YOU'VE HEARD OF eight-minute dating? Well, how about eight-minute networking? That's right, the philosophy behind speed dating is now making its way into the world of medical meeting networking sessions.

Match Events Inc. recently launched NetworkingMatch, a system to help professionals meet the right people at conferences, trade shows, business meetings, charity events, or social functions. Building on its experience of hosting more than 3,000 singles events since 2001, the Boston-based company is now helping business people efficiently meet one another. The eight-minute networking format helps attendees make the most of their time.

According to Tom Jaffee, CEO of Match Events. “The No. 1 objective of most meeting attendees is to establish business contacts, and NetworkingMatch provides a great way to accomplish that goal.”

A session typically lasts one to three hours. Participants rotate through a series of short one-on-one meetings. Before the meeting, attendees are asked to create a networking profile to provide pertinent information about themselves to other participants. Those who plan to participate in the networking session are then asked to submit their meeting requests, indicating whom they would like to meet one-on-one, and whom they would prefer not to meet with (e.g., competitors).

During each short meeting, participants are encouraged to quickly understand each other's needs and determine if a follow-up meeting would be mutually beneficial. From that point forward, cards are exchanged and a new (business) relationship is born.

Serious Fun

But don't be fooled. As lighthearted and fun as this approach may seem, medical meeting planners see it as a serious tool for improving outcomes for their conferences. IBC USA Conferences used this tool at conferences for deep science topics such as Antibody Production and Downstream Processing, TIDES (for peptide and oligonucleotide work), and Drug Delivery World. “One of the biggest challenges for our attendees is to get quality one-to-one networking time,” says Anna Allen, marketing director for IBC Conferences, Westborough, Mass. “We promote this activity well in advance and give people the chance to sign up for a specific time slot. The response has been great. Through this speed-networking opportunity, attendees can meet new people and extend the reach of their networking efforts.”

Meeting planners are advised to plan well in advance to make these sessions work. “Pick a time toward the beginning of your event so that people are still in the ‘get to know you’ frame of mind. And be prepared with a Plan B if some of your registered attendees don't show up,” cautions Allen. “A bit of advance planning will go a long way toward making the event a winner.”

Response from attendees has been very positive. They find the format refreshing, and the results well worth the time invested. “Many of our participants mentioned that they most enjoyed the opportunity to meet people from companies they weren't familiar with or hadn't had a chance to connect with prior to the networking event,” says Allen.

Results are similar for eight-minute networking events in the wider meeting industry too. Mary Beth Rebedeau, executive director of the Society of Independent Show Organizers, Chicago Ridge, Ill., says, “We used this innovative system recently at a new conference and the energy and the buzz that the system created were highly touted by the participants. It was also delightful to watch. Finally, participants can make the right connections in an organized way, which is key to the success of any conference.”

You can find more information on eight-minute networking by visiting

Jennifer Goodwin is president of The Goodwin Group, a global medical communications consulting agency in Arlington, Mass. You can contact her at