I love life’s little coincidences. Yesterday I wrote about some types of networking games. In particular I mentioned “speed networking” — a practice where you sit across from someone and in three or four minutes you each try to decide whether you want to continue your networking relationship. Then yesterday evening at the Chamber Ambassadors meeting, we actually did some speed networking. The only bad thing about it was that Cheryl O’Brien, the Director of Membership and the head of the Ambassador Corps, asked me to describe what we were about to do.

While I didn’t crash and burn, I don’t feel like I did as well as I might have.

I think I mentioned that I’m not perfect, right?

So, before I complete the list that I started yesterday, I’m going to delve a little more deeply into the mysteries of speed networking and what some of the best practices are.

  1. First and foremost, you don’t have much time at all. Two minutes (your half of a four minute time limit) will fly by. Don’t hem and haw about starting the conversation. Jump in and get going.
  2. Respect the other person’s time. If you are a good conversationalist, this might actually work against you. If you just start chatting without a focus, you may run into the other person’s time which means that they won’t have a chance to learn about you. You wouldn’t want that would you?
  3. Respect everyone’s time. When the bell or buzzer sounds, you must gracefully terminate your existing conversation (though perhaps with a promise to continue later) and move on to the next person. If you don’t, it will cause everyone upstream of you to miss out on networking time with their next person.
  4. Have your questions ready. You probably have time for three questions at most after the introductions. I recommend going with the following:
    1. “What brings you here today?” Notice that I didn’t say “Who do you work for?” or “Where do you work?” Sometimes the people who are attending a networking event are not currently employed. The first question avoids any assumptions that might make your conversational partner feel uncomfortable.
    2. “What do you like to do when you aren’t working in your business?” This will tell you more about who they are. Remember that despite the short time limit, you want to start developing a relationship. You’ll need to know more about them as a person in order to do that.
    3. “If I’m talking with someone, how would I know they are someone I should send your way?” With this question you are showing that you care about the success of their business. Also, they are likely to ask you the same question in return.
  5. Be succinct. You must be able to describe what you do in about ten seconds or less. Make it interesting, make it memorable, but above all, make it short.
  6. Have a pen and paper handy. You will really stand out in the crowd if you take a few seconds to jot down what you learn from each person — especially if it means that you can help them out at a later date.
  7. Have fun!
Hopefully the next time you have an opportunity to do some speed networking, these ideas will help you make it as productive as possible. As I mentioned yesterday, it’s a good way to meet people that you might not normally meet.
And you never know when one of them might turn into your next “golden” connection.
Photo credit: HowardLake