Last week our local chamber of commerce, of which my company – Emergency Preparedness Solutions – is a member held an event called speed networking. Admittedly, prior to the announcements for said event, I had never heard of it. Of course we’ve all heard of speed dating – and have even seen it on TV and in movies (i.e. Hitch) – where men typically circulate through an orderly room of women, having only a few minutes to ask questions about each other and perhaps make a love connection. Speed networking is quite similar.
Representatives of various businesses and organizations were arranged opposite each other within a room (sadly, not the swanky, stylish room you witnessed the speed dating occurring in Hitch), having only two minutes to give their elevator speech and another two to listen to the pitch of the person across from them. You both exchange business cards and any other materials you might have (I had a flyer highlighting our business continuity services). At the ring of the bell everyone on one side of the table moved down a seat.
It was a pretty neat opportunity. Two minutes isn’t long, and depending on the level of interaction, sometimes wasn’t long enough. It was a very fast paced, near exhausting, activity. In the end, I met with about twenty businesses and organizations. With some there was clearly interest, with others – not so much. But that’s how things go in the business world. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to meet with the other business representatives who were the ‘movers’, as I was. I’m not sure how they would make that work… likely some complex algorithm of some sort which is well beyond my understanding. Still, it was an engaging opportunity to meet with these businesses and pitch my services.
I’ve been to quite a few business networking events, all of which seem to be a bit awkward as people tend to gravitate to those they know. You hate to break into a conversation at the risk of being rude or appearing overly pushy. Once in a while you’ll get introduced to someone, which is the best opening, but that’s a fairly rare occurence. The structure of the speed networking forces you to engage with someone new, and you are both there for the same purpose – what a great idea! There was even someone attending who I have met with several times before to discuss partnering up and making mutual referrals. Since we already knew what the other did, we took the opportunity to discuss what our next steps would be, which included a meet and greet with their top clients – score!
If you ever have an opportunity to take part in one of these events, I strongly encourage you to do so. It’s a great deal for small businesses, especially new ones. They are fun, engaging, and the best bang for your buck in terms of meeting people. FYI – the chamber charged $10 for the event, which included lunch. How can you go wrong?