Speed Networking – “Speed Dating” for Business?

“5 minutes, your time starts now”. You are sitting in front of someone who you have probably not met before, and you are going to impress them enough that they, or their contacts or colleagues, will want to use your services or purchase your products.

Think speed dating – five minutes to know enough about a person to decide on a second meeting. Or in this case, can we be of help to each other in the future?

This concept is likely to take participants out of their comfort zone. So we put on and facilitated a speed networking evening for the North Dorset Business Group to give some insight into what to expect.

Firstly, and before you attend the event, prepare your ‘elevator pitch’. This will be a 30 second description of yourself, what you do and what you would like to communicate. Think about what you are trying to achieve: new clients, a new job, an entry into a group? Be prepared, be concise, and keep that goal in mind. Set realistic goals and outcomes that allow you to deliver the message that you want and are able to facilitate. Be very focused: there is little time for waffle or small talk.

Over a meal we led group participants through elevator pitch concepts and then everyone stood up and read theirs out. Moments of self-consciousness and awkwardness followed – but in a supportive arena, everyone learned more about the technique and gained confidence as a result.

Now to put the theory into practice. As the 5-minute stopwatch was pressed, everything went very quiet! But gradually the conversations started, and by the time the 5 minutes was up it was difficult to stop the chatter.

So that’s it – speed networking – easy wasn’t it? Actually, no. There is lots of behind the scenes work involved, setting it up, preparing delegates before bringing people back on target and helping them to be focused, as well as coaching through elevator pitches which are alien to many, and Vale Secretarial can help with all of this.

If you are considering taking part in a speed networking event, here are a few tips:

  1. Understand the concept. It is very focused. The contacts you make may not directly help you but you want to impress them enough to recommend you to their contacts or colleagues
  2. Be prepared. Have your elevator pitch ready. Remember you only have a short time to make an impression.
  3. Keep your goal in mind. Set clear and concise objectives, identify your needs and seek out the people who may lead you to fulfilling them.
  4. Respect, truth and manners. Don’t let the ‘speed’ element of the meeting be at the expense of courtesy. There’s enough time to smile, shake hands and be polite.
  5. You will gain from giving. When you help others, they want to help you, and this applies to speed networking just like anything else.
  6. Be aware of your personal brand. Are you dressed according to the expectations of the event? Are you communicating your core values and basic principles? Are you looking past a first point of contact for potential fits? Be aware of your posture, your body language and the response of your counterparts to the way you are delivering your message.
  7. Ask questions as well as delivering information. “What do you do and how can I help you do it better?” “What made you decide to come to this event?” “What inspired you to start doing the work you’re involved in now?” “What are some strategies that you’ve found to be helpful for your recent work?” Answers will trigger the next questions and help the conversation to flow and be relevant.
  8. Take notes. This will help to remind you of the contacts you met, the context and a summary of what was said, and identify which contacts to follow up at a later date.

Successful speed networking is a skill, and as with any skill worth mastering, it takes practice. However, it could assist you in building your business, finding more clients, establishing a wider net of contacts and developing self-confidence.

And should you one day decide to attend a speed dating event, who knows what avenues your newly gained skills could lead you down…….

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