Have you ever been to a speed dating event? If you have you’ll understand the concept of speed networking.
At a speed dating event you get to meet an awful lot of people in a very short space of time and the idea is that first impressions count, if you hit it off with someone and feel that you have things in common then you can meet up again later and take more time to build a relationship.
Speed networking is the business equivalent in that you a given a set period of time (2 or 3 minutes for example) to make initial contact with other business people. Just enough time to exchange basic information about your business and the service that you offer as opposed to an in depth discussion
The positive points about speed networking are that you get the opportunity to meet and exchange business cards with a relatively large number of other business people and at the same the time limit forces you to move on and eliminate the possibility of being stuck talking to the same person for a whole event.
For me, there must also be an informal networking session at the end of the event where you can take time to meet again with other people that you felt you were building a rapport with. In this way you can start the relationship building process rather than it just having finished with the exchange of a business card.
In these types of event it’s vital to have mastered the art of effective use of business cards. When you finish a session you may well have a pile of cards and find it difficult to be able to put a face to the card at a later date. This is one reason why my business networking tips below are essential to making the most of speed networking and speed dating alike.
1. Before you decide to attend speed business networking events take time to understand the format. Is it all speed networking or is there free networking time too? If you understand the format you’ll go better prepared and make more of the event.
2. Part of the above is about understanding how much time you have with every other person. If it’s short then you really need to have a well practiced and fine tuned sixty seconds presentation. If you’ve got a bit longer you can maybe afford to go a little more in depth.
3. You may be required to follow a set agenda in your meetings such as your name, your business sector etc etc. Knowing this in advance will help you practice the right subject matter prior to the event.
4. Speed networking when there is a fixed agenda is a very comfortable way to meet new people so take time to identify those people that you don’t already know.
5. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to give your pitch, let the other person talk first, in this way if there are any “common areas” that you want to exploit, you can then adapt your pitch to suit.
6. Make good use of business cards. When you exchange cards take time to read aloud what is on the other person’s card. The other person will see this as interest on your part but most importantly it will help you remember the face and the name at a later date. You can also use the business card to make notes. This is an important point when designing your own cards – make sure that the background is a light colour so that anyone can make notes on your card.
7. Considering point 6 – don’t forget your business cards and a pen!
8. Don’t loose time searching through business cards to find your own. Make sure that you have a place for those that you have collected and for your own. I use two separate pockets in my jacket or coat.
9. Finally, if you feel you have something more to say to someone and that there could be a synergy – make it clear! Now is not the time for polite conversation, be direct and let them know that you would like to have a further meeting and propose a date and time.