If you think you don’t have time to develop your business contacts, you should try speed networking. It’s like speed dating for professionals. With speed networking, you can enjoy a series of brief one-on-one conversations where participants freely share their contact information and then follow up as they choose. It’s one of the best ways to discover new clients, identify job opportunities or find a necessary service.
If you would rather have a root canal or sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door than network, you may need to reframe how you think about this activity. Networking is simply an opportunity to share resources. You are just as likely to help someone else as you are to be helped. For example, you may be able to provide an introduction, suggest a job lead or offer to send an informative article. Try to approach networking with a service mindset and you may learn to enjoy it and get more out of it, as well.
How Speed Networking Works
Speed networking sessions are typically hosted by professional organizations or companies. The action is lively and fast-paced, and there is usually time to mingle prior to timed sessions. A typical setup might include conference room tables with chairs on either side. One group remains stationary while the other side moves to the adjacent seat following each two- to five-minute round. The moderator may signal when there are a few seconds left so you can wrap up your conversation prior to moving on to the next person.
How to Find Speed Networking Events
You can find speed networking events in the same places you are likely to find regular networking activities. Make sure you enroll in professional networking association emails. Also, look for these events in the following places:
- LinkedIn feed
- Facebook News Feed (select Events)
- College alumni group mailing lists
- Co-working spaces
- Public libraries
If you discover that speed networking is not very popular in your area, suggest it to the organizations that you belong to. You don’t even need tables and chairs. All that is required is a little bit of space and less than an hour. They are perfect for companies, as well as churches, charity and civic organizations, parent-teacher organizations, sports clubs and more. You could host your own speed networking event by posting a notice on social media. Events can even be conducted virtually.
How to Get the Most from Speed Networking
You’ll have a limited amount of time with each new contact during your speed networking session. So make sure you’ve identified what you want to get out of the event. For example, your goal might be to:
- Find new clients
- Learn more about the host organization
- Identify potential employers
- Practice presenting yourself or your company
The Best Speed Networking Questions
Because the time you spend with each new connection is limited, come prepared with some ways to keep the conversation on track. Start by writing down your goal, as it will guide you in determining what questions to ask.
Furthermore, your new contact may meander or monopolize the conversation. If you are unable to steer the conversation in your direction, you can leave your contact wanting to know more about you by asking good questions. Of course, these questions will depend on your goal. But say you are looking for job opportunities. You’ll want to do your research about the companies or industries in attendance.
Then prepare thought-provoking questions, such as:
- What changes have you seen in your field?
- What’s the culture like? Is it what you expected?
- What career path have you followed to get to your current position?
- What are some of the most unique challenges that you face in your career that you had not anticipated?
- What personality traits have served you best?
When you ask a question, listen carefully without trying to wrestle control of the conversation or turn attention back to yourself. You can agree with the speaker, but avoid the one-upmanship game. That’s when you tell a story of something similar, only better, that happened to you. Avoid asking for a job, any discussion of money, or disparaging your current company, boss or situation.
How to Research People You Meet and Deepen Connections
You may not learn everything you need to know about the people you meet in one five-minute conversation. It’s easy enough, however, to continue the conversation by phone or over coffee. Before you extend yourself to contacts you’ve just made, however, you may want to do more research. That’s where Spokeo is useful.
Using the information found on a standard business card and Spokeo’s search tools, you can discover a lot, including where the individual lives, their social media and dating profiles, criminal records and more. While it’s easy to meet a dozen new people in a one-hour event, it’s more difficult to know who you can trust. Spokeo makes it easy by adding more color to the professional information you are able to uncover about your contact on platforms like LinkedIn.
Note: Spokeo is not a consumer reporting agency as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Do not use this site to make decisions about employment, tenant screening, or any purpose covered by the FCRA.