Nowadays, matchmaking at exhibitions and face-2-face events is similar to the world of dating. As many single people are time-poor, they are trusting their personal lives to be arranged in the fast and furious world of online dating tools.
The business world is also a burden on our personal lives and time commitments. So it is no surprise to see the tools are similar to dating apps in the quest to connect people at events.
According to Stephen Nold, Executive Board Member of TeccSociety, “Many matchmaking/networking apps have evolved into a formal definition called relationship marketing which can involve a multitude of approaches as they seek to acquire new attendees through current community connections. ”
Just like online dating, event matchmaking technology is overwhelmed with a large number of mobile applications. Let’s examine mobile app choices and traverse the matchmaking landscape to make a prediction on where we could be heading.
Matchmaking currently falls into two categories:
1. Speed dating – the Tinder model
Imagine the ability to scan through hundreds of like-minded professionals simply by “swiping” left or right to either decline or accept a meeting. Yes, it’s quick and very easy, but the matches are based on a superficial interest-to-interest model. Nold warns, “Some apps require very little commonality between attendees and their connections. This Tinder approach to find new attendees requires a large number of connections and can damage the brand as prospects are turned off with the lack of relevancy to their own interests.”
Alternatively, “speed networking” can take place without an app but instead in a physical “moving table” basis as IQPC uses in their events. According to Kim Jobson, Head of Operations, IQPC launched their Speed Networking to encourage delegates to get to know each other. Jobson explains, “The audience lines up facing each other and they have two minutes to introduce themselves, what they do and what they are trying to get out of the event. After the two minutes we ring a bell and one side will shift down one spot (while the other side stays still) and the two minute introductions start again. We then proceed into the first morning tea and conversations can continue. This timing is critical so delegates can meet on the first morning and promote networking discussions, it is also invaluable for sponsors to get involved and meet contacts that might otherwise be apprehensive to walk up to their stand.”
Jobson continues, “After an inevitable nervous start most times, once delegates get the hang of it, they love it. We get a lot of great feedback from the audience and sponsors, whilst although admittedly always noisy, it’s a great way for people to meet early on in the event.”
Both examples above are easy and can be fun, but you rely on a casual match. Alternatively, deeper matches will take you into the second category:
2. Interest to interest matching – the eHarmony model
These connections are based on richer and deeper matches by including more information like interests from social network profiles, and overlaying this intelligence with an algorithm that looks at other interests from like-minded professionals (think Amazon’s “other buyers who bought this were also interested in” model). Of course, more shared profile traits predicts better matches and better outcomes.
“These comparison apps create a definition of prospect profiles and even allow customers to provide input on who might be a good candidate to invite to the event. These tools tend to acquire long term relationships and support a positive approach to new attendee acquisition,” says Nold.
LinkedIn co-founder Eric Ly, has launched Presdo, a matchmaking platform specifically for events. He reflects, “As a geek, I remember ‘search engines’ before Google came around. Yes, they did exist! Many were around, and I won’t name them because you have probably never heard of them. They weren’t very good at finding what people wanted. They were complicated and slow to use and didn’t return any results for many queries. Google came along and showed us all that was possible. Google was the first search engine that returned results people found useful, and they made it so easy to use that everybody could approach it.”
According to Ly, “There are a lot of parallels between search engines and matchmaking. Events are compelled to offer some type of solution, but do today’s matchmaking tools generate ‘results’, which should really be measured in ROI, that exhibitors, attendees and organizers find useful?”
This unsettling question compels me to believe that a third, new category should combine the algorithm search with a real-world matchmaker to create even richer connections:
3. A New Category: Personal introductions – the old fashioned matchmaking model (think Fiddler on the Roof)
Even if you have deep algorithms finding the perfect match, there’s no guarantee that the attendee will have the time to meet during the event. Perhaps a ‘concierge’ service that physically calls the select few of the most suitably matched attendees & exhibitors, creates the appointment and even accompanies them to the meeting on the show floor, could deliver exponential ROI.
Info Salons Group are experimenting with this in our latest WeChat platform application where we introduce Chinese buyers to applicable exhibitors at shows held internationally in Europe, the USA, etc., for our organizer clientele.
Where will the future of matchmaking take us?
Ly predicts, “We see a time when matchmaking will be essential at events, and it will be so accessible that everybody will depend on it. What made Google so good? It was easy, really. They gathered a lot of data – the Internet – and combined it with good algorithms to find you the things you were looking for. They kept gathering more data and kept improving the algorithms to give you better results. Does this example apply somewhere else? If you look at events, then you realize the future of matchmaking for events.”
Just as with the story of Fiddler on the Roof, the event industry is starting to see that traditions are changing. Old traditions are beginning to crumble – matchmaking is shifting to provide better results for attendees and exhibitors.
“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match” epitomizes the more traditional approach for finding a spouse that the daughters in Fiddler on The Roof question. As time passes, they begin to think for themselves and change the tradition.
Wherever, the world of matchmaking takes us, it will certainly be another step forward in keeping our events relevant as attendees and exhibitors become more involved in the final results to find the perfect match.
Jo-Anne Kelleway is CEO of Info Salons Group. Opinions are her own. She can be reached at Joanne.Kelleway@infosalons.com.au.