When you come to a conference the size of Convening Leaders, “there might be 50 people who share your specific learning goals,” said Sabrina Rubli, a producer at e180, the Montreal-based creator of the Braindates platform for peer-to-peer networking. “Maybe you will sit next to them at lunch — and maybe you won’t.” Braindates, she said Monday, are “a way to find those people.”
Here’s how it works: All Convening Leaders 2019 participants were automatically registered for the platform, and even before the event began, they could go to the platform’s marketplace and either propose a topic or respond to proposals from other participants for one-on-one or group meetings, or both.
As the conference got underway Monday, there were approximately 68 one-on-one and 51 group meetings scheduled, and more than 138 topics offered, Rubli said. The trending topics were experience design, innovation, and sponsorships. The platform schedules the meetings, which at Convening Leaders take place at the Braindate lounge on the second floor concourse, in a corner space overlooking the river and furnished by Steelcase with inviting groupings of chairs and lamps, and sofas outfitted with cozy throws.
Melissa Peticolas, an account executive for Vista Convention Services, tried out the platform last year, when she was a first-time attendee at Convening Leaders 2018. “I was like a deer in the headlights,” Peticolas recalled, and braindates “was a good way to engage with the conference.” She signed up for three braindates at this year’s Convening Leaders, including a group braindate on tough conversations. “It really forces you out of your comfort zone,” Peticolas said.
And you never know where a braindate might lead: Last May, PCMA Education Director Carrie Johnson met Sean Cusack, the lead designer and a co-founder of SMA Events, on a braindate at the C2 Montreal business conference. Cusack’s ideas and expertise impressed Johnson — so much so that she followed up with Cusack for Convening Leaders 2019. Cusack presented a session Monday, “Design Experiential Activations That Energize Audiences & Sponsors.” Click the link to book a braindate.