1-to-1 Meetings

Is AI Matching at Events a Hoax?

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To some event organizers, “AI Matching” sounds like a dream come true. Let your attendees register for your event, get them to answer a few choice questions, and hey presto, some clever machine can tell them who they should be meeting. If event attendees’ meetings do not yield fruit, blame it on the machine.

But is life really that simple? First, does the smart-arsed computer know that you and Joe used to work together and were glad to see the back of each other? Does it know that Carol is a family friend, and you can just pick up the phone and call her at will? Does it know that Fred registered for the event as a visitor instead of as an exhibitor and that he is a competitor of yours and not a potential client? Or that you and Penny spoke last week and have no need to meet again for a while? Or that Bill and you already do business, but you are looking for an alternative supplier? The number of things computers do not yet know about us is thankfully still rather large.

Where’s the AI?

Second, is there any AI involved, anyway? AI implies the machine learns. Amazon uses AI. It looks at what you buy. It looks at people who bought similar products and suggests other things they bought too. How often do you take up Amazon’s suggestions? If you are like me, then the answer is rarely. Invariably I am offered products that are substitutes for ones I have already purchased or supplementary items in which I have little interest.

Can the same hit-and-miss machine learning principles be applied to one-to-one meetings at events? Possibly, but why bother? All you need are a few well-crafted questions to establish your event attendees’ areas of interest, products and services sought or supplied, regions of operation, etc. With a couple of algorithms, the software can present attendees with a list of potential meeting partners whose profiles complement their own.

Most companies who offer one-to-one meetings do just that. The “AI Matching” slogan is marketing gloss. Unlike our competitors, we do not try to persuade event organizers that there is any magic involved. What we can offer, not readily available elsewhere, is the ability for attendees to build ordered lists of preferred meeting partners. Armed with this information and matching compatibility scores derived from profiles, the event organizer is just a few mouse-clicks away from creating optimal itineraries for their attendees. That is what we already do for many of our clients.

Alternatively, if the organizer does not wish to be involved in the matching process, we can let attendees quickly identify the most suitable meeting partners and arrange meetings among themselves.

Either way, there is no AI involved. We take great comfort in knowing that there is still room for conscientious event organizers to create satisfactory outcomes for their attendees. Perhaps we should call the process MAHI*.


* Machine Assisted Human Intelligence

Graham SimonIs AI Matching at Events a Hoax?
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1-to-1 Meetings at Events with No Boundaries

People attend business events primarily for two reasons. First, for content: attendees come to hear informed speakers or partake in a panel discussion where different perspectives are presented. Second, for networking: with peers, potential customers and suppliers or with new business partners. The networking might take place in small discussion groups or through 1-to-1 meetings.

While COVID-19 has changed the world and event industry in so many ways, two facts of life remain. People will still want to attend events and for both content and networking. For business events, the overwhelming proportion of the costs will still be borne by the suppliers.

What will change in the post-COVID world, however, is the shape that events take. Pre-COVID, most events were in-person. Today, almost all events are happening virtually. Once the event industry starts open up again, it is reasonable to assume that most business events will be hybrid events.

Hybrid Events are the Future

To understand hybrid events, it is important to view them from the perspective of both content and networking. Hybrid content has been happening for many years. I’m sure most of us will have seen a TED talk at some time. Presentations to a live audience are broadcast live to remote viewers, or they are recorded and broadcast later. With the advent of fast internet, live-streaming has supplanted TV broadcast, but for the viewer the end result is very similar. However, pre-COVID, neither the streaming of live nor recorded content was a priority for most organisers of business events. They were just keen to get as many “bums on seats” as possible on the day of their event.

By contrast, hybrid networking is a completely new phenomenon. Even at in-person events, many boundaries are imposed on event organisers by software suppliers, through the design of their solutions. Who, for example, can choose the time when arranging a meeting? Can hosted buyers book appointments directly into suppliers diaries? Can organisers collect attendees preferences, but schedule the meetings to ensure that less popular suppliers get a minimum number? Delegate Select has been addressing such user requirements for over 12 years and today we offer the most flexible solutions on the market.

From In-Person to Virtual…

Moving from in-person to virtual events, especially if your event is an international one, two more variables are introduced – time and space. All your participants have to see times automatically adjusted to their own locale. They have to be able to make themselves unavailable for meetings when they are sleeping, or otherwise engaged. Meetings, once scheduled, have to result in a single link in participants’ itineraries, which, when clicked, will bring them all into the same online ‘meeting room’ at the same time (and throw them out when the meeting is over!)

From Virtual to Hybrid

Moving from virtual to hybrid – where some people attend in person and others attend virtually – brings further challenges. The software now needs to cater for the vagaries of human nature and the changing rules set by politicians attempting to contain the pandemic. It needs to super flexible. Participants should be able to reschedule individual meetings at the drop of a hat and flip between attending them in-person or virtually.

For Delegate Select, enhancing our 1-to-1 meeting services to cater first for virtual and now for hybrid meetings has taken plenty of development resources. But, we are pleased to say that we have risen to the challenge. Please contact us if you would like a demo.

Graham Simon1-to-1 Meetings at Events with No Boundaries
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Match-making – A new twist on an old idea

The term “match-making” has become quite fashionable within the event industry of late, but is both misleading and a little disingenuous.

