Ready for more interaction and value at your events? Then it’s time to increase your matchmaking activities with these nearly brilliant tips.
It’s all about who you know and nowhere could that be more true than when it comes to attendees and exhibitors. Getting to know people is critical to enjoyment. And it’s not just conferences or meetings. It’s true of work as well. Employees with friends at work are more likely to be engaged than those who don’t have a tight relationship with a co-worker. So if you’re looking for something else to do as an event planner, you really need to be facilitating the matchmaking. Here are 25 brilliant tactics to help you do so.
25 Ways to Improve Event Matchmaking
1.Get the information. Matchmaking is impossible without finding out demographic information and what people (both attendees and exhibitors) are looking for. It’s easier and more beneficial if you ask for this information at registration or in advance of the event.
2.Allow people to opt in. How does relationship matchmaking work with uninterested parties? Not very well. The same is true of event matchmaking so give people an option as to whether they participate or not.
3.Automate invitations and reminders. Most event matchmaking tech can send out automated invitations to attendees and exhibitors whose needs and business desires match. This automation makes things easier and keeps everything in a central location. No more confusion on time zones and companies.
4.Match needs two-ways. It’s easy to use matchmaking for attendees who are seeking specific services but it’s equally important to find out from your exhibitors and sponsors as to who their ideal client is. The more you can narrow down the interests of both sides, the better match you can make.
5.Allow for messaging. Another tech component you want in your event matchmaking is the ability to message within an app. If the attendee has questions or schedules need to be changed, giving them easy access to contacting the people they’re meeting with is a much more pleasant experience than trying to fish through a swag bag of business cards.
6.Use reporting. Your exhibitors will base their desire to return to your event next year on their return on investment of attendance. Yet, if they don’t follow up on the leads they are given, how will you know what’s on them and what’s on you? With matchmaking software, you can run reports on the networking and messaging taking place to give you better insights into the networking activity.
7.Provide at-a-glance personal schedules. Use tech that gives attendees and exhibitors an easy way to see all of their appointments with quick clicks to individual records. Having an area where the person can take private notes on the experience after the meeting can help everyone get the most out of the opportunities.
8.Utilize pre-event messaging. Before your event, attendees are terribly excited about it and often have more time than they will once they are there. Use this time by employing matchmaking technology that allows interested attendees and exhibitors to make connections before they’re ‘on campus’. This helps them to get to know one another better and ask any questions and specifics they have while they’re still at the office and not in the field.
9.Make your life easier. If you host similar types of events over and over, there’s matchmaking software that can clone your setup so that you don’t have to start anew each time.
10.Allow for crossover. Matchmaking isn’t always about attendee to exhibitor. Most attendees want to meet other like-minded attendees and some exhibitors may have business needs with other exhibitors. Make it easy for them to connect before the event with your matchmaking software. Once they get to the event, it’s harder to coordinate schedules. Letting them set up things ahead of time will give them more structure in their schedule. They’ll be less likely to lose control and let the days slip away.
11.Use speed dating sessions. In some events, attendees are all coming to buy so matchmaking needn’t be as formal. In these situations, you can create mini events within the event using fun concepts like speed dating and ice-breaking games.
12.Allow attendees to research as well. You probably allow exhibitors access to your attendee list but you should also give attendees access to exhibitors with sorting and filtering features that make it easy to figure out who they want to meet.
13.Show availability. Matchmaking apps cut down on the back and forth of scheduling meetings. Just select the person with whom you’d like to meet and see their openings. No more emails or texts back and forth asking if a certain time slot is available. This technology updates in real time so everyone can see what time slots work and which are taken.
14.Share collaterals virtually. Not only do some matchmaking apps include profiles of the people you’re meeting with, some contain file repositories for things like brochures. This cuts down on paper waste at events and keeps everything at attendees’ fingertips. No more looking for that ‘darn piece of paper with that guy’s number’. The tech also allows attendees to comment on brochures or ask questions of certain materials they’re reading.
15.Keep the communication ongoing. Don’t turn off your matchmaking software the minute the trade show floor or conference shuts down. Make sure your attendees and exhibitors can follow up with one another and keep in touch. Select software that allows follow-ups to be scheduled outside of your event. This may seem like a drain on your resources but it keeps you involved as an integral part of their introduction thus reminding them of your event’s value.
16.Cut the WiFi, no seriously. Want to get attendees’ attention and establish true networking opportunities? You can do what the Kit Kat chocolate bar brand did. They declared a WiFi-free zone where they blocked all mobile and WiFi signals for a radius of 5m. We’re not saying it’s the best idea when people rely so heavily on tech for matchmaking, but it sure gets people’s attention when it all has to be face-to-face without the distraction of pings and texts.
