I was invited recently by the folks at STAR Collaborative to attend one of their speed networking events.
On a regular basis throughout the year, they pair a portion of their consultant roster with the decision makers on the client side who hire consultants.
In the case of the event I went to, it was just a single client, a large national retailer, and I would only have that one five-minute slot in which to make an impression.
So over a beverage and a buffalo chicken wing, I got briefed on how it would go down.
I would have only five minutes and someone with a stop watch would actually be keeping time.
I should be prepared to sit down with agenda in my head of two or three things I wanted to cover in those five minutes, and state that intention up front.
As it turned out, we discussed the things I wanted to, and a whole lot more. In fact, the conversation went off on several tangents and covered lots of ground, some of which was pertinent to a potential engagement, and other pieces of it that weren’t at all.
So what’s the takeaway? I probably won’t ever do any actual work for this client, but I really like the person I spoke with, she represented the brand well, and I bet that we will find occasion to cross paths again.
And from the client side, she got to meet 15 or so passionate people in a very short period of time, and I’m sure made some connections that will turn into an engagement.
If you are thinking about hosting a speed networking event at your office or agency, there are several different types from which to choose.
- The first one is pretty simple. Just gather your participants in a room, and then everyone has five minutes to talk to someone they’ve never met, learn about what they do, and share a little bit about themselves. After five minutes, a bell rings, and people find someone else they’ve never met and repeat the process. This goes on for five or six rotations, or how ever many you decide depending on the size of the group, and then at the end of the event, everyone in the room has five or six new contacts.
- There is also the so-called “speed dating” model. In this variation you split the participants into two groups, say more experienced and then others who are earlier in their careers. One group takes up a station either inside or outside your event circle, and the other group will move on spot around the circle in a previously agreed direction every five minutes.
- Finally, there is the “safety in numbers” model if you aren’t sure of the composition of your group, or you have several different categories in the mix.
Arrange your venue so that three to four people can sit comfortably at every station. Due to the larger group in each discussion, you may want to extend the time per rotation to a little more than five minutes.
As people get more familiar with the format, you find that those who had been on the quiet side begin to engage in the group conversations. As a result, you may choose to expand the amount of time each group has before they have to move on.
This might be a good one if you have several clients, and they want to meet more people than they would in the one-on-one type session I had.
Regardless of how you do it, it’s quick, easy, fun and a great way to put the principal constituents in your business together.