Let’s kick off this interview with some words about inVOYAGE. Could you tell us, please, what’s your mission and what type of events do you plan?
inVOYAGE is a forum for specialists in the MICE sector, which is the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions industry. We focus on luxury incentives and high-end events.
At the annual inVOYAGE event, we bring together luxury hoteliers and destination management company representatives to meet with some of the best event agencies around the world. This usually happens in very intimate, one-on-one matched meetings and networking sessions.
What results do you expect to achieve by running these networking events?
We run these events to make introductions and develop conversations between event agencies and event venues. The main purpose is getting to a point where those event agencies will hopefully be booking those venues for their clients.
If you are, for example, an event agency coming to inVOYAGE, you might be interested to meet with the representatives of the Finca Cortesin in Southern Spain or the new Nobu Hotel Los Cabos in Mexico because you have a few clients who want to organise some very high-end incentives or even launch events.
Very often, we get agencies with strong automotive, technology or financial services portfolios that do launch events. They’re always thinking about new ways to be more creative and run events that offer their clients something different and unique.
What are the characteristics of a successful B2B networking event?
It’s really all about the people. It’s also about us as an organiser doing our best to bring together a group of like-minded individuals who are ready to engage, have great conversations, be spontaneous and creative, learn and have an open mind. The underpinning of all that is the technology that sits at the foundation of the event, and this is where our partnership with Eventtia comes in.
With Eventtia, we have a partner that is extremely collaborative and prepared to ensure an efficient matchmaking process. Since working with Eventtia over the last year, we’ve created an incredible solution that is providing a great matchmaking platform for our delegates.
They can specify their networking preferences before the event and then, on-site, they know exactly what meeting comes next, can check the profile of the delegate they’re meeting with to help them prepare for the meeting better or even rate the meeting afterwards.
Also, by having access to the forum through the app, our guests can communicate easily with each other, arrange other meetings during the evening function to continue the conversation or get a drink. But it really is about the right technology underpinning the right group of people.
How do you assess the attendees’ satisfaction level?
The first thing that you get a sense of is the immediate feedback and satisfaction through the pre-matching before the event. It’s about how well we present these delegates through the app and how easy we make it for people to indicate their networking preferences and understand who else is there. We are going to find out very quickly if people are unhappy.
We have a lot of comfort in what Eventtia does in order to create the best possible user experience. The next step will be when the delegates receive their diaries with all their meetings added to their calendars. Again, if people aren’t happy with the ways their diaries have been matched, we’ll hear about it very quickly.
The algorithm that Eventtia has developed is critical. It really is, for us, the jewel on the crown, making sure that the match between delegates is as perfect as it can be. And then, through the event, you can see pretty quickly if people are getting what they want out of their meetings.
We also use the app to run on-site surveys towards the end of the event after people have had a chance to fully analyse how the networking worked for them. We can also reach out to delegates after the event to get their insights and understand what worked well for them and what our areas for improvement are. In this industry, people are very professional and we have a lot of really great delegates, but it’s our job to make sure that we are treating those delegates right by giving them the best possible solutions on-site.
What innovative elements do you apply when planning a B2B networking event?
The craziest thing is that we’re organising an event for event planners. We’ve got the world’s toughest critics all in one room, so it’s our job to create something that they don’t get to experience every day, enabling strong relationship development, surprising them, impressing them and giving them inspiration for their next events. We spend a lot of time researching our future destinations.
For example, working with the Monaco team has been absolutely brilliant because this year’s event is a powerful, collaborative effort and together, our objective is to make this the best inVOYAGE event possible. We want to showcase Monaco in the right way so working closely with Monaco Tourism, the SBM Group, CMX Events and all our other partners is critical to creating a memorable experience.
Our delegates have high expectations. We want to surprise our guests, to move outside of people’s expectations, to show them something they wouldn’t expect from Monaco. We also focus on bringing interesting keynote speakers and run panels so our delegates will also get business knowledge or insights. And if you’re an event planner creating incentives and events all day long, every day of the year, then you’ll want something different from inVOYAGE, something you can get inspiration from and take back to your colleagues in the office.
What should attendees know before attending this type of event?
We’re always making sure that all of our delegates are hand-held in terms of what’s going to be happening. Every delegate has a unique schedule. They get to choose their own activities. Also, the schedule contains all the one-on-one meetings they choose to attend. We like to create our own pre-event communications, reaching out to delegates and making sure they’re comfortable with what’s in store for the next few days on-site.
Logistically, from a travel perspective, we make sure they have their flight tickets on their phones along with their hotel confirmations and transfers. For example, during this year’s event, delegates can choose if they want to go from Monaco to Nice via road or helicopter. So we have a lot of logistics that we need to communicate to our delegates, and we want them to be able to choose from different options.
What are some best practices you could share with other entities that run this type of event?
What’s critically important for us as an event team is doing detailed research on the delegates, trying to evaluate who are the right guests to invite to inVOYAGE, and then working hard to recruit them. It is of course crucial to have great inspirational products that you won’t see at other events or trade shows.
It’s also extremely important to have a very close relationship with our event technology partners; in this case, Eventtia. We have a lot of dialogue right throughout the year. It’s not something we switch on months before the show and switch off a month after the show. It’s a year-long dialogue, because technology literally underpins everything we need to do, and as you might guess, it’s becoming even more important because our needs are evolving constantly. A few years ago, we had to give our delegates printed programmes and now we can load them straight into an app.
What is the future of B2B matchmaking events?
When the internet took off, I was involved in large trade shows at the time. A lot of clients said that trade shows are dead, that we don’t need them anymore. Yet these type of events are still going strong; they’re evolving and enabling organisers like us and people like our delegates to do something more bespoke, create something more intimate and with a far higher hit ratio between delegates.
So instead of having to reach out to thousands of people and maybe get a few good meetings out of it, hopefully with inVOYAGE we’re creating something that guarantees that all of the meetings are significant and fruitful. So I’m hopeful that the future is bright, but we have to work, and enjoy our work, to make it such.