Freerk Faber; CEO, World Trade Center Twente

Every year, World Trade Center Twente organizes “World Trade Day," where representatives of foreign embassies in the Netherlands are invited to participate in a matchmaking program with companies from the region. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition cannot take place. We have looked for tools and ideas to stay engaged despite our event’s cancelation, and concluded that it was a good alternative to organize a series of webinars titled “GO4Export – The Look Ahead.” 

In this webinar series, we used different platforms such as Zoom (TM), Livestorm (TM) and Microsoft Teams (TM). All of these platforms allow participants to ask questions via the chat tool, and, in particular, Livestorm (TM) has a poll function as well. At the beginning of all webinar sessions we mentioned that, per GDRP guidelines, all webinars are recorded, so we can distribute them afterwards to participants and make them available for viewing at a later time. Our first webinar featured Dutch trendwatcher Adjiedj Bakas, who discussed potential trends in the global economy post-COVID-19. Bakas commented on the opportunities that could open up following the pandemic and highlighted the importance of moving production capacity closer to home, or creating shorter supply chains. He also noted that technological developments are gaining momentum during the pandemic, and creative and innovative companies — including Demcon, Hemabo, MiniValves, and Micronit — are growing stronger despite the challenges faced. 

The rest of the webinars in the series focused on opening to and connecting with different markets. For example, some webinars tackled the conversation of doing business with neighboring countries, such as Belgium, Germany, and the U.K. WTC Twente also hosted a webinar about opportunities for Netherlands-based companies in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. This event included presentations from entrepreneurs and the Head of Economic Affairs of the Dutch Embassy in South Africa.

Later this year, we’re hosting our second annual “Techmed Event” with the University of Twente via the Jublia (TM) platform. Due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, instead of hosting a two-day, in-person event, we decided to host the event digitally and spread the event over a longer period of time with “Meet the Experts” sessions starting in August, and a seminar and matchmaking event on October 28 and 29. 

The advantage of these webinars is the ability to reach a greater, global audience and quickly share information with companies. However, while these webinars bridge the gap of communicating and connecting with various communities, and are a great alternative given the current circumstance, our members still yearn for the informal contact and networking opportunities provided by attending an in-person event. And we are looking forward to the moment when we can physically meet again. 

Photo caption: WTC Twente hosted a webinar titled “Trade Possibilities in Sub-Sahara Africa” featuring guest speakers Regina Nieuwmeijer, André Loozekoot, and Joop van der Vinne; and hosts Freerk Faber, Corinne Abbas, Floris Koning, and Judith van den Bovekamp.

Photo credit: WTC Twente