The suggestion is that somehow a third party, such as a “concierge” service or even some clever algorithm, can match attendees at an event with the “right” people. If you have ever attended an event where such a process or technology was used, you may have experienced mixed results.

At a recent industry event focused on event technology, the award-winning “matchmaking” service we were given to use identified all our competitors as our best matches! We were, needless to say, less than impressed.

But even when the software is accurately matching those seeking products, services or information with those supplying them, there are many reasons why people may not particularly want to meet at an event and no amount of intelligent software will ever be able to take these considerations into account – e.g. bad history, already doing business, met last week, friends or relatives ….

Ultimately, providing they are given the right information, people themselves know best who they want to meet and how they want to plan their day. Present this in a simple, intuitive interface and they are off and running. So the key to an effective meeting service at a business event is profiling your visitors and exhibitors (or buyers and suppliers) in a manner that quickly lets visitors identify exhibitors who are offering what they want and exhibitors identify visitors who want what they are offering. Once you do that, you can simply permit each party to filter the list of counter-parties by checking a box that says “Show me everyone who matches my profile” or by selecting a specific set of criteria, such as “Companies over a certain size that sell product A in markets B, C and D”.

That, incidentally is what our software has been doing since its inception, over ten years ago.

Graham SimonMatch-making – A new twist on an old idea
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Getting the most out of one-to-one networking

meetings1Invariably the primary or secondary reason that people will give for attending a business event is networking. The other main reason – and this varies from event to event – will be the educational content.

Delegate Select considers itself a world leader at facilitating networking at events. Over the past eight years, we have witnessed many very successful and some less successful implementations by our customers of our one-to-one networking solutions. If I had to distil our accumulated learning into six simple lessons, they would be these:

Make sure your service is visible and easy to access. Having a meeting service but not having easy access to it on your main event website generally means you are relying on people to find the link to the service in emails or text messages they may (or may not) have to hand. This is very wasteful.

Profile your people correctly. Sometimes called demographics, profiling refers to the information you collect from registrants. You don’t need to ask registrants lots of questions, but you do need to get them to classify themselves in such a manner that they appear in the right result set when people make qualified searches for potential meeting partners. The best way to design your profiling categories is simply to put yourself in the position of another attendee and ask what you would really like to know about your fellow attendees. If you are running a two-group event – e.g. solution providers/delegates or exhibitors/visitors – then you should probably be profiling each group differently. You can collect profiling information for your own benefit too. This information does not have be searchable by other registrants. But I’d suggest you keep this to a minimum, such as one question like “How did you hear of the event?”

In general, the longer lead time you can give people the more confirmed meetings you are likely to generate. However, there is a balance between lead time and having enough registrants on the system when the meeting service is opened to convey to users a sense that the event is going to be well attended. We have run our service at events where the one-to-one networking has actually fueled the desire to register, attend and arrange meetings – even to the extent that the ultimate constraint on the total number of meetings was the physical lack of meeting tables and time slots. This is not set in stone. We have also seen events where a good number of meetings were confirmed, even though the meeting service was opened only a few days before the event.

Send follow-up communications to boost the number of confirmed meetings. This does not need to be a burden to you. Nor do you want to bombard your attendees with emails. Our administrative desktop, like some others on the market, allows you to easily segment your target audience and send personalized emails to them. You therefore might want to prepare brief template emails for the following groups of people in advance:

  • People who have received meeting requests, but have not yet gone to the system. Remind them to respond.
  • People who received the introductory email but not yet engaged with the system (and have not yet been invited to meetings). Just remind them that the system is there and give them an idea of the sort of companies and people with whom they could be meeting. Perhaps let them know how well some of their colleagues/competitors are doing in this regard!
  • You might also consider a third email to be sent to all registrants three or four days before the event, reminding them that the event is approaching and they should hurry up and make as many confirmed meetings as possible before then.

If attendees do not have their own dedicated meeting place, have a meeting area with tables or booths that can be automatically allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. With two groups of attendees, it is likely that your solution providers or sponsors or exhibitors will have their own stand, pod or room. Their meetings should take place there. If your event permits peer-to-peer meetings among delegates, consider having an area called the “Meeting Zone” (or something similar) with numbered tables. Your meeting software should automatically take care of the allocation of tables and should not permit meetings to take place in a timeslot where there is no remaining meeting place (or vice-versa). Such a solution requires minimal or zero staffing prior to and during the event, because each attendee’s itinerary tells them, “You are meeting such and such a person, at such and such a time, at such and such a place.” An alternative is to let people meet at various meeting points during your event, but this is much less effective.

Brand your solution to give it some exclusivity. Consider branding the networking solution and, if you run more than one event, using that brand across all of them. Without giving away any secrets, one of our customers chose a brand that generated a real sense of exclusivity. When used in their marketing communications it has generated an enormous amount of participation, year after year.

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Delegate Select’s one-to-one networking solutions empower event producers with excellent opportunities to generate additional income along with valuable information about their registrants. We’re always happy to discuss these benefits with you and offer advice and suggestions about adding networking to your event.

Graham SimonGetting the most out of one-to-one networking
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