Making their debut at the Great Ideas Conference, Brain Dates offer a chance for attendees to share and receive knowledge while also building their professional network.
Meeting planners are always looking for ways to help attendees connect with and learn from one another onsite, whether that’s through networking events or conference buddy programs. But, to make these connections even more meaningful, associations are beginning to offer onsite matchmaking and knowledge-sharing services.
Attendees at this week’s Great Ideas Conference are getting to experience those services firsthand through the newly introduced knowledge-exchange experience, Brain Dates.
Hosted by event company E-180, Brain Dates are designed to “unlock the knowledge that everyone brings with them and make it searchable for others, so that you can meet with somebody based on what they may be willing to exchange in terms of knowledge,” said E-180’s Impact Director Michèle Robinson.
Brain Dates participants fill out an online profile listing what beneficial knowledge they are willing to share or what know-how they are interested in gaining. Those looking to learn browse knowledge offers in the marketplace and then book 30-minute appointments with others based on their interests.
Before the meetup, participants check in with onsite matchmakers at the Brain Date Lounge, who then handle introductions. And, if one partner doesn’t show, matchmakers can create spontaneous matches based on profiles.
“In a way, often people see it as transforming what networking efforts were into intentional and very meaningful knowledge exchange,” said Robinson, who is also a former matchmaker.
She explained that making connections is most effective when people create knowledge-sharing offers—in addition to requesting knowledge—that include a specific title and description of how they obtained the expertise.
And to make the most of the time and new connection, participants should take some time to prepare ahead of the meeting. These steps include researching their partners, reading resources they have shared, reviewing the topic to be discussed, and putting together some questions.
“If you’re going to go on a brain date with somebody, maybe look them up and see what already exists out there,” Robinson said. “Or [look] up the topic, so you can have the topic fresh on your mind for when you’re going to have that conversation, so that things move quickly and with a high quality of conversation.”
Ultimately, the goal of Brain Dates is not just to acquire knowledge but also to create a new business connection and expand your network—whether across organizations or within the same group.
“It’s quite common that people end up working together after they’ve met face-to-face,” Robinson said. “It’s like the advantages of networking, but it’s just happening in a much more organic and meaningful way for everyone.”
However, success depends on the participants. “My parting words to the attendees would be to put themselves out there, and that conversations can really be life-changing,” she said.