International speed dating: how it works

International speed dating: how it works

Any SME wanting to develop and grow must consider operating internationally. This internationalisation often includes exporting via sales agreements facilitated by distributors. It is essential for the company to conclude strategic partnerships based on technical collaboration and innovation. Speed dating offers real opportunities in this respect. Here are 10 tips for well-prepared speed dating.

Prospecting to generate new business is a long-term job for the company. In fact, successfully transforming a prospect into a real customer takes time, and risks being very expensive. In addition, focusing on a price war with competitors is not a tenable long-term strategy.

But how can you stand out?

The best idea is to implement a growth strategy based on strategic partnerships founded on technical collaboration and innovation.

These partnerships can be established, among others, by exploiting the opportunities offered by international speed dating.

What is international speed dating?

Speed dating – generally organised in the context of business events or major conferences – offers a limited period of time to meet contacts from different organisations and discuss potential collaboration.

How does it work?

  • You register on an online platform
  • You create a profile and briefly but effectively describe the following:
  • your organisation (activities, area of expertise)
  • what you offer or are looking for (solutions or innovative products),
  • the types of partner desired (industrial, academic, etc.)
  • the type of collaboration sought (licence agreement, co-development, distribution, etc.)
    • You can analyse other profiles published on the online platform to identify the contacts with whom you would like to discuss potential collaboration
    • In due course, you can request meetings with these contacts and analyse in detail the meeting requests you receive
    • You can accept or decline the requests that don't suit you (e.g. those which don't correspond to your development strategy)
    • A few days before the speed dating event, you will receive your personalised schedule from the organisers, including the meetings you accepted
    • Turn up at the time and date agreed and attend all the meeting on the schedule
    • Afterwards, you must follow-up with all your contacts to be able to sign a collaboration agreement

An increasingly popular concept, speed dating is a great opportunity to achieve an excellent return on investment (the time spent taking part, registration fees and travel costs), but only if you are well-prepare beforehand and if you carry out the appropriate follow-up.

Here are 10 tips for successful speed dating

1. Set strategic goals for yourself

You need to know what you want to get out of your participation in the speed dating event before attending. Set yourself one or two objectives you hope to achieve during the event. This will allow you to create a suitable profile on the online platforms and target face-to-face meeting requests received or sent.

Knowing what you hope to achieve in advance, you can focus on the day of the event.

2. Prepare for your participation in the speed dating event

Take the time to properly develop your collaboration profile by highlighting your skills and expertise, the needs your technical products may meet, the solutions they may provide to a given problem, their benefits compared with competitors' solutions. Don't limit yourself to providing a link to your website, this is about targeted prospecting! This is especially important when the speed dating event that you are attending isn't in the sector of which your products or services are "naturally" part.

And you need to master the content of your pitch in terms of what you can say and what you can't say, specifically for confidentiality reasons. Test the length of your speech: you need to be in "speed" mode and not in presentation mode!

3. Remember to only request and accept meetings that suit your international development strategy

This may seem ridiculous, but many people tend to accept every meeting request without being selective about who they meet.... Analyse the profiles of the participants and only choose meetings with participants meeting your objectives, and don't hesitate to decline the others.

4. Turn up at the meetings

It may seem obvious, but it is often easier said than done... If something comes up the night before, inform the speed dating organisers and all your potential contacts on your schedule. And when you are there, during the meetings, don't take any phone calls or check emails, and instead focus on the person in front of you.

5. Listen as much as you talk

Speed dating is not just a meeting where two people give a presentation and then move to the next table. Showing a real interest in the other person is the best way to establish links.

Listening is also a prerequisite for understanding the aims of the other participants and assessing any chance of cooperation leading to a discussion of the best approach. Again, set aside time for presenting and listening

6. Adapt the content of your presentation to your contact's profile

Don't repeat the same content to a researcher and to a marketing or sales manager. Check the profiles of the people you are going to meet in order to "sell" your organisation as well as you can.

7. Take notes

It is difficult to remember the details of every meeting. Take a few notes after every meeting before speaking to the next person. This will help you to follow-up with the contacts with a chance of success.

8. Share your expertise

This will give your contact confidence in a medium to long-term collaboration, while ensuring that you don’t reveal strategic information concerning your product, service or process at this stage.

9. Follow-up after the event

The main reason for taking part in speed dating events is to meet others and develop your base of prospects. Although participation in the event itself is important, the post-event follow-up is essential for getting tangible benefits. Define who should do what and when, and decide on the next steps.

10. Last but not least

Although speed dating organisers can help you with the follow-up, don't hesitate to keep them informed of the progress of the contacts and negotiations. The internationalisation and innovation advisors from the Enterprise Europe network can offer you precious help and personalised support for successfully closing negotiations.

Do you want to make speed dating work for you in 2017?

Consult reviews from companies having already tested the tool by taking part in speed dating "E²Tech4Cities2016"

Watch a video which explains speed dating in 2 minutes

Here are two examples of speed dating prepared by Entreprise Europe Brussels in the context of events taking place in the next few months: Drone Days 2017 and E2Tech4Cities 2017 (energy sector)

Meet internationalisation and innovation advisors from Enterprise Europe Network in Brussels!

Contact in Brussels: Barbara Andreani


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