Business News

The Value of Event Matchmaking

Skift Take

Calculating the value of event matchmaking is top of mind for both event organizers and exhibitors. Grip's pre-scheduled meetings revenue calculator provides an estimate of just how much profit event organizers could generate.

Matchmaking is one of the key features of event management platforms. It’s also one of the best current uses of artificial intelligence (AI) for business events.

A recent report from event platform Grip explores the value of pre-scheduled meetings. This is the type of matchmaking activity typically used in hosted buyer programs where buyers and suppliers hold multiple meetings over the course of an event.

The report was produced by Dahlia+Agency, which collected survey responses from 91 senior-level event executives and ran a series of interviews. Although the sample size is small, there are some trends worth noting.

  • 87 percent believe pre-scheduled meetings at events will be an important industry trend in 2023.
  • 72 percent agreed they would generate more revenue if they offered pre-scheduled meetings.
  • 67 percent are looking for one or more pre-scheduled meeting programs at their events in the next 12 months.

The report then makes the case that taking a structured matchmaking approach increases the value of events. The arguments put forward include a desire from both attendees and exhibitors to make the best use of their time at events. There is also a notion that exhibitors are demanding a more tangible return on investment.

Perhaps the most striking claim included in the report is that of the additional value that event organizers can generate from featuring pre-scheduled meetings at their events. In the example presented, an event in the financial services sector can add more than $900,000 in revenue, at a 40% profit margin, by hosting pre-scheduled meetings with 50 suppliers, each holding 15 meetings.

This is, of course, good news for companies like Grip, which support this type of networking activity. But what is behind these numbers?

Capturing the Value of Leads

Calculating the value of matchmaking revolves around the cost of a sales lead. This is the base of Grip’s pre-scheduled meetings revenue calculator, which the company offers openly on its website. The tool invites event organizers to “find out how much your next event could generate.”

Skift Meetings spoke to Grip CEO Tim Groot, who explained the calculations.

The starting point is a cost per lead value for different industries sourced from multiple sites, including First Page Sage. Calculations on cost per lead tend to come from Google Ads and other online lead-generating activities that are easier to attribute than exhibiting at events. Still, there is value in this approach. Groot argues that leads coming from events may actually be more valuable than those from online sources. “A lead that you get from Google is much more difficult to convert. I would expect sitting down face to face with somebody for 30 minutes at an event you have a higher conversion,” he said

While the figures and conversion rates may be debatable, it makes sense that leads in more niche or higher-value sectors cost more. For example, leads in legal services are much more valuable than in eCommerce.

Calculating the Revenue Opportunity

The calculator uses this cost per lead figure for different industries, combined with the number of suppliers (exhibitors), the number of meetings per supplier, and the event type (in-person or virtual), to calculate several interesting financial estimates, all of which can be valuable for event organizers.

The main figure calculated is the total revenue from pre-scheduled meetings, a welcome addition to any event budget. There is also a price per meeting package which indicates how much to charge individual exhibitors. Also included in the calculator are logistical details, including the total number of meetings, the number of meeting slots, the number of meetings per buyer, and the minimum number of buyers.

The calculator goes beyond estimating potential revenue. It also attempts to estimate the potential net profit and profit margin. Here the sums are a little more complex, but operational, marketing, hosting, and technology costs are included. The number can vary widely, and Grip also estimated the cost of producing virtual events with pre-scheduled appointments. This was set at 70 percent of the cost of the in-person equivalent, which seems high if no buyers are being hosted.

“This is by no means an exact science. We’re simply trying to give people a direction of what’s possible,” said Groot. While the figures are just estimates, the calculations were verified by several of Grip’s clients actively running hosted buyer programs.

Not All Smooth Sailing

While adding structured matchmaking to any event is tempting, some challenges exist. What Grip calls “placing networking at the center of the event” may require a significant shift in an event’s overall format and style. Creating an attractive setting for holding multiple meetings in a short period of time is not easy. The balance of efficiency and comfort is challenging.

Perhaps most importantly, the pre-scheduled meeting model requires attracting appropriate buyers to attend and commit to pre-scheduled meetings. Hosting buyers works well for business events industry shows like IMEX and ibtm world, but many buyers, including those managing large events, prefer to pay their own way and thus bypass the commitment to pre-scheduled meetings.

Valuable Addition

With the end of cookies, more marketers are turning to events as prime channels for securing leads. It gives marketers a simple way to calculate the monetary value of exhibiting at or organizing their own events. It also speaks a language that marketers are very familiar with, especially those more focused on online lead generation. In any case, it’s a welcome tool for anyone looking to demonstrate the value of business events.

“We’re trying to make sure that people took a little bit closer at the ROI of things [exhibiting] and the actual numbers because that’s going to help them make better decisions in the future. It’s going to make sure they’re allocating resources to what generates the highest impact, rather than what looks the most shiny.” said Groot.