Making connections gets faster, easier and gamified at the ConnexFM | 2022 National Conference.
By: Shalia Wunderlich
They walked into CONNEX2019 virtual strangers. By the conference’s end, Bobbie Jo Staley and Christopher Tran were a tight-knit professional pair. ConnexFM’s annual event is known for forging connections like these. But it is the 2019 and 2021 events in particular that Staley and Tran credit as the catalyst for their collaboration. “2019 was the year they introduced the [Klik technology],” said Staley, National Account Executive for Identiti, an interior/exterior signage company. “They kept track of who was racking up the most clicks. Chris and I were neck and neck through the whole show.”
Connected With a Click
ConnexFM’s SMARTNetworking badges are one of several new features rolled out by ConnexFM to digitally transform and streamline the networking process. Attached to attendees’ name badges and worn around the neck, the hand-held, button-operated devices initiate a virtual exchange of contact information when two or more users stand in close proximity and click simultaneously. A small LED display on each device changes from blue to yellow, signifying the successful upload of information to a central event app.
The benefits of the technology are numerous and game-changing. Veritable replacements of the old-school business card, these smart devices are exponentially easier on both the environment and users’ time. “I used to come back from these conferences with stacks and stacks of business cards,” said Tran, Project Manager for Store Preservation at Sephora. “In order to make use of them, you’d have to go through every single one, organizing and manually inputting the ones you wanted to save. It could take weeks.”
It also required remembering or notating the context of each card — another challenge circumvented by SMARTNetworking. “When you log in to the event app and click on an individual profile, you’ll see a ‘Notes’ section where you can enter as much detail as you’d like,” said Andrew Serfaty, Manager of Onsite Experience at Bizzabo, the AI-driven tech behind SMARTNetworking. “You can do it before or after you export your contacts, and it’s all kept private.”
Staley used to devote entire evenings post-conference to notating and scanning business cards in her hotel room. “Then I’d have to wait for our marketing manager to compile the complete list,” she said. “Now, I just click on the app at the end of the day and export all my contacts to a CSV file or Excel spreadsheet.” In addition, the contacts sync with a mobile app and appear in a virtual timeline, so not only do you see who you met, but when you met (or clicked with) them during the event.
The platform’s simplified, time-saving interface tends to boost both the number of connections made and the chance of engaging with those connections after the conference. At CONNEX2021, SMARTNetworking tallied 45,407 contact exchanges, or over 36 contacts per attendee. “I came back with so many more than before,” said Tran. “And I followed up with more of them because I was better able to recall the interaction and act on it faster.”
A little bit of competition never hurts, either. Through each day of the 2019 and 2021 events, attendees watched an online and on-site leaderboard keep track of which facilities professionals were hauling in the most contacts in real time. At the conference’s close, first-place winners received a prize. “Chris and I were flipping back and forth between first and second place at one point during the week, which was so fun,” said Staley. “Any time I surpassed him, I made sure he knew about it!”
Line Up, and Take Your Shot
Quick Connect is a great place to use the SMARTNetworking technology. Held twice over the span of each conference, Quick Connect pairs Suppliers with the FMs of their choice for a brief (3 minutes or less) face-to-face meeting. “It’s like a speed-networking event in reverse-tradeshow format,” said Shana Thomas, ConnexFM’s Vice President, Marketing Communications & Digital Experiences. “Instead of FMs walking around to meet Suppliers at their booths, they sit at a table, and Suppliers line up to meet them.”
The purpose of the meetings can range from pitching contracts to a click of the SMARTNetworking devices to simply getting your name in front of a dream client. The advantage of the meetings lies in their nearly-100% FM participation rate and time-conscious efficiency. “Suppliers get a one-on-one with the FMs they value most, and FMs get the benefit of sitting in one spot as hundreds of potential Suppliers come to them,” Thomas said.
In addition to the expected leads, jobs and contacts that result from a typical Quick Connect, Thomas has also witnessed indirect successes, like referrals. “Maybe you’re a paver, and the FM you’re meeting with doesn’t need any paving at that time,” said Thomas. “But they happen to know of another FM who does need paving, and they introduce you. To me that’s the real power of FM networking and the power of the ConnexFM community.”
Thomas recommends Suppliers invest time and thought preparing for Quick Connect before the event begins, starting with a carefully curated list of FMs. A list of participating FMs and their stated Supplier needs is distributed at conference registration, giving preregistered Suppliers the edge of extra prep time and first-pick privileges. Once reservations are made, preparations can shift to strategy — specifically, crafting the clearest, boldest, most targeted message possible within the brief time frame. “It’s not lot of time, so come with a mission,” said Thomas. “What do you want this specific FM to walk away with?”
FMs should devote equivalent attention to their summary of Supplier needs, starting with a thorough audit of their current Suppliers and culminating in a summary so clear and concise, it generates only leads whose capabilities precisely match it. During the meetings themselves, Thomas proposes a secondary objective: building a “specialist database.” “Consider meeting with out-of-the-box Suppliers for the benefit of their expertise,” she said. “Look for specialists who can help you do your job better by keeping you alert of coming trends, products and solutions, and corral them into one database.”
If a meeting goes well, FMs and Suppliers can extend invitations to meet up later at the conference, whether it be at the Supplier’s booth or an event the FM is hosting. “Bring along several maps of the exhibit hall that have your booth or event location circled,” said Thomas.
Look for both Quick Connect and ConnexFM’s SMARTNetworking button (on your badge) at this spring’s ConnexFM | 2022 National Conference, April 24–27, in Long Beach, California. FMs, don’t forget to register online ahead of time to reserve your spot and enter your contact information on ConnexFM’s Events app.
And don’t forget those prizes! In addition to those awarded for most clicks, all FMs who attend ConnexFM | 2022 get the chance to win major prizes this year.
Get a Head Start on Networking
Check out the ConnexFM | 2022 National Conference Exhibition Floor Map to help with your networking plan. Updates will be available at national.connexfm.com.