It is a struggle of many event organizers to help attendees in effective networking at events. Want to know what you can do to bring people together and boost interactions? Here we go with an answer based on the last experience at the Yacht Racing Forum.
One of the common goals at events is to make new business connections and event organizers do their best to make this goal easily achievable for their attendees. They quite often face the problem of not having the right tools to encourage visitors to communicate with each other and streamline the entire process.
There is a need for a change in outdated and ineffective networking methods. There are possibilities and tools to help event organizers obtain their goal and create an efficient, effective networking environment for the attendees. It leaves the visitors with satisfaction and the organizer with a bright idea for the future of next events and created leads.
Our guest – Bernard Schopfer had the same challenge and goal to achieve. The purpose was to bring people together, give an opportunity for all the sides attending the event to make new business contacts. It was all about networking and communication, not only during an event but also before it even began. There was a need for networking activities for a large group. We talked with Bernard about the case of The Yacht Racing Forum 2017, which took place on 27-28th of November in Aarhus, Denmark.
Bernard Schopfer – founder and CEO of MaxComm Communication, with 20 years of experience within media, television, sponsorship and event management. After obtaining a diploma in Political Science in the University of Geneva, he worked as a journalist with some of Switzerland’s most important media, including the national television.
The Yacht Racing Forumis the leading conference for the business of sailing and yacht racing. Organized annually by MaxComm Communication, the event reassembles up to 400 participants: event organizers, teams, venues, technical providers, media, insurance and financial companies etc: the sport of sailing’s key actors from all over the world.
Eventory: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, let’s start by saying a bit about your event.
Bernard Schopfer: The Yacht Racing Forum is the annual conference for the business of sailing and yacht racing. The event takes place every year somewhere in Europe in October or November. Last edition took place actually in August in Denmark, we had approximately 300 guests from all over the world, the key people from the world of yacht racing, event organizers, teams, sponsors, venues. We wanted to bring everyone together to network and grow their business.
Eventory: That sounds like a great event for people in that specific industry. Is there a lot of events like that?
Bernard Schopfer: No, I think we are the only conference that is really focusing on business, other than that there are some technical conferences. Our conference is targeted to the business side of the sport.
Eventory: What was the main goal for this event?
Bernard Schopfer: Our goal is to bring people together and to put in place a platform that will favor business relations, interaction between them help them interact. That is what we do by organizing conferences on hot sports topics such as risk management and safety, sustainability, new materials, new technologies etc. Between the sessions, people meet during coffee breaks, then there is a gala evening reception and they are meeting each other and listening to sessions. That helps them find people they are interested in meeting. They can talk, exchange business cards and already start making business – that’s what we try to achieve. It is going to be 11th edition this year of The Yacht Racing Forum. People are coming, event is growing year after year so it is achieving, it is growing.
Eventory: So, the main goal was social side of the event, to bring people together and allow them to accomplish their goals, whether it is effective networking or making business, basically everything related to building relations.
Bernard Schopfer: Yes, that’s right, we are not a decision making body. We are not like the international federation that is making decisions. We put the finger on the hot issues of the moment, particularly safety has been an issue for the past few years because of the new technology developing faster and faster. We are the first organization who raised this point and discussed the subject. We started this discussion in 2011 and now it has become an important factor for everyone involved in the sport. It is not just thanks to us obviously, but we have contributed while bringing the subject forward and as long as we can bring interesting subjects and be one step ahead in sport as a whole, we will keep the interest of our delegates and they will attend the Yacht Racing Forum. Once they come, it is an opportunity for them to meet, make business.
Eventory: How did you accomplish this goal? What methods did you use to get there, to bring people together and give them what they wanted?
Bernard Schopfer: The most important is to provide the attendees with the tools, the platform to talk, network, to interact with each other. So Eventory app has been extremely useful for us. We have started 2 months before the event by having everybody registering on the app. Then people could start networking even before the forum actually started. They could organize meetings through the app, look at who was participating, which company they represented. That was very useful for us.
Eventory: Did Eventory contribute to the event’s success in any other way?
Bernard Schopfer: That was the path before the event. Then there is another path during the event where people could also do networking, organize meetings etc. We as organizers can use the app to push forward information to our delegates, for example the change in the program, a speaker who had to cancel his participation and is replaced by somebody else. We also communicate to our attendees any evening plans after the conference through the app.
Eventory: What was something you felt the most proud of during or after the event as a result?
Bernard Schopfer: What we are proud of is to have happy delegates who walk out of the event with a smile and register for the year after. We have got quite a few very faithfull delegates who come year after year. We are also proud to put in place a program, which is really interesting and generates quite intense debates, encouraging people to express their opinions and contribute to the development of the sport. That also leads to concrete business. We have a lot of examples of real business deals which have been initiated during the Yacht Racing Forum over the years, for example, the boat that is used during the Volvo Ocean Race – the meeting took place during the Yacht Racing Forum when the right people met and simply started this thought. There are many more examples, like sustainability that is becoming a key topic for world sailing or risk management and safety. I think we raised people’s attention in this subject and has an impact on the development of the sport.
Eventory: Is there a feature you felt was the most useful for you or for your attendees?
Bernard Schopfer: Eventory app was definitely a strong added value to our event and we are very proud to be able to use it and to have a great partnership with Eventory. We want to use it again this year and in the future. We want to use it more, we want to use it better. By using it the first year, we discovered many things which we didn’t understand before. And now with better understanding, the second year we will be much better in it. For example, we want to organize live surveys during a conference, have people answer in real time and then display it at the venue. It is an interesting and powerful tool.
Eventory: Do you feel like this is mostly the same people or is there a fluctuation of attendees?
Bernard Schopfer: I would say, it is about 50-50. Half of our attendees come every year, they see the value and understand that it is good for their business to meet potential business contacts. And there are other people who come to discover the event and of course, it depends on the geographical location of the Forum, this year it will be France so we have a little bit more French people. The objective is to increase the number of regulars and keep on having new attendees as well. Regularly we have 300 people which is a good number for us and there is a potential to grow a little bit more. Of course, people who participate, the brands, the companies have the opportunity to have a stand, because we have an exhibition and there is a great possibility for them to show their products.
Eventory: What are your plans for the future for the event to go forward? How to use new features besides what you have said?
Bernard Schopfer: We really see this event with the long-term vision, so we are planning 3-4 years ahead. The next edition of the Forum will take place in France on 22nd-23rd October 2018. We already got more than 100 delegates registered. Soon we are going to invite them to register to the Eventory app so they start using it.
Eventory: Thank you very much for an interview! Hope to hear you soon during upcoming cooperation.
One of the achievements, companies using Eventory can share, is effective networking. We know the value of arranging networking activities for large groups which help them with starting new connections and creating business relations. Eventory app has it as a priority to provide tools to communicate and make new connections while hosting a networking event. Our in-built messenger allows everyone to contact during an event and even before. You can check who will participate in the same event as you, schedule meetings and add them to your agenda. Wisely used tools can be your power to bring satisfaction and profits both for you and your attendees! Use it, as during the Yacht Racing Forum, and celebrate more and more engaged visitors coming to your event.