Braindating and the modern conference-goer

For some conference attendees, the thought of networking and meeting new people can be more stressful than a high-stakes business presentation. When presented with the opportunity to connect, many people would rather let themselves get sucked into their phone answering emails and messages. Despite their disdain for new introductions, people cite that networking is their number one reason to go to a conference, so avoiding networking is not the solution.

The most meaningful moments at a C2 conference occur when the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences is presented. Braindates increase the possibility to impact someone, whether it’s through business development or personal growth. Christine Renaud, founder and CEO of e180, touts the importance of “engineering serendipity” through her braindates technology.

Christine Renaud (right) on one of the tens of braindates she did at C2 Montréal 2016

“When good connections are made, there is no better feeling,” Christine explains. “Braindates remove the barriers to networking and help people get to the meaningful conversations right away. We are in the business of connecting human beings for collaborative learning and meaningful conversations.”

One of the biggest reasons remarked on by both Harvard Business Review and BizBash when describing why C2 stands out as a great networking event, was the availability to participate in braindates. Yes, more and more conferences are offering social apps to their participants, but braindates go far beyond an application on your phone.

Although it is enabled by innovative technology, the magic happens in-person. On site, you will find trained matchmakers that will help connect you with the right person to discuss your industry, goals, or other interests. This customized process takes away all of the guesswork on who you’re meeting with and why.

Here’s how it works:

A few weeks before the conference, attendees get an email with a registration link. Once connected to the online platform, they are encouraged to list the topics and subjects they are passionate about and interested in learning about or discussing.

“In order to get the best experience, we recommend that people start planning their braindates early,” Pierre Noïnski, Director – Participant Services at C2, explains while describing the braindating process. “There is just so much going on during C2; those who wait until the last minute may find that other participant’s schedules are already full.”

Participants are encouraged to make the offers in their profiles as comprehensive as possible in order to make the best connection. Offers are what you can provide to other participants. In the past, offers have included everything from advice on how to set up an experiential marketing campaign in the Bronx for a retail brand, to how to do a handstand.

“Everyone has something to offer.”

“It’s not just about business, either,” Christine says, “Braindating represents the whole being. Everyone has something to offer.” She recalls that one of the most popular offers in previous editions was a student offering up reviews of products from a millennial’s perspective.

After you’ve entered the topics you’re interested in learning about or sharing, you can browse through the other C2 participants to see who you should be scheduling a braindate with – either one-on-one, or as a group.

The two-day C2 Melbourne schedule is designed so there is plenty of time to book these meetings, which usually run around 30 minutes, but can go as long as the participants desire.

The next steps are simple: at the specified time, show up at the Braindating Lounge, where you will be greeted by a matchmaker, who will introduce you to your braindate. You can remain in the lounge, which has plenty of unique elements in your meeting space (ridiculously massive plants, for example), or you can take your braindate elsewhere in the conference space. In previous years, many who left the lounge chose to meet up at other locations such as a Ferris wheel, or boats in a canal for a scenic way to sit down and talk.

In a nutshell:
– A few weeks before the event, connect to the platform and list topics you would like to learn about or share
– Browse fellow participants’ suggested topics
– Schedule one-on-ones or join group braindates
– During C2, at the scheduled time, check in at the Braindating Lounge
– Meet passionate human beings and have meaningful conversations while learning and sharing your own knowledge

“Thirty minutes with the right person – and the right questions – can go a very, very long way.” – Karim Traiaia, Co-founder of BloomChat and 2016 participant

“One of my favorite braindates triggered a really fantastic lunch on day one. That person brought several other people who were not part of the original braindate, and we ended up having a wonderful one-hour meal (which at C2 is like a five-hour meal). Just that lunch created enough connections for me to build on over the week. The braindate started that chain reaction.” – Welby Altidor, Executive Creative Director and 2016 participant.

“One of my braindates is going to take my business to an entirely new level. I can’t tell you who I met, but it was amazing.” – Tomas Dorta, Co-founder & CEO, Hybridlab

“I met people from all over the world. The guy I just was talking to, from the first moment we started to speak, it was like I’ve found a brother. We share the same values, same ideas. We already set a meeting for tomorrow, once the conference is over. I’m in Israel, he is working in Brazil, and we are going to be working together.” – Niv Horovitz, Co-founder, WeStart and 2016 participant

If you are more of a last-minute person, you may still get the chance to make braindates. You can head over to the lounge during the conference, where the matchmakers will help coordinate your profile and connect you with people who may have last-minute cancellations, or are spontaneous drop-ins like yourself.

But does it work? Do these braindates facilitate better connections?

Marriott International’s Senior Director Experience Design, Christopher Baer, has been a huge advocate of braindates. He had registered for the C2 Montréal conference hoping to make great connections. He was delighted to discover that there was a platform that took the guesswork out of finding the right people to meet.

“After I discovered braindating, I ended up booking my schedule solid because there were so many cool people there that I wanted to meet with,” Baer recalls.

He expected to make some good connections, but he didn’t expect that he would spend the majority of his time at C2 in the braindating area. He had such a positive and fulfilling experience that he invited the e180 team to talk about testing the platform internally at Marriott.

“Platforms like this will very much become the future of how people get to interact meaningfully,” Baer explains, “With the speed of technology and social sharing, a platform like this brings human interaction back into our incredibly fast-paced lives. I love that the experience involves technology AND physical presence. Technology alone is sometimes overemphasized as a solution.”

In the past years, Baer has even managed to stay in touch with many of the people he had braindates with, broadening his network in a more meaningful way, “The thing that is unique about the braindating platform is that it allows people who might not naturally meet, to come together on their own terms, in a more impactful way, forming more meaningful relationships.”

A study conducted by PwC between November 19, 2015 and January 29, 2016, revealed that nearly one in three (31%) people who participated in the conference conducted business as a direct result of attending C2. Not all of these deals were made over braindates, but the engineered serendipity definitely drove much of it.

Over the years, the popularity of the braindates has continued to grow, with more than 3,779 meetings in 2017 for the C2 Montréal edition. The lounge capacity has been steadily expanding each year, and participants are being encouraged more than ever to plan their braindates early. “If you want to talk to the exact right people, you’ll want to plan ahead,” Pierre Noïnski advises.

“Braindating changed the whole experience because I could make dates with people ahead of time, and have meetings that were more interesting.” – Niv Horovitz, Co-founder, WeStart (2016 participant)

C2 has amazing thought leaders and programming, but it’s also well known for an audience filled with impressive and knowledgeable participants. Braindates give you the chance to find the people you should connect with, and break the ice by setting up a time to talk. It’s just one of the many unique ways that C2 strives to create the optimal audience experience.