by Michael J. Shapiro | July 01, 2017

Self-driving cars. Job-stealing robots. Virtual assistants with sex appeal. These are popular perceptions of what artificial intelligence means, or portends. For meetings in particular, AI has many promising applications -- from sci-fi to the here and now.

"Some people call AI the invisible technology, because they can't wrap their heads around it," noted event-tech expert Dhalia El Gazzar in a recent M&C webcast. "It's hard to explain how it will be incorporated into what we as event planners do."

Artificial intelligence is, for instance, the programming that allows virtual assistants to understand and respond to our spoken commands, or allows a self-driving car to react to a challenging situation on the open road. AI isn't something planners need to go looking for -- it will find them, as it powers new capabilities that will make their jobs easier.

"We talk more about the outcome than the AI," says Tim Groot, CEO and co-founder of Grip, a U.K.-based event matchmaking solution powered by artificial intelligence. "The purpose of Grip is to help organizers pull off a better event, with a more efficient and valuable networking experience." Using the platform, he adds, "it's easier for attendees to make sure they have the right meetings set up, and for exhibitors to have a higher return on investment in terms of connections with high-quality buyers." Ultimately, AI is driving the ROI for all involved.
 

MAKE ME A MATCH

The use of AI is what separates Grip from many matchmaking tools that came before it. Profiles are created for each attendee by finding and collecting data from the registration profile, LinkedIn, Google and Facebook (in each case only if approved by the attendee), and even scouring the web for additional information. Grip recommends to each attendee others with whom they should meet, and attendees can swipe, Tinder-style, to indicate whether they want to set up a meeting. But that's just the beginning.

Tim Groot,
CEO and Co-Founder, Grip

"Beyond the data we've used for the profile," explains Groot, "a crucial layer on top of that is that person's behavior or actual usage. Who are they looking to meet with, who are they agreeing to meet with, who are they rejecting? But also, it's about other, similar people at the event: How are those other people interacting? How did they interact with people at last year's event? How can we use all of that data to improve our recommendations to you?" Grip continuously tweaks profiles and recommendations based on that behavior.

While Grip is sold as a stand-alone tool or one that can be integrated with an event's app, New York City-based SummitSync offers one app that is used by an attendee across a variety of events. "We've started to learn what people want with regard to networking, and how they do so across different types of events," explains SummitSync COO and co-founder Al Torres. "We look at about 50-plus different variables, like location, title, company, time of day, what kind of phone you use and a wide variety of other data, to create unique profiles. Then we look at the different events they're attending."

SummitSync has a database of about 10,000 events, primarily in the marketing, media and technology spaces. Its users (who now number more than 200,000) consult the SummitSync app to suggest meeting match-ups at any events they're attending or deciding whether to attend -- independent of anything the conference organizers use.

SummitSync also can partner with planners for individual events and, for instance, set up a closed network limited only to registrants for that show. But because attendees use the same app for all of the shows they go to, profiles are based on their decisions and behavior across the full range of events.