Let’s face it. Networking can cause a bit of anxiety even for the most extroverted business professional. Entering a room full of people, most of whom you’ve never met before, and engaging in small talk can be daunting especially if you’re feeling stressed and not particularly social on the day.
The default position is to talk to people we already know. It’s common to look for a familiar face in the crowd and go straight to them. All well and good to build existing relationships, but how will you expand your network if you don’t talk to anyone else?
Worse, if you’ve conjured up the courage to engage with someone new, you could find yourself suffering through the life story of the wrong business connection because you’re too polite to end the conversation.
Don’t get us wrong – we love networking! It’s an invaluable and low cost way to expand your connections, uncover new business opportunities, get introduced to potential partners and new clients and tap into trusted resources or service providers that can help you or your business.
So how do we reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls? Speed networking could be the answer. With a more structured and time-efficient way of meeting new business connections, speed networking is a great way to fill up your diary and meet many more business professionals in one laser focused session.
How does speed networking work?
Speed networking is designed to accelerate business contacts through facilitated introductions and conversations – at speed. A common structure is to rotate all participants in quick succession so that each person gets the chance to engage one on one with as many people as possible. For each rotation, you have a set time – generally 1-2 minutes each – to introduce yourself and learn more about the other person, making speed networking highly efficient.
Each person has time to deliver their elevator pitch and find out how they can be of service to each other including making introductions to others in their networks. For the busy, time-poor business professional, making many new connections in as little time as possible is gold.
On discovering a shared interest, you can exchange business cards and set up a future meeting. Or, if the person is not the connection you’re looking for, you will quickly move on to the next person with no obligation to hang around or meet later. No time is wasted.
Speed networking is a great way to meet business professionals outside of your usual circle of influence who are actively seeking new markets or sourcing new suppliers. In other words, they are ready to do business. Once you find a common interest, it might not be too long before a new business deal, introduction or partnership is underway.
Tips to make the most out of speed networking
Speed networking is an awesome way to fill up your diary and your pipeline, fast. But to make sure you maximise the benefits of speed networking, here are some tips to follow.
Confirm details of the event – What is the event format? How much time will you have with each person? Is there a dress code or a theme? Knowing all the details about the event including the organisers can help you feel prepared, less anxious and set your expectations for the event. Knowing how much time you have with each person will help you craft a succinct elevator pitch and a couple of the most important questions you want to ask to suit the time-limit.
Know your objectives – Who do you really want to meet? What common interests are you looking for? Who is the audience you are looking to be introduced to? Who don’t you want to be introduced to? Who would be a good introducer to the audience you would like to get in front of?
Bring your business cards and a pen – Perhaps the most important speed networking tip is to remember to bring your business cards! You only have limited time with each person so you want to be sure that you can give them your contact details including a link to your company website. Now is also a good time to make sure your LinkedIn profile page is up to date. Keep a pen handy so you can take notes on each person either on the back of their business cards or a notepad.
Present your business succinctly
Due to the time limit per rotation, there’s no time for small talk. This means getting straight to the point, which is great for those who dread making small talk! Prepare yourself by knowing what you want to convey about yourself and your business. Keep it brief and memorable.
Make sure you know what to ask the other person. Your message, as well as the questions you ask, should be aligned with your objectives and the outcomes you want to achieve from the event.
Active listening – You only have a few minutes with each person so in addition to talking about yourself succinctly, show genuine interest, maintain eye contact and demonstrate you are listening by nodding and encouraging people to continue. When the other person is talking, your priority is to listen and ask your questions as soon as appropriate.
Being a good listener makes a good impression and increases your likeability. You can also show your willingness to listen by letting the other person speak first.
Clearly communicate your interest to connect after the event
If you meet someone you’d like to do business with or keep as an active connection, make sure you clearly indicate that you would like to talk further. And then follow through. Give them a call or send them an email after the event. Set-up a meeting over coffee. Follow up is crucial in building your relationship with your new connection.
If you want a genuinely exciting and extremely beneficial networking experience outside of your usual networking meetings, then get along to a speed networking event. You’ll find yourself loving it as much as we do!