We were delighted to be part of the Meetings and Events Support Association (MESA) stand at The Meetings Show in London this month. The show was a great opportunity to meet with others working in the events sector and to share ideas and discuss all things events-related.

MESA organised a series of CampFire sessions on the stand throughout the show, focused on the topic of making meaningful connections at events. The discussions around this topic were really rich including:

Defining what is meant by a meaningful connection (discussion led by Merijn van Buuren, Founder and CEO of Event Mender)

  • Some answers and ideas raised in the discussion
  • A meaningful connection is one made with someone with whom you have some intention to work/collaborate with in the future.
  • A meaningful connection is one in which there is some shared interests and shared understanding.
  • Emotion/feelings are generated by meaningful connections
  • Meaningful connections require attention and ownership (you choose to make a connection meaningful)

Discussing how we can increase the chances of making meaningful connections at in-person events (discussion led by Adam Fillary, Director of MESA)

  • Some answers and ideas raised in the discussion
  • Being purposeful and spending time ahead of the event researching who to meet
  • Connecting on a personal level with those you meet – engaging in true dialogue not sales monologues
  • Listening to the other person and taking time to understand their experience
  • Putting time aside after the event to follow-up on connections made. Making these personal follow-ups that draw on the discussions you had.

Exploring how you can make meaningful connections in online events (discussion led by John Martinez, Founder and CEO of Shocklogic)

  • Some answers and ideas raised in the discussion
  • Virtual events are here to stay. It is not always possible or advisable to meet face to face.
  • Meaningful connections ARE possible in virtual events and meetings.
  • Take care with how you set-up your environment for an online meeting – so that you can be relaxed and communicate clearly
  • Make sure your set-up allows you to make eye contact with the other people in the virtual meeting (avoid two screen set-ups)
  • Engage with compassion. Make sure you are listening and giving the other person a chance to really express their views and perspective.

Discussing how we will make meaningful connections in future events – what will change? (discussion led by Tamsin Treasure-Jones, Co-founder of Kubify)

  • Some answers and ideas raised in the discussion
  • Technology to help us identify who to connect with ahead of the event – matchmaking technology
  • Support for serendipitous meetings and connections at events
  • More structured networking sessions at in-person events
  • Formats and environments that help people feel comfortable networking

Event Mender have produced a very useful summary of these CampFire talks including audio and transcripts from most of the sessions.

If you work in the events industry and would be interested in having regular discussions with other event professionals (particularly event suppliers) about questions such as this then we recommend joining the Meetings and Events Support Association (MESA). It’s a friendly network of companies and individuals working in the events industry, who share a people-first ethos and who meet regularly to connect, share ideas and learn from each other. You can find out more about MESA membership here.