6 tips to surviving (and thriving) at speed networking events

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I was a guest at a speed networking event yesterday morning hosted by the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs (CAWEE). It was my first event of this kind at their group.

Personally I like these types of events. It allows me to have an ice breaker conversation with many people in an association, and this helps me build the way for better (and longer!) conversations in the future. It also helps me test out how I’m explaining my work or a new project or new company messaging I’m working on. By the end of the session, I’ve told my story at least 20 times and have immediate feedback if it is resonating.

The setup
If you’ve never been to a speed networking event, this is usually how it works: rows of 2-person tables and chairs are lined up. The people on one side of the table stay seated  throughout the whole event while those on the other side of the table move along to the next table. Usually the sessions are from 2-5 minutes long – just enough time to give a quick overview of what you do and hear the other person’s version – then it is time to move on.

Have a plan
The best way to make speed networking work for you, is to approach it strategically. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of the next speed networking event that comes your way:

  1. Know why you want to attend.
    Are you testing out new messaging as I was? Are you considering joining the association and want to find out more about it? Looking for a new client? A new job? Your reason to attend will keep you sharp and focused during the event.
  2. Know what you’ll say about yourself and your company.
    Keep it short. As you do not know the attention span, nor the depth of industry knowledge the people you are meeting will have.  “Hi, my name is…., I do this type of work at this type of company and we serve these types of customers.”
  3. Know what to ask about their company/business.
    It may be safe to assume that the other person hasn’t prepped as well as you have. You may get someone who is bumbling along trying to explain the details of what they do, or you may have someone reciting their life story…either way you need to take back this short meeting. Have a few questions ready to interject such as “who are your customers?” or “what type of clients are you looking for?” This will help your  ill prepared networking date save some face and be able to provide you with helpful information during your initial brief time together.
  4. If there is time, ask more about them.
    You’ll want to find out about the association, how long they’ve been a member, what has been the best benefit (business, referrals, expanding the network, volunteering) to them? This will help you get an understanding of the organization from several different people in a short period of time and help you decide if it may be a good group for you to join.
  5. Say thanks and mean it.
    When it’s time to end your meeting and move along, shake hands and genuinely thank the person for their time.
  6. Follow up with all those you met.
    Some may be a great client, a great connector or great business associate, you never know. Make the effort to drop each a brief email to tell them how good it was to have met. Continue to nurture the relationship into the future.

 Have you got any tips to add?

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