restrictions have been a hard hit to the travel industry, which is said to have lost £508 billion in revenue.

Due to the cancellation of all business travel from March 2020, companies had to rethink their approach to business meetings. There are several platforms that have enabled businesses to shift from in-person meetings to virtual, including Skype for business, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom. These platforms have allowed businesses to continue building rapport with their clients, despite the distance between them. In a normal face to face meeting, rapport is built from the moment we greet the client through the traditional handshake and personal chat on the way to the meeting room. Rapport is key when it comes to business and success, we need to have that harmonious understanding with our peers to develop a true connection, and this doesn’t just end with clients. The importance of rapport and connection is critical for employees as well, and companies have been investing in training and other events for their staff to allow them to make valuable connections online.

Online rapport can be built through various methods, including creating time at the beginning of the meeting to have a general chat and ending the meeting on a personal note. It is also important to remember the social cues as well, such as eye contact being made to the camera, changing the tone of voice depending on the setting of the meeting, and also keeping the energy up throughout the meeting. Using these methods have now become the norm for a number of businesses, but the real question is, will they return to the traditional business trips and meetings post-pandemic?

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Although Northern Ireland is well under way with its vaccine rollout, there is still some uncertainty around how quickly the economy will recover, and how soon countries will lift their border restrictions to allow business travel. In Northern Ireland business trips are allowed to the UK and Ireland, but only if they are deemed essential. When we consider the uncertainty and couple this with the cost savings to the company as well as the environmental benefit of reducing the company’s carbon footprint, it is believed that there will remain a demand for online platforms to be used in parallel with the traditional face-to-face meeting for some time to come.