New Event Formats and What They Mean for Business Networking

Participative event formats and meeting design are hot topics. Even B2B events can no longer do without a fair amount of interactive elements. What effects does this trends have on business networking?

(updated 18 July 2018) 

For some time, more and more event managers have been concerning themselves with the topic of meeting design. There is still however no clear description of what meeting design actually means. In any case, it means to design meetings, conferences and events in such a way that they reach clearly defined goals and to be designed toward the requirements of the target group(s).

It’s also important to familiarize yourself with meeting design trends in the B2B segment and also consider to what extent contact initiation between service/product providers and their interested parties can be improved using meeting design technologies. 

The German Convention Bureau, in cooperation with Fraunhofer Institute and further partners, has started an interesting, broad project that concerns itself with what the Future Meeting Space will look like. It tries to research the influences of technology on event design.

Based on diverse social and technological trends that will influence meetings, the research team has developed 6 scenarios of what events will look like in the future.

So where do business networking and matchmaking fit in to these scenarios? Let’s see which event formats GCB believe will be probable in the future. 

Interactive Forum

“An event with 50-200 guests starts with a collective presentation, following which individual topics will be discussed in small groups. The interaction of participants is of primary focus.” This is the scenario that we already experience at a lot of conferences. It can also be a combination of short impulses with table sessions in small break-out-groups.

Using targeted, software-supported matchmaking, events of this type can be prepared efficiently as it allows contacts and combinations that make sense for both parties to be found prior to the event.

Spatially Distributed Congress

“Several regional events take place simultaneously and equally at several locations. The events are broadcasted and thereby communication is achieved by doing so. This scenario is particularly beneficial regarding time efficiency, safety and the creation of an experience/adventure.”

There are also examples of this already, including the FRESH Conference, an event geared towards event planners. This solution obviously leads to savings on travel and accommodation costs. Facilitator Roy Sheppard describes the specific challenges to moderate such an event in this video: 

For many participants, business networking is one of the most important goals of the event. This is easy to solve at each of the individual locations, however event organizers of a spatially distributed congress would need to think of a good concept to enable overall networking between locations. Technology could of course help to do so.

Co-Working Congress

“An event that lasts several days offers enough time and space to construct and maintain a sustainable network, as well as allows enough time to complete the usual daily work tasks. The short-term design and time efficiency make this scenario particularly attractive.”

Briefly put: you meet and work together (or separated from each other) at one location. This would be an ideal case for business networking and matchmaking, as how else would you get to know potential business partners more intensively? This already happens today in the form of barcamps. Not just around IT-topics, but ranging from Human Resources barcamps in Vienna, Berlin, Zurich to the Diabetes Barcamps (in Frankfurt/Germany)!

Totally Analogue

“The analogue event deliberately takes place somewhere remote. The goal is the focus on content where a connection to the world outside plays no role whatsoever. A scenario that particularly covers requirements regarding safety and an extraordinary experience.”

Each trend creates a new anti-trend and this is how this event format can be considered as a continuation of closed meetings in the digital age. Definitely an interesting format that is rather geared towards existing communities (e.g. business clubs, leadership teams etc.). 

Hybrid Event 

“A real event is also placed in a virtual room. The existence of a parallel, digital world enables participants to be both physically and digitally present. The scenario is therefore time efficient and experience-rich. ”

This is exactly the approach of business matchmaking offers such as Converve. Using defined parameters and interests, you can find suitable business contacts in both the real and virtual world. 

Here are 5 hybrid event examples that revolutionized events as we now it in 2021 and 2022.

Virtual Goes Real

“A community that exists exclusively in social media meets outside of the networks to get in contact personally. A scenario that unites interaction elements with a short-term nature and experience value”.

What can develop out of such a concept can be seen at the Online Marketing Rockstars event in Hamburg: A festival that was created out of an online community and in the meantime draws 40,000 visitors annually to Hamburg. Matchmaking takes place online in this event format, but the real meetings deepens contacts and relationships!

Bottom Line

Event formats in the future will focus considerably stronger on interaction rather than on information. Information is everywhere and accessible around the clock, whereby interaction and networking are the major disciplines of events. 

If it is your job to unite providers and potential consumers, projects such as Future Meeting Space help to keep an eye on trends and relevant developments. It does not always take much to add interactive elements to your event, as Juraj Holub describes in this post.