Tech expert James Morgan takes a closer look at the tech that improves networking at business events.
Level up relationships
How important is efficient networking to your visitors? I’ve seen survey results from many shows where networking continually features in the top three of the most important activities. Because of this, organisers know they have to provide networking opportunities. More than ever they are turning to functions within event apps that contain a networking feature, or they are using a specific application that focuses on networking alone. However networking isn’t just restricted to the show flow.
Visitors are already networking outside of the show ecosystem. It should be noted that there are applications that are not event specific but provide networking functions, with some visitors preferring to use these in their everyday lives rather than subscribing to an app on a one-off basis. In essence, networking is an important function of being a modern-day executive – to develop professional networks to aid in job performance, or even to find a new job or opportunity. So this month we are going to explore networking and some of the associated applications that enhance the networking function.
Let’s start by talking about proximity socialisation. In the event tech world this is using an application to allow people who are in close proximity to meet up and network. Whilst Tinder and Grindr are also proximity socialisation applications, they are specifically for dating rather than meeting professionals in business.
A few years ago, there was a native app called AroundThen. It did the matchmaking job very well. The system used a visitors Bluetooth to find and connect with other visitors who also had their Bluetooth turned on. When downloading the app, visitors imported their LinkedIn profiles so the friction in the profile creation process was cut to a minimum. When scanning a show floor, requests could be made to connect with others and permission being given by the invitee to the inviter. Beacons were required to be fitted around a venue for the application to be effective.
It’s a pity that Beacon technology didn’t take off in trade shows as AroundThen also had a great auto-check-in function. When a visitor arrived in the show lobby the Beacon detected the users profile and automatically triggered a badge to be automatically printed.
But the big technology players had already caught on to this trend. Google launched their Beacon reliant API called Nearby in 2015. In 2019 LinkedIn launched their no Beacons required Find Nearby function aimed at the event space. There are always challenges to networking at events. Catching a name, and finding the right person on social media can sometimes be time consuming.
This function, although some might think ‘Big Brother’, helps to connect you with people you have seen or know about but not talked to. The function – found in the My Network area by clicking on the round blue head and shoulders icon – uses a devices Bluetooth to scan the area and find visitors in close proximity. For maximum impact, all visitors would need to activate the feature in LinkedIn and have Bluetooth turned on.
The feature is GDPR compliant as users need to opt-in and give their consent to use the feature and share their approximate location. Additionally, the feature does not collect or store user’s location information on LinkedIn’s servers. I like the serendipitous nature of this networking approach as its instant, spontaneous and full of surprises.
Over the years the networking function has progressed with many applications looking to get better user traction. One tactic being used to increase download rates has been to design out the friction associated with filling in profiles. Using AI to match users with similar interests and preferences – as with AroundThen – means profiles are auto-populated via a LinkedIn sign up process. Grip is one such application. It can be downloaded as a standalone native app or added in as a third-party plug in to a larger multi-functional event app.
The multi-award winning application was the first of the new generation of event apps that launched using an AI platform. The friction attached to finding quality contacts in the networking transaction is nearly nil and the way in which the algorithm works makes the whole experience more efficient.
Once we make connections on the show floor, where do you meet those connections? Brella has the answer to this and takes matchmaking to the next level by providing a live platform. This matchmaking app gets users to create profiles and tag preferences, discussion topics and commercial agenda items they want to find mutual users to talk about. So once the matchmaking starts matching tags, users are then shown a networking schedule and 15-minute time slots to choose from. They then match times to meet in a Brella Lounge located on the show floor.
The lounge is a made of a series of tables for two where the visitors meet at their mutually chosen times to do business. I have seen Brella Lounges with meeting 40 tables busy over a whole day of a show. Not only has the relationship been created, but often the business has been discussed and the relationship has been levelled up. In the end, networking is about the relationships and making those work for business.