Meet Ilse Saerens, organizer of ING Innovation Night
“ING Belgium spends incredible effort and energy organizing events to bring this kind of high-end audience together. We have to make sure we get results.”
As a PR officer for ING Belgium, Ilse assists ING colleagues in building new partnerships and maintaining existing relationships. As the main sponsor of Film Fest Ghent, ING hosted several movie screenings, including “Innovation Night,” where innovators & entrepreneurs attended as special guests.
Rather than invite a mix of clients, partners, start-ups and ING colleagues to passively enjoy a new movie and see what happens during the reception afterwards, Ilse thought about having a more directed way to network.
More than a typical networking event
Entrepreneurs are a group who historically look to networking events to make valuable business connections; a film was a good draw but not a guarantee for interaction. Conversation Starter was engaged to boost activity and networking. To take advantage of the target audience’s presence, several dozen ING employees from different departments, like sales and business development, created networking profiles, too.
A few days before the film screening, participants shared requests and offers and planned meetings. At the start of the event, each participant had a personal overview of planned meetings—delivered via SMS. On average there were 4 meetings per user.
New sales leads
Participants could not only reach out to other attendees, but also make specific requests to ING employees (i.e. how to get a refurbishment loan). Participants sent invitations to meet them and vice versa. Representatives were able to answer directly and establish the groundwork for future face-to-face meetings in the bank. The participant requests also provided new data in terms of what issues interest clients, thereby giving organic insight into future outreach topics.
"Through Conversation Starter we learned firsthand about topics our customers care about."
In short, Conversation Starter was the means to expand a simple night at the movies into a forum to make useful business connections; ING created new business streams that were significantly more valuable than the PR outreach alone of movie sponsorship.
"Conversation Starter made it easy for me to organize 4 interesting meetings during the ING Innovation Night. In 3 cases we had a follow -up meeting and realized new business. Conversation Starters boosts your network."
Frederic Van Bruyssel
Manager Business Developers - ING Belgium
"Conversation Starter is one of those tools you just want to use: easy but powerful. I’ve met inspiring entrepreneurs and several potential leads at the ING Innovation Night. I’m sure these–relevant–connections will have a positive result in the long run."
Managing Partner - Wijs
"As co-founder of a talent management company, I used Conversation Starter to speak with potential clients. I am happy to report the connections made at the ING Innovation Night led to follow-up meetings."
Founder - Intuo.io
"I used Conversation Starter with great success—we are still following up on the numerous connections we’ve made. I am confident these will have a favorable outcome."
Owner - AdPro Systems & Software