Connections Meetings pretends to be "the first fully designed - next generation H2H (Human 2 Human) event ever for the Meetings Industry", and will take place from 9 to 12 December 2015 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Lisbon Fontana Park and The Conrad Algarve. This event will be based on getting participants, buyers and suppliers alike, to live together new group experiences based on the meeting design principles.
It aims to offer "a programme where you can delight in a wide variety of activities carefully chosen to create a sense of well-being, physical adventure, rhythmic togetherness, and pleasing of the senses - all carried out in pairs or small groups, so that they become memorable. In addition, we provide you with the latest insights into strategically vital developments in the meetings sector, in particular insights around ways in which you can increase the effectiveness of the meetings your organization holds". Sounded good, so we talked to Micaela Giacobbe, director of Connections and owner of the Connections idea.
There are loads of networking events for meeting planners. What did you want to change about them when launching this one?
Meetings Industry professionals are quite conservative because of the constant focus on logistics rather than the actual meeting itself, with its content. There is a desperate need for meeting owners to make their meetings and events more effective and most suppliers are still just offering meals, AV equipment, venues, etc., while missing the point of understanding the objectives and desired outcomes of the event.
We believe that only properly designed programmes can achieve greater outcomes in meetings and events and everyone has to be involved in it. The buyers that are attending this event are really hard to access because they simply don´t see the value in the existing conservative b2b networking programmes. We want to show the meetings industry how b2b events could be smart, well-designed and more humane in order to create strong bonds between suppliers ad buyers for greater business outcomes.
Your plan seems to include "a training with the delegates", something definitely uncommon. Can you explain why and how?
We are just following the trends of society itself and we use a collaborative humane approach in the learning process of this meeting. According to the German Convention Bureau 2030 Megatrends report, the most important shift in the next two decades is the human measure, which is the need for human and social contact and awareness of human needs.
In the traditional meeting learning formats, the "Key Note" is telling the audience what to think and using a one way communication methods, whilst the knowledge resides equally in the crowd and the moderator is key in capturing that knowledge for everyone´s benefit. We are working with the expert in this field Mr. Mike Van Der Vijver, co-writer of "Into the Heart of Meetings" to play out this methodology at Connections Meetings in order to achieve great business and educational experiences.
I understand that planners and providers meeting each other is an important part of the event (it gives it the economic viability) but there are no sit-down one-to-one meeting. Is it correct? Isnt there a risk of planners coming with no sourcing interest?
Our industry is a peoples´ business and the networking events that we are accustomed to tend to limit the emotional side of the human being, which puts in danger the business opportunity that trust could bring to a supplier. The real risk that we as organisers take is when we provide a buyer and a supplier the traditional platform where they sit down for 20 minute meetings with barriers between them such as a table, a or stand and sales collaterals while little or no emotion is involved in the encounters. This is a missed opportunity for them to build the much-needed trust which is vital for business between them, though strong emotions and bonding exercises. In order to be successful in sales, you need to understand your customer´s needs first before you tailor a proposal to them, and the traditional formats just don´t allow for this important aspect to occur.
At Connections the one-to-one "meeting" consists of 40 minutes where the relevant buyer and relevant supplier get to talk about their business needs and solutions (this could happen at a table, or on a bench) and to share together a memorable experience on a one-to-one basis. This breaks barriers and it opens doors for business opportunities to be discussed in a more natural and humane way. It is no surprise that the feedback from the audiences from our already existing Luxury Travel Events has been outstanding!
How does networking work? Can you give us a couple of examples of activities you will offer? Is it a mix of "pure leisure" and more "working" sessions?
At Connections, the whole programme is a networking exercise. From the one-to-one experiences because strong emotions between participants will be exercised throughout the designed programme. From the the lunches, the dinners, the group experiences, and learning experiences, everyone will be able to network with their relevant potential business partners.
The activities are based on storytelling factors that the destination is able to offer within the programme. For example we will be meeting whilst walking in the centre of Lisbon, or at the famous Museu de la Cerveja (Beer Museum) in Lisbon, or we will be having designed b2b and learning sessions on a 3 hour train ride form Lisbon to Faro, or buyers and suppliers will be netting Portuguese fishing nets together in the Algarve, or doing Cork art (did you know that 60% of the World´s cork is produced in Portugal?), and much more! We are designing the programme with Mike Van der Vijver as we speak and by the end of October we would be able to share the final programme with everyone! I hope you join us! ;-)
What are the key learnings about what best connects people in events, what creates the emotions you say creates memories?
The basic notion is simple: according to Nobel laureate Eric Kandel, people don´t remember anything without emotions. That is how our brain is wired. When designing a programme that has business networking for its main objective, the guiding principle is that participants should be brought into a situation where they can share a positive, pleasant emotional experience. Having a pleasant experience together - and going beyond mere eating and (especially) drinking) - means that people measure each other´s reactions under non-standard circumstances.As a result, they are much more likely to develop mutual trust. Research shows that trust between business partners is a far more important parameter for successful cooperation than only financial outcomes. Of course, the financial rewards have be there, but that cannot be the only thing.