Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Speed Networking

Last week I went to my first ever business speed matching. Or as a friend of mine put it, speed dating for business!

I have always avoided this type of marketing because it didn't seem to fit my way of marketing which is to develop relationships.

It worked like this: There were twenty participants. At the start, people are sitting facing one another. At the signal, we had five minutes to talk with the person we were facing. At the next signal we all moved to the right, having a new person to communicate with for five minutes.

I had no goals set going in to this event, other than to experience this type of marketing.

I found it a frustrating experience for me, but I told Jeremiah Gracia, VP of Business Development for GreaterFindlayInc that I will try it again. Here are a couple of my frustrations.

1. Each person handed me their business card, whether I wanted it or not. I do not hand out business cards unless someone asks for it. I gave out two. Is "dealing the deck" better in this situation?

2. My style is to ask questions when I meet someone for the first time, to find out more about that person. Consequently, most of the 19 conversations I had were focused on the other person -- not a bad thing, but I would guess that for most of the participants, they don't know what I do. Is there a format to follow as a participant of one of these events?

3. One participant gave everyone a fairly large gift of a beautifully wrapped dish of taffy candies. They were lovely and they were also cumbersome. I met with this person fairly early so I had that, plus my portfolio, my purse, my coffee, etc. to move each time. I felt like the one-handed paper-hanger. Should gift items be given at the end of the event?

4. Five minutes went quickly. There was no midpoint signal to suggest the conversation focus move to the other person. Or should there be a smaller group, so that there are two rounds with the first round focusing on one person, and the second round on the other?

Now, even with the frustrations, I did accomplish two future appointments and have since scheduled a third. I must tell you that the third was sort of reluctant to schedule when I emailed. I was thinking, "why bother go to these events if you're only going to skim the surface?"

So what do I think of this type of networking? The jury is out. As with anything new, there is a learning curve. I will register for the next event to see if this is an option for me.

What advice do you have for me?


(Okay, Since I wrote the above post I've done some additional research looking for actual hints on what to do at a speed networking event. While there is not a lot of info out there that specifically addresses that topic, one article did give me a lightbulb moment. The article was giving the benefits of speed networking with one being "Professional Development." Specifically it explained that a speed networker will "learn to perfect their 30 second elevator pitch" That's when I realized my frustration. The elevator pitch signifies selling for me and that is NOT networking. I was trying to network when most everyone else was selling. Just having that realization helps me to realize that I'm not crazy!)

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