Is Speed Networking For You?

March 30, 2015

Every successful person owes his or her success to the support of others. That's why you hear over and over again how important it is to network. For some born with naturally great social skills this is a piece of cake. For the rest of us with less than perfect social skills who usually prefer to stay quiet versus make the effort to small talk with the stranger sitting across from us, networking can be nerve-racking and exhausting. If you're in this camp, you're probably thinking that speed networking is definitely not for you. I'm here to tell you it absolutely is. Here's why.

What to Expect at a Speed Networking Event

Ok, so how exactly does a speed networking event work? Well, as this is an event that's basically like speed dating for professionals, it's set up in about the same format. The event I attended started with a short happy hour so participants could loosen up with an alcoholic beverage and briefly meet each other before stepping onto the playing field. This was a great way to ease the tension in the room and remind people we were all here just to have a good time.

Everyone wore a name tag and some of the tags had numbers. The people with numbers on their tags had assigned seats that they stayed at for the duration of the event. Those without numbers chose their first "date" at random and then moved around the room, going to the higher number each time the gong sounded. Each pair had just four minutes to share their line of work with one another before moving on to the next person. The four minutes went by fast but the time limit just made it more exciting. The room pulsed with energy and the loud buzz of animated conversations.

I exchanged business cards with each person I met and at the end had a stack of cards with several leads. I made coffee dates for that week with a couple of the folks and left feeling happier and more confident than when I had first arrived. I couldn't believe how easy it had been to talk with so many strangers in one night!

Why It Works

So, why do you think this format works so well? Here's my theory:

Small talk can be painful if you don't know what to talk about and if you're always worried that you'll run out of things to say. It can be awkward and forced and it's sometimes hard to know when and how to politely excuse yourself from a conversation that's going nowhere and obviously causing pain for you both. (Those are the worst.)

Speed networking gives you an easy out and the short time you have to talk with each person pretty much guarantees you won't run out of things to say. I found that the time limit made me much more comfortable talking to strangers. The four minutes flew by and at the end I always wanted more time, which is the point of speed networking: to leave you wanting more and to lead to deeper connections outside of the event.

What You'll Get Out Of It

Speed networking is most certainly a great opportunity to practice your pitch but most importantly, it's a time to practice the art of listening. As Dale Carnegie so accurately points out in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." Dale Carnegie

The more questions you ask about the other person, the more they will like you, and if you offer a valuable service, the more they will want to work with you or refer you to others. Networking is not so much about telling others about your talents and persuading them to hire you, it's about connecting with new people and learning all you can from them.

No matter what stage you are in your business or what amount of social skills you possess, I think speed networking can be a beneficial experience for everyone. The worst that can happen is you walk away without any new leads but you still will know a few more friendly faces around town, and that can never hurt.

Thanks to Corinne Helmink for putting on the fabulous Speed Networking event I attended! If you're interested in attending a speed networking event or putting on one of your own, get in touch with Corinne on Twitter: @corinnehelmink or check out her website: Sponty Events. (*Note: Sponty Events is currently in Dutch but an English version is coming soon!)

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