Networking can be difficult and sometimes its hard to know where to start. In fact, one of the most common concerns people have is about entering and exiting conversations.
That’s why speed networking is so great! It’s a way to practice and get comfortable with your “elevator pitch”, gain confidence, be guided into and out of introductions and to meet a lot of great people in the process!
Do you ever get to a networking event, stand up to give your introduction, and find yourself stumbling over your words? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! Sometimes it’s a matter of needing more practice, sometimes it’s a matter of figuring out what to say, and sometimes it’s the obstacle of outside distraction. No matter which of those categories you fall in to, you’re sure to discover that speed networking is a great tool to build confidence and help you prepare for upcoming networking opportunities.
Speed networking is…
a fun and wonderful way to network! But more importantly, it is an opportunity to meet a lot of people for a short amount of time and figure out who you might work best with. Think of it like speed dating, but for business!
There are several variations of how speed networking can be facilitated, but the purpose of each one is the same: to get each person introduced to as many other people as possible. Commonly, Speed Networking is set up in a way where pairs of two meet and rotate. Other times a room full of people will be split in to groups of four or five and each person will have 1-2 minutes to tell the other people in their small group who they are, what they do, and questions. The facilitator will signify the start and stop times for each person to introduce themselves (see, you can blame “exiting the conversation” on the facilitator!) that their time has ended and then the next person in the group will speak until everybody has spoken.
At that point the pairings or groups will change or combine, but everybody present has made at least five connections within fifteen minutes—an impressive feat! After the event has ended, those people who have an interest in talking more may exchange information (if they haven’t already) and or arrange to connect further.
Who is speed networking good for?
Speed networking is great for anybody who is interested in growing his or her network!
It is appreciated by people with busy schedules who need to be careful with their time. It is fast, efficient, and you can meet a lot of interesting people in a short amount of time who you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Introverts say they appreciate the guidance and especially the 1:1 or small group Speed Networking format. Extroverts say they enjoy the chance to get to meet so many new people quickly. Ambiverts (like me!) love the combination of having guidance to meet lots of new connections tempered with 1:1 or small group introductions.
If you’re new to networking, speed networking is a great introduction to some of the finer points of networking communication.
You don’t have to worry about entering or exiting the conversation because its facilitated for you—you get the opportunity to just focus on making a strong connection.
It is also great for someone who is still trying to nail down exactly how to describe themselves or their businesses in the most efficient way possible because you get the chance to practice on a lot of different people.
Speed networking can even be great for those who are experienced with networking—it is a great opportunity to practice a new pitch or boost your confidence in meeting others outside of your sphere!
How to prepare:
Preparing for a speed networking event will help you stay cool, calm, and confident! Taking a few minutes out of your schedule to get ready will benefit you in the long run and help you make a good impression. So what are the best ways to prepare?
1) Think about what you’re going to say. You won’t have a lot of time to say it, so thinking about it beforehand will help you determine what needs to be said. Here is a helpful formula:
“Hello! My name is (insert name here) and I am a (insert job title here). I do (list what job entails: do you write? Organize? Teach children? What do you do, in bullet-point form?) for (name of company/organization). I am here to/because (what is the key thing that you would like people to know?) and I would like to connect with anybody who is (who are you trying to connect with? Lawyers? Small business owners? etc.).”
If nothing else, remember to state:
The key thing you want people to know about what you do
and who you’re trying to connect with.
2) Bring business cards! Lots of business cards! More business cards than you think you’ll need! If you don’t have business cards, bring a pen and pad of sticky notes or a small notebook to write down your contact information or the contact information of others.
3) Even if you do have business cards, bring a pen and post-it notes. When you take somebody’s business card, stick a post-it note to it and write how you’re going to follow up with them down on it. Make sure to include any other pieces of important information about them on that that post-it note!
4) Schedule a time later that day or soon after the event to do all of your follow-ups. The moment you sign up for Speed Networking, go to your calendar and reserve time for follow up.
5) Make a game of it and do the follow up! Go through all of the business cards you collected and sort them in to two piles: the Connect Immediately Pile and the Connect Eventually Pile. The Connect Immediately Pile should be full of people who you clicked with and would find value in staying connected (e.g. they serve a similar target market and could be a good referral partner, they are offering goods and services that you need immediately, or people who expressed interest in what you have to offer. The Connect Eventually Pile should include connections that are important but not pertinent to you at the moment. I do recommend connecting You may not have clicked with everyone — it is okay to have a discard pile, too.
5) Now is the most important part. Sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and start really connecting! Email or call every single person in your Connect Immediately Pile. Remember, it won’t matter how many networking events you go to if you don’t connect with people afterwards, so make an effort to contact those people who you can really help, or those who can really help you. Follow-through is an important part of networking and is the real backbone of growth.
Pro tip: Don’t just leave it at one follow up. Have a plan for several touches with your best connections. Here are just a few ways you can schedule a series of follow ups over time to stay top of mind: email, LinkedIn connection request, phone call, share a useful resource or article, invite to an event you’ll be attending, offer to make a mutually beneficial introduction between them and someone else or send a note by mail. (This is covered more in depth in my Win/Win Networking as well as the “Who is on your most wanted list?” article by Deb Brown of Touch Your Client’s Heart in the resource section.)
If you’re interested in doing some speed networking, Google “Speed Networking events” in your area. I regularly facilitate supercharged Speed Networking for groups and attendees have a great experience. Or click here to view the next time I’ll be facilitating Speed Networking for Women In Networking (WIN).
Follow this guide and have fun and great results with speed networking!
Happy connecting everyone!