The Role of Matchmaking at Your Meetings

A new app that's drawing comparisons to Tinder reminds associations they need to be deliberate about building connections. Is your organization a matchmaker?

Late last week, I learned about a new app released by E-180 Inc. called Braindater. The goal of the app is to connect event attendees for spontaneous “braindates,” one-on-one meetups based on what they are looking to learn or share. This has led many to compare it to the location-based dating app Tinder.

People are the best asset of any conference.

“People are the best asset of any conference,” said Christine Renaud, CEO and cofounder of E-180 Inc., in a statement. “While many apps have tried helping event attendees find that valuable stranger in a crowded event, few go beyond providing a list of participants and their titles. That’s where the Braindater comes into play.”

How Braindater works is pretty straightforward: It uses matchmaking technology to pair up “Offers” for knowledge with “Requests” for knowledge on the spot. A sample request, according to Braindater, could be “how to use meditation to increase innovation at my office.” The user can then send three anonymous brain date invites. As soon as another user accepts the invite, both are sent to a “Mission Screen” that asks them to find each other in the specified “Brain Dating Lounge.” That lounge could be any predetermined space at an event. The pair can then sit down and discuss the topic and share knowledge.

What I like about Braindater is that it helps attendees solve a problem or discuss an issue with a colleague who’s interested in the same topic on the spot. What association wouldn’t want to be able to help their members form those connections in an instant?

Braindater is a high-tech version of event matchmaking, but associations find plenty of other ways to create deliberate connections at meetings and events.

Many help attendees set up one-on-one meetings with exhibitors and vendors they are potentially interested in doing business with. Attendees may fill out a brief web form telling conference organizers what they are looking for, and then the association will generate a list of exhibitors that may meet their needs. Some may even go as far as to arrange specific appointment times.

For example,the Society for Diversity’s 2015 Diversity Leadership Retreat includes an all-day global supplier diversity matchmaker event. Attendees can sit down for prearranged one-on-one, 13-minute meetings with suppliers.

Associations that foster connections among attendees are doing something more comparable to what Braindater does. As this blog post by Elsbeth Russell points out, it may be as simple as asking attendees three to five multiple-choice questions once they register. The questions don’t even have to be conference-related; they may ask something fun like the attendee’s favorite ice cream flavor or the celebrity she’d most like to have dinner with.

Meeting planners can then have an opening event where attendees are put into groups based on their answers. Individuals in the group will have an instant connection, which will make conversation that much easier—even for the introverts in attendance.

But that’s not to say associations aren’t making use of technology to build connections: At the American Translator Association’s conference late last year, its conference app had a matchmaking feature built in that allowed attendees to find colleagues.

How do you ensure your attendees, speakers, and exhibitors find the right matches at your conferences? Share your ideas in the comments.

The new app Braindater is drawing Tinder comparisons. (Handout photo)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!