I just ran across a new twist on face-to-face networking which pro-ports to increase meaningful engagement through the use of innovative technology.
The techno-gadget offered by Chicago based Proxfinity is a not too attractive device, attached to a traditional name badge lanyard worn around your neck, which looks something like a stopwatch and also much like a bed wetting alarm I used to market for the urology department at a major Chicago Children’s Hospital. But that’s a bit random. The company’s name is an amalgam of “proximity” and “affinity” resulting in the “Proxfinity” moniker. The primary purpose of the device is to alert you to other people who are physically near you and with whom you share some common interest.
As I understand from the Proxfinity website, you program the device with four primary items of data that you share with other individuals at a business networking event. Data criteria could be your industry, your area of expertise and/or other areas of connection interest you might have in common with other event participants. So I might load my badge with the criteria Video, Publishing, Consultant, and General Business because I produce web video, and I am interested in meeting authors or those who operate in and around the publishing industry. I am also interested in networking with consultants and general business owners from the Chicago area because they are good clients for me.
As I circulate around the event, when I come into “proximity” with another individual who shares one of my same interests we are each alerted, indicating we have an “affinity” and have made a good potential connection. At this point someone has to make a move in the way of an introduction such as “Wow it looks like we have something in common.”
Each quadrant on the device represents one of the unique data entries. So if my Video data quadrant is lit I know the person in front of me has a video interest. If the Consultant quadrant is lit they are likely a consultant or are looking for a consultant. Anyway it is a point of contact from which to begin a conversation.
The concept is cool but it seems like a lot of technology which exists primarily because most people are too awkward to step up and begin a conversation with a stranger. Granted it can be fun and can be an icebreaker but it is possible that the price of the contraption could be a deal breaker. At this point the price is unknown to me so I’ll update this when I know more.
There is a phone app component that adds value by enabling you to build a list of potential clients as well as clients with whom you have personally connected. It makes me wonder why the whole application is not simply a phone app. Why do we need the rather dorky looking device dangling around our necks? If I learn the answer I’ll report back.
I am an avid networker and have been for many years. I have run a general business event for more than six years and I attend, on average, another 3 to 5 events every month. This device is clever but I am not sure that it is needed. Most events like mine are comparatively small with 15 – 30 attendees and it’s very manageable to get to know who everyone is. At the handful of larger events of which there may be one or two monthly on a regular basis in Chicago, that have a hundred or more attendees, they typically color code the name badges according to industry or other criteria and that works well enough. The Proxfinity solution uses the most rudimentary of data analysis, that assumes “if you’re interested in x you are not interested in y” and visa versa. In my book “Turn Your Business Card Into Business” and in my online class “From Business Card to Business Success” I caution networkers not to pre-judge or over scrutinize a new acquaintance. After all you want to broaden your network and increase your sphere of influence, and you never know who someone may be acquainted with that might be of benefit to you. But I concede that there are times when being more laser focused might help to “cull the pack” and increase the potential for a more meaningful encounter.
In the course of my varied business career I spent several years offering my services as an onsite meeting and event planner specializing in high level pharmaceutical events. I could see Proxfinity as an application for a large medical meeting where you might want to seek out people who share your specialty or sub-specialty. But it would still be something of a novelty.
I have also participated in more than a hundred trade shows and conventions. In this environment the device may have more benefit for exhibitors who may want to easily ascertain the interest level and buying authority of a visitor to their booth. But this has been accomplished successfully over many years with color coded ribbons and badges. I think the market if it exists at all will be to event planners or industry association who might buy a couple hundred or more devices and use them over and over again. I see collection issues (getting the device returned) but perhaps that could be overcome. At the end of the day it is all about price and whether the increase in interaction results in some kind of return on investment.
At this point I am not sure who is willing to make the investment and what they expect in return. This is a brand new venture so if I learn more I will report back.
If you’re interested in learning more about improving face-to-face networking techniques, take a look at my online class “From Business Card to Business Success” or visit our Chicago Business Card to Business Meetup where you can see me in person and see if we have some affinity.