Speed Networking…. Like Speed Dating For Business Contacts
Speed Networking.....More Fun Than Speed Dating!
Last night I went to my first “speed networking” event. Similar to speed dating, with speed networking participants have the opportunity to network with many other business professionals in a very short period of time. In just over two hours, I was able to network with 30 other people.
The event took place at a local hotel and the first hour had the traditional networking feel: a cash bar, appetizers and a bunch of folks standing around in business attire chatting and smiling.
Attendees were expected to walk up to each other and just get the conversation flowing. Through the more traditional method, I met about ten people at this event. You could call this our warm up activity…
Although I’ve been in leadership roles for years and portray an “extroverted” personality at work, I am truly more of an introvert in my personal life. It takes energy and thought for me to be “on” and push myself to talk to strangers in a large group setting. This is one of the things that drew me to the speed networking activity. I knew that once it started, networking would “just happen” without feeling as forced. (The two glasses of wine I drank were also helpful!)
Watch a Speed Networking Event
What Happens During Speed Networking:
After the hour of open networking, about 120 people crowded into a small ballroom that had about 4, double rows of chairs.
Every person ended up sitting across from and right next to another attendee. Space was tight. Deodorant and breath mints- were must have items. (Although a few folks forget them.)
The host for the evening gave us instructions to, on queue, have a three minute conversation with the person across from us- giving each individual just over a minute to speak. After three minutes, loud music was played and everyone in designated rows shifted one seat to their right- while the facing rows remained in place.
As soon as the event started, the one thing we all noticed more
than anything else was the noise. We had 120 people in a small room,
all talking at once. Therefore, we had to yell as we talked. It
reminded me of the times I’ve gone to see a loud rock concert in a small
club and you have to scream to your friends to have a conversation.
There were some three minute networking conversations that went very well. We each gave our elevator speech, exchanged business cards and shook hands. There were a few conversations that never quite got off the ground. We couldn’t hear each other, the conversation didn’t flow etc.
The Name Tag Dilemma- Another Sign of The Economic Conditions
Everyone who attended the event wore name tags. Since this particular event was a college alumni activity, the information from the name tags was pulled from our college database and personal profiles. The standard event name tag had first and last name, year of college graduation, job title and company name.
This is how the average networking conversation flowed: "Hi Nancy… I see you’re with Fidelity Investments. What do you do there?”. Nancy’s response: “Well, I used to work for Fidelity, but got laid off X months ago”.
As I approached person after person, I received this type of response close to 80% of the time. In this particular crowd, the minority who were still working were all Financial Advisors… ready to advise me! Or, had been laid off over a year ago and had now started their own businesses- from Green Computers to selling Scooters.
A depressing sign of the times.
Learn More About Speed Networking On ABC News
Was Speed Networking Helpful?
Speed Networking was a good use of my time. I met about 30 people in the course of two hours and I also received a list of all 120 attendees and their contact information. Although I can’t act immediately on any of these contacts, I may be able to leverage them in the future.
I was also able to practice my elevator speech. When someone asks you what you do, or to tell them a little something about yourself, this is when your 1-2 minute elevator speech comes in handy. A good elevator speech will help you build connections and will be important during job interview situations.
Back when I was single, I tried Speed Dating. I have to say, Speed Networking was a better use of my time!