Speed Networking. Wha-aat?

For those of you married types who have somehow felt jilted that speed dating was introduced after you said your “I do’s”, let me introduce you to speed dating’s more business-minded cousin: speed networking.

I was at a women’s networking function several weeks ago looking around the room thinking: I wonder if I’ll have the time or opportunity to get to know what these women really do and whether they could really use any of my writing services. If any of you have ever been to a networking function or industry conference you know exactly what I’m talking about. Too many people, too little time, and sometimes you just don’t want to fight the ten people waiting in line to talk to the one person you came to interact with. The most well-intentioned business events can often feel disappointing.

As I’m looking around the room this woman approaches me and says, “wouldn’t these things be more worthwhile if they were better organized?” I couldn’t have expressed it better myself, and as if somebody had been listening in on our conversation, an e-mail appeared in my Inbox a few days later…

SoCal Speednetworking brings the professional working community together by providing an organized platform for interaction. In one event you meet most, if not all, of the people in the room with you (I say “most” because it depends on how many people show up). You arrive at a venue, typically a private room in a restaurant; you are given a seat assignment, a pen, and a clipboard with pages for note taking; you are given instructions on how you are to go around the room; and then you’re off on an hour and a half of intense six-minute conversations. Now that you know a little bit about how it works, let me tell you why it’s a brilliant idea.

As a business owner, your best, most practical, and least expensive form of advertising is you. You are your brand, and everywhere you are is an opportunity for your business to be advertised. Sure you can pay for a website, ads in the local paper or magazine, booths at trade shows, and they may or may not pay off in the end, but if you don’t have an advertising budget the best thing you can do is get in front of as many people as you can and pitch your product or service. It is a proven fact that when people have face to face time with someone they are more likely to buy into what that person is selling; no newsletter, RSS feed, tweet, or facebook fanclub has the same effect. The speed networking event I attended allowed me to pitch my services and prove my expertise to  twelve people, uninterrupted, and with one very important purpose: sales.

If you’re still thinking, “I’m not interested in meeting a bunch of people trying to sell me life insurance and real estate”, I’m going to spin this a little differently. Go into the evening thinking of it more as a calculated opportunity to practice your pitch and you won’t be disappointed.

When I did my business incubator in January the woman leading it emphasized the importance of the “elevator pitch”; be able to explain and sell yourself in three sentences. Then she told us we needed to practice it as often as possible, and that’s exactly what I was thinking about when I walked into that Beverly Hills restaurant Thursday night. I had no idea who I was going to meet, or whether they would even care about what I was trying to sell; but let’s be real, there are no guarantees in business. That $2,000 ad you just paid for in the L.A. Times might not bring you a single hit. All I knew was that I was definitely going to get to practice my pitch —a lot. That itself was worth the $15 fee to attend.

At the end of the night, my brain felt worked and my throat felt a little raw, but I had given out the most cards ever by networking event standards, and I felt a huge confidence boost. The event was well organized, I felt my pitch improve with each person, and the next day, I got an e-mail from one of the people I met and now we’re having a meeting to further discuss my services. A potential client for a $15 investment…speed dating has got itself some stiff competition.

To experience one of these great events go to:  www.socalspeednetworking.com. If you don’t live in Southern California, google your area to see if something similar exists.

As always, please funnel any questions or comments through my website: www.aohwrite.com.

p.s. my new e-mail: dorota@aohwrite.com.

One thought on “Speed Networking. Wha-aat?

  1. I love that idea of speed networking. I often think of attending more networking events, but lack motivation because I rarely hand out more than a couple cards, and I’ve certainly never gotten any clients out of them. I guess I need to work on my “elevator pitch” and do some searches for events in my area….

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