How cool would it be if you could get together with a bunch of professionals, all interested in the same things you are, with a structured way to meet everybody else there in a short chunk of time? If it sounds kind of like speed dating, it is…but it’s actually called speed networking.
What is Speed Networking?
Speed networking was inspired by speed dating, but it takes the opposite approach. In speed dating, you’re trying to quickly narrow your options by ruling out people who don’t seem like a good match. With speed networking, you’re broadening your options by making as many contacts as you can.
How Does it Work?
There are several different formats: with some you meet in small groups, with others you meet one-on-one, etc. But they’re all designed to have you meet for a set period of time and then move on. Often, the room is set up with chairs in two circles, one inside the other. The people in one circle will stay put, while those in the other circle will move over a chair each time the bell rings.
How do I Make it Work for me?
The best speed networking strategy has three parts: preparation, performance, and follow-up.
Make sure you have everything you need before you leave home: business cards, a note pad, a pen, a way to neatly store the business cards you collect, and your goals. Are you looking for clients? A mentor? A job? Or just somebody who knows what it’s like to work in your field?
Shake hands, introduce yourself, and briefly state why you’re there and what you’re hoping to achieve. Keep it short, and make sure you leave your partner enough time to talk. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if your partner doesn’t seem to know what to say. “What brought you here today?” and “What will make you see this as a success?” are always good conversation starters.
This is where speed networking tends to fall apart. Participants meet all of these great connections but never get in touch with them again. People who let that happen completely misunderstand the purpose of speed networking. You don’t build a relationship in five minutes; you make an introduction. The relationship comes later, and it’s that relationship that has the potential to help you achieve your career goals. Start the relationship-building process the very next day by sending a personal (not group) email to anyone you’d like to get to know better. What do you say? Just how glad you were to meet them and that you’d like to stay in touch. If you really connected, suggest meeting for coffee before work or going to lunch.
How do I find a speed-networking event?
If you’re in New York City, you’re in luck: Eventsy hosts monthly speed-networking events. Otherwise, check with these resources:
- Your local Chamber of Commerce
- University alumni groups (both your own and any that are located in your city)
- Professional organizations
- Small business associations
You already know how important connections are. The people you know at other companies can help you get a job, find a qualified employee if you’re in hiring mode, or smooth out bumps if your companies work together. Speed networking is a great way to maximize your connections, but, to turn those connections into relationships, you’ll need to do the important work after the event is over.
photo credit: freeimages