While you may be familiar with “speed dating,” it might be the first time you have heard of “speed networking.” The idea is generally the same. Speed networking is a 60 to 90-minute event that allows people to meet new contacts quickly. It is an effective way of expanding your professional network in a short amount of time.
Speed networking, sometimes called business speed dating or speed business meeting, gathers participants to make connections and exchange pertinent information. During the event, participants engage with each other within a set time frame.
If you’re considering attending your first speed networking event, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
1. Prepare for the Event
Get ready for your speed networking event. This advice might seem like common sense, but it’s always good to have a quick checklist of what you need to do.
- Prepare your pitch – keep it clear and concise
- Have a supply of business cards, brochures, and resumes (if applicable) available
- Bring writing materials to take down notes
- Remember that you only have 30 seconds or less to make a good impression
- Check if there’s a prescribed dress code – business casual, for example
2. Familiarise Yourself with the Format: Round Robin
Round Robin is the most common format or model for speed networking. In this format, participants meet each other following a specific order until everyone has a chance to meet. The room is often arranged with chairs organized in two circles to facilitate the meetings and ensure a smooth flow throughout the event.
The host usually rings a bell to open the first round of meetings. When the round starts, the first participant introduces themselves, explains their purpose for being there, gives a summary of their business, and offers their business cards. At the halfway point of the round, it’s the second person’s turn to do the same. It ends with a few questions back and forth until the host ends the round. Rinse and repeat until everyone meets each other.
3. The 60-Second Pitch
Each round of a speed networking event gives you a very short time to present your business or company in the best light possible. So, make sure you perfect your 60-second pitch. A round typically lasts for two to five minutes, depending on how many participants there are. Ensure you include all the pertinent information you want to share in your pitch. Describe yourself, your business, and any other information you want to tell the other person.
While preparing your pitch (way before the event, of course), an excellent question to ask yourself after each line is, “So what?” Does your pitch offer value to the other person? Are you including too much unnecessary information? Continuously refine your pitch until you feel it sounds natural and includes everything you want to say. After you write your pitch, practice, practice, and practice.
4. Think of Questions to Ask
After your pitches, you’ll have a little more time to ask each other a few questions. Here are some questions that can help you add value to your conversation. These questions will also help other participants remember you:
- Why do you work in your industry? What inspired you?
- What do you see yourself doing in five years?
- What would that be if you had to choose one app you can’t live without?
- Do you have a passion project aside from your day job?
- As a kid, was this what you imagined yourself doing at this point in your life?
- Who did you want to meet most among the participants here? Why?
These questions help deepen the conversation and allow the professional relationship to grow in the long run.
5. What to Do After the Event
Don’t think your work is done after attending the speed networking event. In fact, it has just started. Following up with your newfound contacts is critical. Review the business cards and other materials you received during the event. Match business cards to names and faces. Write down specific details about what you remember from each encounter.
The next steps are up to you. We recommend you send an email or LinkedIn message soon after the event. You don’t have to do it on the same day, but a day or two after is a good time to check-in. Say thank you for their time, add personalized information (this is where the note-taking comes in), and let them know that you would like to keep in touch. This is the start of nurturing your professional relationship.
If you have hesitations about speed networking, we strongly suggest you try it. There is no harm in trying; you never know who you’ll meet at a speed networking event. Building your professional network takes time and effort, and speed networking is one way to help grow yours. And hopefully, you can start reaping the fruits of your efforts soon.