It’s no secret that B2B events are considered prime opportunities for business networking. According to the survey “Convention 2020 – The Future of Exhibitions, Meetings and Events,” 76% of people agree that the quality of networking is the top reason to attend events in 2020.
However, in recent years, there’s been pushback from many professionals who claim they’re not getting their time and money’s worth when joining traditional B2B events. As a Guardian story notes, a networking-oriented event is only as useful as the contacts you’re getting from it.
Unfortunately, attendees have very little control over their outcomes with B2B events organized by others, hence the uncertainty over whether they’ll connect with the people who would be useful to meet.
And then of course, there’s the problem of forcing people who hate small talk into conferences. Most B2B events demand that attendees be outgoing, talkative, and sociable—things most introverts aren’t.
A guide to networking as an introvert published on Harvard Business Review notes that one way to get around this problem is to look up other people attending the event in advance.
The problem is that while many organizers of networking-oriented events are excellent at getting attendees in the same room, they fail to provide all parties with enough information so they can learn about each other in advance and have productive conversations.
Matchmaking as an alternative to traditional events
Taking a matchmaker’s approach to organizing B2B events fixes these problems.
Matchmaking events revolve around efficient and goal-oriented networking, where attendees are given the tools and paths to have meaningful conversations with one another.
Think of it as traditional matchmaking for dating, but in a business context. When you want to introduce two people to one another, you do so based on the things you think make them compatible—shared interests, similar childhoods, and maybe even similar objectives. As the matchmaker, you play an active role in getting the two acquainted with each other before they actually meet.
These principles also go into play at matchmaking events. Instead of having silly ice breakers and gimmicks in the hopes of getting people to warm up to each other, matchmaking focuses on defining clear guidelines for interaction and helping each attendee maximize their event experience depending on their objectives, whether it’s to scout investors, meet potential hires, or connect with industry thought leaders.
To ensure your attendees make real and valuable connections at your events, you have to think like a matchmaker. Here’s how.
How to take a matchmaker’s approach to B2B events
Know your event audience
First things first, do you know who your audience is?
If you’ve organized other events in the past, look at the data about your attendees, including basic demographics such as age, gender, occupation, and income level. You should also look at things like industry background and objectives for attending your event.
First time organizing an event? Go ahead and look at your competitors. A quick audit of their social media activity should reveal who’s going to their events and engaging with their content.
Once you know who your audience is, it becomes easier to understand what they want from your event in advance. Many organizers and event networking platforms ignore this step, settling only for fundamental data like industry, sector, and funding stage.
At Toasty, we take a more granular approach by identifying each attendee’s current event objectives. Our software allows organizers to ask attendees questions such as “What are your most pressing conference objectives?” and “What do you hope to see and at this event?”
This brings us to the next step.
Find out what they’re looking for
As mentioned earlier, different people have different networking objectives at events, since networking is a broad term that could mean any number of things.
At Toasty, we recommend replacing casual networking activities with a business matchmaking program to increase the chance your attendees find meaningful business connections at your events.
As an organizer, it’s your job to look at your event as something that’s more than just a mixing bowl of different professionals looking to get acquainted with each other.
Common networking-related objectives for joining B2B events include:
- Signing up a new client
- Meeting potential employers
- Setting meetings and/or pitches with potential investors
- Fielding applications from job candidates
Our Toasty matchmaking platform does the heavy lifting of asking attendees questions such as what their networking objectives and who they prefer to meet at your event, freeing up your time to focus on more strategic tasks.
Allow attendees to get familiar with their matches
Once you’ve identified your attendees’ background information and conference objectives, you can then proceed to recommend matches well before the day of your event.
Instead of leaving the outcomes of meetings to chance, engaging your attendees in advance allows you to lay the crucial groundwork that sets each meeting up for success. For example, you can provide attendees with a profile of their recommended matches, which will give them an overview of what to expect when talking to them.
Apart from a person’s general profile, you can also provide attendees with a few suggested talking points with their matches, such as:
- Current projects they’re working on (for startup founders)
- Interesting experiences at their latest/current job (for job seekers and employers)
- Interesting events in college (for matches based on education)
- Trending industry topics and discussions
One thing to remember is that these talking points don’t necessarily have to involve talking shop. Even something like a shared love of football can help break the ice, helping less outgoing attendees feel more comfortable when talking to strangers.
Watch as they set the date
If everything goes according to plan, your attendees should be making self-arranged meetings with some (if not all) of their matches at your event. But just in case they don’t, be sure to follow-up with them.
An attendee may not find your recommended matches relevant, their immediate goals may have suddenly changed, or they may not be comfortable with the talking points. Whatever the case, following up with attendees who can’t make self-arranged meetings ensures they get to meet their networking objectives and find value in your event.
Follow through after their meeting
Finally, be sure to follow through after the conference to ensure all your attendees walk away happy and content with the event experience. This is where many B2B event organizers fall short.
We know, you’re probably exhausted and just want to get some well-deserved rest. However, putting in that extra effort after the conference is over will place you at the front of your attendees’ minds in the future.
Ask your attendees what kind of conversations they had with their matches and whether their matches were successful. Did they lead to further meetings outside their event? For job seekers, were they able to secure job interviews? For entrepreneurs, how many pitch meetings did they have at your event?
By embracing your role as a matchmaker, your events become tried and proven places for attendees to have meaningful and productive conversations. More importantly, people will know you had a hand in making this happen.
From here, it’s simply a matter of following the same series of steps for all your attendees. Rinse and repeat.
B2B matchmaking is the future of B2B events
B2B matchmaking isn’t exactly a new way of thinking about events. If anything, it provides the tactical steps to make networking-oriented events more effective.
Think of it this way. Traditional B2B networking events are usually about getting people in a room and leaving them to their own devices. Matchmaking, on the other hand, is giving those same people the tools and directions to engage with each other effectively.
As more professionals and entrepreneurs realize that simply being at an event isn’t enough to justify its cost, organizers will have to go to greater lengths to prove the value of their events. Matchmaking ensures that your attendees will have concrete outcomes, allowing them to schedule meetings with people they choose to engage with.