Brain Dates have taken place in cities from Berlin to Marrakesh and Montreal, (the developer, E-180’s, home base) and in January the knowledge-sharing meetings were available for the first time at the Professional Convention Management Association’s 2017 Convening Leaders conference.
Here is the Brain Date premise: You want to learn how to do something. You look through the profiles on E-180.com for a Brain Date prospect with that skill, send a Brain Date request, and meet up for your free private session. Sessions can be 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the topic and setting. Alternately, you have useful skills and offer to teach them to other Brain Daters. As the company says, “It’s like Tinder for knowledge.”
Your first thoughts may be “I don’t know anything I can teach someone in 15 minutes,” or “I am a skilled professional; my knowledge is too valuable to just give away. What’s in it for me?”
What Can I Teach?
You know more than you think you do. Brain dates sessions can be work-related, for example how to use a particular software program or how to make your business sustainable, or something more personal like advice for training for a triathlon or an introduction to learning Russian. Brain Dates are based on the premise that while watching YouTube videos or taking an online course can be helpful, there is no replacement for human interaction.
What’s in It for Me?
Well, lots of things. The chance to hone your teaching skills, the opportunity to meet new people, a way to share your knowledge with the industry you love. At PCMA Josie Zamolyi Caldwell, national sales manager at Global Experience Specialists, was drawn to Brain Dates because she wanted to help the next generation coming up in the industry. She says, “I like to help. I’ve done Helping Hands for three years, and this year I went to Sammy’s House in Austin and did some painting for them. I decided to offer advice on how to work a room and get over the fear of taking the first steps in networking.” Caldwell says her favorite Brain Date was with a young meeting professional from Bulgaria who was struggling with cultural differences. Caldwell was able to help her understand that Americans have a casual approach to meals and that she was missing out on networking opportunities by not joining in on lunch conversations. Caldwell also learned from a Brain Date she had with podcast expert Donna Kastner of Enlighten 123. She says initially she was just interested in finding shows to listen to, but adds, “Maybe this time next year I’ll have my own regular podcast!”
Sign Me Up
My Brain Date was with Phil Cross, head of sales at the Centre de Convencions Internacional in Barcelona. Initially Cross had only requested Brain Dates—he is interested in designing menus around the content of events, and his best date was with a nutrition expert who gave him some practical advice for working with meeting planners and, more importantly, addressing internal resistance to his idea. After his dates, he says, “I felt guilty because I’ve been in the industry for 12 years and you don’t realize how much knowledge you can accumulate. I thought I should give something back.” He decided to host a Brain Date on using virtual reality technology in marketing efforts. The CCIB was an early adopter of the platform several years ago and commissioned a walk-through of the venue so potential clients can see the space without getting on a plane to Barcelona. During the Brain Date, I learned that VR is not a make-or-break for the center’s marketing efforts, but it is useful tool for staying in touch with previous clients and an interesting way to connect with new ones. Repeat clients can see upgrades to the facility, and putting on goggles and seeing the venue in 3D provides a more memorable experience for potential new clients than handing out photos.
Next time I’m going to request a Brain Date on purging my phone of too many apps and in exchange do a session on beekeeping. What do you have to offer?