17.Use a game lounge. Again, matchmaking and networking needn’t all be electronic. If you want people to linger and get to know one another. create a game lounge consisting of both electronic, 2-player (video) games and old-fashioned ones like ping-pong and air hockey. You can organize competitions around it or make the atmosphere a relaxing one. But giving people what they like to do in their free time and providing them a place to do it among other attendees will help them get acquainted naturally.
18.Keep it branded. Your matchmaking technology should be branded to you. Not only does that create a seamless look for your event but it also ensures that those days afterward when exhibitors and attendees are still accessing the software, that they are reminded of you and your event because your branding ‘allows’ for their communication. Sure, they’ll eventually continue the conversation outside of the platform but in the beginning of the relationship when it’s most crucial, your name will be there like a formidable chaperone.
19.Allow for pitching. One very high energy approach to matchmaking is the pitch session where people are invited to lay down exactly what they’re looking for on a public stage. For instance, this could be funding for a project and you could allow panel pitches like in the television show Shark Tank. Or you could give everyone three minutes to pitch the crowd. Whatever you do, make the sessions short so they stay exciting and rotate through quickly. No reason to drone on about things. That will only take away from the event.
20.Give them unusual, team-building projects. Instead of just arranging meetings between those who are a good match, you could create team opportunities for vendors and attendees to work together. For instance, you can place three attendees and three exhibitors selling a product or service the attendees are interested in together in an escape room. By working together to get out, they may gain a very exciting appreciation for what it would be like to work with them for their business needs. This type of activity reveals things about the participants that may take months to realize otherwise. Plus they’re tons of fun.
21.Use one-on-one and one-on-many. If you’ve ever watched the television show The Bachelor, you know there are one-on-one dates and group dates where the contestant takes out a group of people. You can do the same in your event matchmaking as they yield different results. One-on-ones are great for establishing very direct exchanges but groups allow for all of the same questions to be asked in the same forum. The advantage to this is that if one vendor brings up a solution or comment about their product or service, the attendee can verify with the competition at that moment whether they have the same thing or not. It offers a much stronger comparison platform. Plus it’s always fun to make the competition work in front of your attendees.
22.Broadcast the exchange. You can even make entertainment out of your matchmaking by creating a dating game arrangement. Use an attendee to ask three unbranded exhibitors their questions on stage. Allow for the audience to feed the attendee their own questions as well for the exhibitors. But place one stipulation on them – the questions can’t be business related. Now watch the attendee try to ask questions to get business information without directly asking it. You can even use quotes from the humorous exchange as tweets and other fun phrases shared completely out of context.
23.Allow for all types of matching. Matchmaking software should match on business/conference needs. After all, you want people to find what they’re looking for. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. You can also match on business category, diversity codes, women-owned businesses, and more. Get as granular as your industry requires.
24.Kick it old-school. If your event is on the smaller side, you can have some fun with a more ‘romantic’ (and humorous) side of event matchmaking. Instead of merely matching on services, ask people to share something funny or some of their personal likes. Get creative by asking them to write old-fashioned ‘personal’ posts and match accordingly. The cheesier the better. If you need inspiration, check out this song.
25.Allow for instant notifications. There’s a certain sort of thrill when you get a text from someone you’ve been waiting for. That’s why it’s fun to offer instant notifications on messages from exhibitors and attendees. Bonus if you can create a funny ringtone or messaging sound for them.
Why Event Matchmaking Is So Important
Filling the needs of your attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors means they will see the value of attending in the future. They will also be pleased with their experience and share it with others. Retention and referrals are an elixir most event planners crave and successful matchmaking produces it in high quantities.
Events can be quite large and often people get lost in their to-do agendas and don’t meet everyone they wanted to. When you make matchmaking a priority and let people connect before the conference, you help them get more of their to-do list done. And who doesn’t want help with that?
Attendees have a better event experience and exhibitors find the return on investment that they’re looking for in order to justify the expense of attending next year.
What Events Could Use Matchmaking Help
Most event planners expect to use some form of matchmaking at trade shows and other conferences with an exhibitor floor but those aren’t the only types of events that could use some matchmaking help. Here are a few other ways you can use it:
- Career, recruiting, and networking events
- Trade meetings
- Government and private sector meetups
- Startup conferences and pitch days
- Entrepreneur and investor conventions
Matchmaking and networking are critical to the success of your event but who has time for organizing those sorts of things? You do with these nearly brilliant event matchmaking tips.
More tips on using technology to improve networking can be found in the Event Tech Bible free report.
Additional Reading on Event Matchmaking
The Event Tech Bible [free report]
Networking Tips for a Successful Annual Meeting
20 Ice-breaker Ideas to Help Event Networking
5 Things Expert Eventprofs Do To Boost Networking
Networking and Play. A Powerful Mix for Event Attendees
4 Networking Hacks for #Eventprofs
5 Ways Event Planners Can Get More from Networking [Video]
Okay, Cupid: Matchmaking to Improve Event Networking
9 Essential Elements of On-site Engagement
Meet and Eat: Menus for Better Networking