Speed networking is a great way to make meaningful connections and a lasting impression as you expand your professional network. Here’s how you do it.
Designed to accelerate the exchange of information between professionals, speed networking is an event format that allows people to make efficient, effective connections with the right people. Whether you’re looking to practice your social skills within business-oriented settings, or you’re on the hunt for like-minded people with similar goals, it’s essential to know how to present yourself, your line of work, and your aspirations – especially if you’ve only got a few minutes to make a lasting impression. Hive Life breaks down the 7 things you need to know before heading into a speed networking event.
Be prepared and ready to network
Making a killer impression within a small window of time is only possible if you’ve got a handle on the bare minimum – which means making sure you’re mentally, and literally, ready to meet people, and to ensure that they remember you. On top of being confident, sharp, and open to diving right into conversations of substance over small talk, you’ll need to make sure your talking points are at the forefront of your mind. This means knowing why you’re there, what you’re looking for, and having something to offer to those you’re speaking to. If you’ve got a killer concept or idea, or a full-fledged business plan, have the most engaging, need-to-know bullet points ready to dole out when given the opportunity. Also, make sure that you’ve got your business cards on hand, so people are able to put a name to the face the next time they see you.
Arrive with a goal in mind
Goal-oriented people are easy to spot. When you’re certain of your purpose, and you match it with enthusiasm and unmistakable drive, people will respond to that. It goes hand-in-hand with being prepared – but your short-term goal for a speed networking event should tie into your bigger-picture goals. You could aim to make three new connections with people in a relevant industry, or aim to generate interest in, or even get some feedback on, an idea, or business. Knowing what you’re looking for will translate into surefootedness, confidence, and a purpose that will translate into an actionable plan for the event.
Be appropriately dressed for the occasion
This should go without saying, but just in case you’re unsure – it’s always best to dress to impress. The way we dress, whether we like it or not, has a massive influence on people’s first impression. Going the extra mile with your appearance could have an impact on how approachable you are and whether people want to engage with you. It’s also your first opportunity to express yourself, before you even speak to anyone. Business casual is the perfect dress code to adhere to – but don’t be afraid to add your own personal flare so as to leave a lasting impression that goes perfectly with your confident and open demeanour.
Know your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch has to be brief, informative, and captivating – which means you’ve got to channel your inner salesperson and be prepared to relay the very best you’ve got to offer in clear, concise sentences. While you’ll want to come across as credible and certain, it’s paramount to loosen up so you don’t come off stiff, scripted, or boring. You’ve got to be energetic, enthusiastic, and conscious of the signals people are sending you in return. An elevator pitch can be as simple as:
• Your name
• Your title and company
• A brief anecdote about a problem that reveals a need for what you can offer
• The value in your services, products, or concept
• Your goals and purpose
• What you hope to gain from your meeting with them
Be engaged and ask questions
How you make someone feel about themselves goes hand-in-hand with how people perceive you. When conversing with someone you want to impress, it’s vital to make them feel heard by exhibiting, and keeping an eye out for, nonverbal cues. Asking questions is always an incredibly easy way to show that you’re interested, capable of engaging when the spotlight isn’t on you, and emotionally intelligent enough to keep a conversation going, even if it’s about something outside of your comfort zone and expertise. A few simple but effective questions to have on hand are:
• What brings you to this event?
• How long have you been doing _______?
• What are some of the pain points you usually come across in your line of work?
• What’s the big picture goal?
• What was the catalyst for you joining this industry?
Focus on connections, not contacts
Though there’s no question that networking can be a daunting, intimidating endeavour, it can help to remember that they’re just people – people who, much like yourself, are trying to learn, grow, and step outside their comfort zone. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to loosen up and ask questions beyond the obvious. It can help to connect with someone when you humanise their experience by being curious about a person’s story, and how that’s influenced their professional decisions and goals. Be personable by smiling, maintaining eye contact, having a firm and confident handshake, and asking the right questions beyond typical small talk. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many business cards you’ve walked away with if you didn’t attempt to make real connections with those people first.
Follow up with your new connections
Connections are only valuable if you work to maintain them, and people often get complacent when it comes to reaching out. If you’ve walked out of a speed networking event with a few new LinkedIn connections and a handful of business cards, you’d be remiss to let those meetings go to waste. It’s important to follow up sooner rather than later, so that their impression of you is still fresh in their mind – and it shows that you not only take initiative, but have the foresight to develop the relationships you start. This could be as simple as asking someone to grab a coffee to catch up or to discuss a potential opportunity for collaboration. Leaving comments on their LinkedIn posts is another simple way of staying on someone’s radar – but nothing beats an in-person conversation.