We caught up with Jack Maddalena from VRCraftworks, who shared his experience of Immerse UK’s speed networking events and how it helped to generate new business and potential new collaborations.

Since its establishment in 2014 by father and son team, Jack & Peter Maddalena, Brighton-based VRCraftworks has gone from strength-to-strength, developing a diverse client base from across the globe. With a broad skillset, VRCraftworks is an immersive agency that builds bespoke experiences based on its client’s individual needs using VR, AR, 360, MR; from training simulators to marketing pieces and PR stunts and data visualisations.

Like most small business, building a strong network of collaborators and generating a strong client base is crucial to VRCraftworks to survive and thrive. Jack recognised the potential opportunities that participating in Immerse UK speed networking sessions could have for VRCraftworks in making new connections and promoting their work to potential clients. Having attended several sessions, this proved to be the case in some expected, and unexpected ways.

Immerse UK speed networking – how it works

Speed networking is a simple concept; bringing together SMEs with potential clients in a rapid back-to-back meeting experience. The room is set up with a series of tables, with a potential client on each table. You get five minutes to impress that person – then the bell rings and you move on to the next table and start pitching again.

“It’s a quick process and you find that your brain is going at a million miles per hour; analysing what you’re saying, how fast you’re speaking, what the other person in gauging, what they are interested in, what they could be interested in, what they are picking up on. So, there’s a lot going on in a short space of time and you’re repeating this process by having five conversations with five different people over 25 minutes. It’s very quick and very sharp, but I really enjoy doing it – and I definitely enjoy the speed of it,” Jack notes.

After each speed networking event, Immerse UK reaches out to you to introduce you to the people that you’ve pitched to have shown interest in further conversations.  “That could lead to a phone call, email thread or meeting – then it’s really down to you to convert that. Once you’re at this point, you’re left to your own devices,” explains Jack.

The appeal of speed networking for SMEs

Jack found attending speed networking sessions was an attractive proposition for both his business, as well as for his individual professional growth.

“We went to numerous speed networking events; some included meeting lots of different clients, whereas others were more agency-focused on a specific brand,” says Jack. “One of the key benefits of speed networking is that it facilitates introductions. It’s always best to meet someone in person, rather than a cold call or email, or however you’d usually approach; so being face-to-face with an actual person who is representing a brand and who has a specific need to be addressed, is invaluable. It gave us a great chance to actually get in front of big brands and potential big clients for an opportunity to get VRCraftworks name out there. The challenge is you’ve only got 5 minutes to convince them that you’re the right fit for them.”

Jack also highlights that there was also key learning for his own professional development in producing pitches that were tailored to each conversation, as well as communicating complex messaging in a clear and concise way.

“For me as an individual, I like a challenge and the idea I’ve got five minutes to impress someone and get over to them what we do,” he notes. “To be able to do this in a concise way to instil confidence and trust, convince them to buy into what we do, and actually understand what we’re talking about is a challenge in itself. I think that taking part in the speed networking events really helped me to refine what I tell people about our work, to make it a lot clearer and sharper.”

Prepare, research and tailor your pitch

As Jack notes, speed networking is not a typical sales process, but Immerse UK provided support to help make it easier to prepare to meet each potential client. “You’re sent documentation prior to the event and it’s gold dust. It really helps you to understand what the people you are pitching to are looking for. If you were going to go in there completely blind, it’s very hard to be able to sell what you do and you wouldn’t have any idea of their expectations – or budget.”

Having limited time meant that being succinct was crucial. As well as honing his pitch to each individual, Jack notes that leaving time for a conversation, rather than talking at someone for five minutes was the key to success. “After the first couple of pitches it became clear that I had to cut out about 90% of what I was going to talk about and really focus on the 10% that was going to be valuable for them. And that was very difficult as I wanted to tell them everything about who we are – and it’s quite difficult to do it in the timeframe.”

Outcomes of speed networking: business development and new clients

Following on from attending the events, VRCraftworks had multiple conversations with various people, which has led to projects with two different clients.

It’s a great way for you to get your foot in the door,” says Jack. “In terms of clients and future business generation, it’s helped us to have multiple projects to work on, which is great for our business as it’s bringing in revenue. The other benefit is that we’ve been working with some great brands; and after the projects are completed, we can promote these on our website – and beyond. This really helps us to further conversations with other potential clients; it’s a big stamp of approval for both our business as well as using immersive tech more broadly. As immersive technology is so new and so fresh still, so having big clients can really help with our credibility and help build new relationships with other brands.”

Outcomes of speed networking: developing relationships with other pitching companies

The events also give all participating companies the opportunity to network with each other. As Jack highlights, this was also hugely beneficial, as it has led to collaborations that have benefitted both VRCraftworks and their clients.

“This part of the speed networking experience has been really helpful. For example, one company introduced us to a pool of 3D artists, and led to link ups on grant applications and other types of projects. Not everyone there is an agency; we’re all bringing something unique, bringing different services, software or products that means we can leverage new partnerships that can benefit our client base.”

Tips for future pitching companies

Here’s some of Jack’s top tips for companies attending future speed networking events, to help make the most of the opportunity.

  • Focus on exactly what you’re going in for, and exactly who you’re talking to. Really focus on who you are pitching to and do your research on their brand, so you’re able to hone your pitch and you’re able to use that 5 minutes wisely.
  • If you think you’ve got your pitch done, think again! Review and re-visit it – and take out at least half of it. You may think you’ve got 5 mins to pitch, but in reality you can’t just use that time to pitch; you need to ensure that there’s time for a dialogue – otherwise you’re talking at someone rather than having a conversation.
  • Thinking of using headsets for demos during the pitch? Be cautious of the time you spend on showcasing as it might mean that you don’t have time to sell what you do to them. Realistically, even if your experience that you’re going to show to them is only one minute long, you’ll also, have to waste time making sure the headset is on correctly, and the experience is working properly. Although visuals can obviously help to bring things to life, make sure you get the balance right and be very cautious. It might be entertaining for all involved, but at the end of the you’re both there for a certain reason, so make sure you both get value out of the time!
  • Practice. If you can find someone that’s prepared to spend time to listen to your pitch, go for it!