It’s been a challenging few months for many businesses, not least for Leigh Frost and the team at Business Buzz Networking.
Being a business events organisation, with 36 groups across ten counties meeting monthly, all face to face, lockdown meant the suspension of all physical contact. Much like all events-based companies, without networking groups meeting, Business Buzz Networking had no business. The organisation has come a long way since February and March when they installed hand sanitiser at the sign-in desks, stopped everyone shaking hands and the video of the Wuhan kick (an interesting style of alternative greeting) went viral on social media.
While some people talked about the world returning to normal within a few months, Leigh Frost saw an opportunity to continue bringing the 12,000-strong Buzz community together through an online offering. The first solution was to convert the Business Buzz Speed Networking Matrix, which involves seven tables of seven, with everyone changing tables in set moves to guarantee all attendees speak to everyone at the event.
“There was lots of testing of various video conferencing platforms, rewriting and digitising the matrix so that we ran our first test on March 19 and then launched the Virtual Speed Networking events on April 22. It was a long, involved process, but I really wanted to be first to offer an event like this and felt it was important to launch fast.”
The feedback was fantastic, with some people saying they wanted to keep the format after things go back to normal and some saying that they wanted more social chat incorporated into the events. The format was rolled out across all the regions. However, the team recognised that while it was something people needed to help them stay connected it just didn’t quite have the same feel as a face-to-face Buzz event.
The Virtual Speed Networking events enabled people to present and chat to more people, but the ethos of Buzz monthly events is no speeches, no 60-second pitches, no membership and it’s a drop-in event.
“In fact we always joke that there’s no such thing as late with Buzz.”
Since the first meeting in Hemel Hempstead back in 2012, started by Simon George and Katrina Sargent, Buzz has brought thousands of business people and entrepreneurs together with their unique style of free-flowing networking and mingling.
Simon and Katrina were looking for something to replicate that open networking, drop-in event online and found the Remo system.
“A lot of our competition is, naturally, using Zoom, which is great for small networking meetings,”
“From Buzz’s point of view our Virtual Speed Networking was a good stop-gap, but Simon and Katrina were looking for something quintessentially Buzz, and Remo really does give us that.”
The system was designed more as a social collaboration app to allow people to interact more naturally. Using a 2D map showing virtual tables of up to six people that you can move around at will, it lends itself more to a real-life style of event. As Remo says on its website ‘In short, Remo is all about real, human connection’.
Buzz tested the system in stages; firstly, with the Regional Leads who oversee the groups in each county.
“After the fun intensity of virtual speed networking it was a breath of fresh air and everyone saw straight away that this could be a game-changer,”
“But you never know until you show more people.”
With some soft launches to the internal Buzz network of over 100 people, Business Buzz held a big VIP launch that included over 200 hosts, ambassadors and sponsors. The events have been well received, and, amazingly, Buzz has continued to grow; there’s a new group in Abingdon that launched during lockdown and has only ever been virtual.
“Our biggest challenge is getting people to understand how different Virtual Buzz events are,” said Leigh. “It helps that so many people recommend us and as soon as they see the platform, they get just as excited about it as us. We also hold a free demo session every week that shows those interested in coming to our events for the first time how to use the system so they know what to expect.”
The whole of the Buzz team recognises that continuing to offer effective events means developing and listening to the feedback of the attendees. They’ve introduced smaller tables of four and five to allow more engaging conversations and they’re excited about the newest location in Leeds opening, set to be the eleventh Buzz region.
If you’d like to book a free demo session to try Buzz, visit beds.mybuzz.uk