The Art of Speed Dating: 15 Client Meetings in 10 Hours

Written by Emma O'Connell

On Wednesday 7th June, Savoy House played host to over 150 market research professionals for the annual Market Insight Forum. Run by Richmond Events, the forum takes the speed dating format and applies it to a different sort of match making – client and supplier. As a supplier, you are promised over 15 matches throughout the day, which runs from 9:00am to 5:30pm, topped and tailed with breakfast and drinks. For delegates, the day dances between meetings with suppliers, seminars and case study presentations.

The morning started with breakfast at 8am and we had our first chance to meet fellow suppliers and delegates over grilled sausages and beans. At 9am we descended into the auditorium for the opening presentation from BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, titled ‘Think Like an Artist, and Change the World’. All of us, he said, have the incredible power to create, it’s just a case of knowing how to use it.

Now full of enthusiasm to go with the beans and sausages, the suppliers took their seats and awaited their first ‘date’. In the morning, while the day is still long, your meetings are short; quick fire 20 minute sessions giving you the chance to introduce yourself and make an impression before the sound of a gong signals all change. In the afternoon, the sessions stretch to 30 minutes, giving you more time to explore different ideas and explain your methodology and experience at an audible pace. You do have a helping hand to make the most of your meetings – an outline of your match’s job role, their areas of interest and a handful of upcoming projects that they have described in the briefest detail – but the conversations are still very spontaneous, and to the quick thinkers go the spoils.

At the end of the day I left with a pad full of scrawls and notes, a head swimming with ideas, the taste of a well-earned beer and these five key observations:

1. Twenty minutes is often enough. Having been both spectator and presenter at hour long introduction presentations, I know how these can bore a relationship to death. In twenty minutes, you see whether there is a connection, find out what each of you has that the other needs, and plan in a meeting to talk about the specifics, not the generals.

2. Conversation is king. The temptation in a pitch meeting is to make a PPT deck, create a handout, and pretty much come up with as much material as possible to ensure you tell them everything they might ever need know. It was refreshing to have an impromptu conversation with a fellow professional and have a chance to think on my toes.

3. Recruitment can be painful. If you consider your audience to be largely nat rep, then thank your lucky stars! Some clients are facing monumental tasks to even find their audience through research, let alone extract the insight from them.

4. Researchers look like their research. There is an interesting correlation between the personality traits of insight directors and the sorts of challenges they have identified in insight. Can you see yourself in your research programme?

5. The cutting edge is getting blunt. There is a real hunger for new research methodologies, but an absence of true innovation. Talk of the cutting edge continues to gravitate towards eye-tracking, neuro, and big-data. Time to sharpen up!