Buddy System: Get Yourself a Conference Pal

Going it alone can be hard, especially when you’re one of a few thousand attendees at a large conference. Here’s how some groups are helping their attendees find a buddy.

While some people may love the idea of attending a conference by themselves and get excited at the prospect of walking into a room of hundreds or thousands where they don’t know anyone else, that’s not me. Don’t get me wrong, I very much appreciate and admire when people have this ability; I’m just not one of them.

Like other introverts out there, I can do it—but it can be exhausting for me. Just knowing one other person can help alleviate a lot of that anxiety.

That last sentiment is exactly why a lot of associations are helping their attendees “buddy up” both before meetings and onsite through formalized programs and initiatives.

For example, at the IMEX America tradeshow last week in Las Vegas, conference organizers introduced an attendee matchmaking service. The service, provided by Zenvoy, used “intelligent data profiling to facilitate face-to-face introductions between pre-registered IMEX America hosted buyers and buyer attendees.”

IMEX added the matchmaking element to this year’s meeting after getting feedback last year that “revealed how hungry buyers are to connect directly with each other and expand their networks of potential professional support.”

Beginning in August, buyers were invited to register with Zenvoy and complete a confidential online profile. The company then matched individuals based on job title, nature of business, decision-making authority, geographical remit, and number of years in the industry.

“Meeting, connecting, and building on relationships with industry peers is a key element of IMEX America and IMEX in Frankfurt. We see this new initiative as a valuable way to make it easier for people to meet others with whom they have the most in common,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, in a press release. “In a show that’s as large and busy as IMEX America, we’re clear that it’s our duty—and also our pleasure—to bring people closer together for long-term mutual gain.”

In addition to the matchmaking service, IMEX offered personally facilitated introductions in the hosted-buyer lounge. In a dedicated area called the “Networking Hub,” hosted buyers—who were interested in making new professional contacts, comparing career challenges, or simply sharing stories, triumphs, and expertise—could get to know one another.

Along these same lines, E-180’s Braindater app connects attendees for spontaneous “brain dates,” one-on-one meetups based on what they are looking to learn or share.

While large-scale experiential conferences, like Montreal’s C2, hold these brain dates on sky chairs, groups like the International Congress on Personalized Health Care have them take place in a more traditional conference center environment.

No matter where these buddy meetups occur or what technology powers them, the goal is the same: getting your attendees to connect.

How do you help attendees find buddies at your conferences and events? Let us know in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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