Networking can be one of the most powerful and productive activities an individual can do to launch and manage their career. Building an interconnected group of relationships with others is at the core of a person’s effectiveness both personally and professionally. In the workplace today, we need to be known to others as well as ensure that others are aware of how we might be a resource for them. Whether student, young careerist, or seasoned professional, having a network of people you can tap into for information, advice and opportunities, while sharing your own, is paramount.
Over the past five years, speed networking has emerged as a variation of traditional business networking activities for meeting people. Speed networking is a structured and fast paced networking event allowing participants to interact with others, typically in a series of brief one-on-one information exchanges. Speed networking takes its cue from speed dating, an event where individuals are allowed a short amount of time to meet a number of prospective dates, one at a time, and then choose who they would like to provide their contact information. Where interest is mutual, the contact leads to a date.
Speed networking is the business version of speed dating. However, in speed networking events, the participants readily share contact information with each other and decide themselves who they will follow up with. This type of event can provide exposure to a lot of people in a short amount of time. It is a way to let others know who you are and what you are looking for, whether new customers or clients, business or sales leads, or a new job or internship. Colleges and universities may offer speed networking events where employers and alumni are invited to meet students looking for internships, jobs, or mentors, or where alumni can meet each other. Professional associations and chambers of commerce may offer speed networking opportunities at a monthly meeting or as part of an annual conference.
Preparation for Speed Networking
•Practice a 60-second statement that includes your name, title or occupation, and what you are looking for, such as information, leads, a job or internship. Some people like speed networking because you get right to the point and there is no time for small talk.
•Make sure you have a supply of business cards ready. Sometimes event planners will suggest a number; bring at least 30. If you are unemployed at the time, get business cards with your contact information and occupation printed on them.
•Assemble brochures, resumes or other type of handout, if applicable.
•Bring a pen, notepad, and your appointment calendar with you.
•Usually attire is either business or business casual. Check with the organizers if it is not stated.
Remember that you have a few seconds to make a positive first impression.
During the Event
•First of all, have fun. The fast pace of this kind of event contributes to a high level of energy in the room.
•Usually 2-5 minutes are allowed for each round; the leader will inform the group about the time frame.
•As you meet each person, shake hands and exchange names and business cards. Read each card as you accept it. A good system to keep the cards organized: keep your business cards in one jacket pocket, and the business cards given to you in the other.
•Be extremely aware of the time factor so the second person doesn’t get their time cut short. Talking too long in a situation like this is highly insensitive and damages your first impression.
•Take notes on the back of your partner’s business card. This may include notes on how they look or what they are wearing to help you remember them.
•Suggest a next step, if appropriate. You will not have time to schedule a phone call or meeting, so follow up the next day will be important.
Above all, respect the process. At the signal, end your conversation immediately and move, or allow the other person to move, to next person. You can always continue conversations later.
Speed networking is a great way to have fun and get connected with other professionals in your community. Sign up for our free membership to receive special discounts for our speed networking events and more.