By Kait Shea
A decade ago, swapping business cards or meeting up for a quick drink at happy hour was considered “networking” at b-to-b conferences. Today, those supplementary (and let’s face it, shallow) interactions have been replaced by purposeful exercises with an experiential component that allow for collaborative—and valuable—conversations. Leading the way in these more meaningful exchanges is e180’s Braindates, a platform that arranges one-on-one meetups for conference attendees based on their shared interests. If that sounds right up your alley, you’re in luck. Braindates will make its debut (in poolside cabanas, no less) at this year’s Experiential Marketing Summit, May 14-16, at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Following is a closer look at Braindates, and four other ways marketers are cultivating purposeful attendee connections at b-to-b events.
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At its core, Braindates is a platform that gives attendees an opportunity to share their experiences with others, and in turn, learn from their fellow participants. These collaborative learning sessions, which typically last 30-45 minutes, allow attendees to build more relevant networks by exchanging knowledge around topics they’re mutually interested in. Rather than navigating a sea of conference attendees in hopes of connecting with the right people, Braindates participants are able to avoid the guesswork and dive straight into high-impact conversations that they suggest and schedule themselves or join through an online and in-app platform. The interactions take place in dedicated “Braindates Lounges,” away from the distractions of the show floor.
One way to get b-to-b attendees to open up and have more meaningful conversations is to pull them out of their physical comfort zones as a means of removing them from their mental comfort zones. Organizers of C2 Montréal take the approach with “Sky Labs,” small group brainstorming sessions that are held in chairs suspended 30 feet in the air. The strategy is the result of a study that shows there is a direct correlation between risk tolerance and creativity. What’s more, the remote setting gives attendees the freedom to completely focus on the task at hand: engaging in collaborative conversation to make valuable connections.
Today’s b-to-b events are as much about learning from the presenters as they are about learning from fellow attendees, a concept that the PPA Connect Live conference took a cue from. Following a keynote speech, rather than offering a coffee break or sending attendees off to another session, PPA organizers asked attendees to split into groups and choose a roundtable or “Huddle” to participate in, each of which were held in the venue’s conference rooms. Participants in each group could choose from a list of pre-curated topics to dive into, while a “Huddle Host” facilitated the conversation. The roundtables rotated every half hour, giving partakers a chance to interact with and learn from a host of their fellow attendees in an intimate yet collaborative setting.