Speed networking is one leading way for business builders to rapidly expand their cross-industry reach and create awareness around the solutions they create. It is also an incredibly powerful tool for building understanding of the challenges faced by owners in diverse industries. I love these events because I walk away bringing with raw ideas about problems that are simple for me to solve and yet others seem to find so complex – and I’m sure the reverse is true too.
Speed networking is ideal for people who find introductions much easier when there is some structure around a connection. No awkward openers in the coffee-line, and no getting stuck in a collective of people who are not interested in the same objectives as you. The format puts you infront of a wide range of qualified businesses with the opportunity to briefly espouse the ways in which you serve customers, your ‘why’, and what you are looking for on your growth journey.
There’s no doubt that these events can be a fantastic way to grow your network and bring you new opportunities.
As a regular organizer of these events for our business community in Auckland, I wanted to offer some useful tips that I’ve seen used by effective networkers coming through our meetups, I hope they’ll be useful for you to try out at your next event.
Think about your reasons for attending the event
Getting to participate in any connection opportunity is a wonderful gift for any business builder. People do business with people, and right off the bat you know that you will be in a room with a set of qualified, like-minded individuals all bringing their own collection of offerings, experienced, challenges and ideas. You’ll get to hear differing points of view and unique takes on how other business people solve challenges for customers. You’ll hear about what drew them to the industry, business or cause they are championing and where they want to take that enterprise next. All of these are hugely valuable insights that can help you create a better business, approach, or solution before you have even opened your mouth. Be at the event for the purpose of nourishing more than your 90 day opportunity pipeline.
There are various forms of speed networking events, so you should make sure you understand the format of the event you are signing up for, and you can get a good idea of this from the event flier, registration sheet, past-event writeups and of course from the impressions offered by previous event attendees. Our events generally use a format of 2 networking rounds with a break between, and a casual networking session to follow. Speed Networking is a compressed format, so being well prepared before hand is really valuable. More on this below.
There is often not enough interview time to meet all the attendees during the structured sessions so making use of time in the break is important to get a feel for whether it would be useful to connect with people you may miss in the structured session. After the event we offer a social (catered session) of free-flow networking for people who are able to stay. We’ve found that those who do get a tremendous amount of additional value. By this stage of the afternoon, everyone is relaxed and initial introductions are already made. Energy in the group is always high and deeper, more quality conversations are explored at these sessions. If you have the opportunity to engage in a session like this I highly recommend it, regardless how you feel before the event, experience shows this is a great thing to do afterward.
Speed networking is pretty intense. Its a lot of fun and the combination of urgency, novelty and opportunity generate a lot of energy even in attendees who consider themselves reserved. The time you have with conversation partners is a time when you want to be highly attentive, listening at 100% and sharing purposefully, keeping your message relevant, framed well and packed with value that is a solid foundation for a continuing relationship.
Before the speed networking event begins, set clear and concise goals and objectives to use as a guide through the various meetings. Perhaps you are interested in a specific industry – you could connect with a great insider at the event with whom you can meet later for a scoop on everything you might wish to know. Perhaps you want to raise general profile, or maybe it is to get market feedback on a specific solution you are thinking about promoting as a new product or service. Perhaps your goal is a specific number of followup meetings or simply to identify one or perhaps two key influencers you can follow up with that could lead you to a major account win. People attend speed networking with a wide variety of goals, but it really helps to push yourself beyond ‘to meet new contacts’ or ‘because my business mentor told me to.’ What are the most important goals for you will likely vary depending on the stage of business you are in.
Putting your all into an event can be a little draining and once an event is over it’s always nice to take a moment for a few deep breaths and a chance to unwind. This is a really important element in performing your best in networking, but remember one of the most important aspects of networking is to follow up the people you have met. Followup activity can take several forms including:
There is a lot more to planning, developing and nourishing great business connections, but these ideas are well-proven to set you on the right track. I’d love to learn a bit about your Speed-Networking experiences, so please comment below.
If you are a business owner, active entrepreneur or business development professional in the greater Auckland area, please come and join our next Business Strategy NZ Business Speed Networking event, happening Thursday November 28th at The Common – The Entrepreneurs Playground in Parnell from 1:30pm. I’d love to see you there!
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