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Speed Networking 101: How to Thrive at Your Next Event

| Flourish Monthly

If you’re a small business owner, you know that networking is essential for growing your business. But attending the same networking events week after week, sipping the same boring coffee and trying to strike up conversations can get tiring. This is where speed networking comes in to freshen things up! These events are designed to create opportunities for quick, meaningful conversations that help you expand your network. But with only a few minutes to make an impression, some people can be intimidated. That’s why we’re going to share our favorite networking tips and tricks, be it traditional or speed networking. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the game, read on to learn how to make the most out of your next event.

Speed Networking vs. Traditional Networking

Pretty much all forms of networking have their purpose. There is very rarely one that is better than the other. We host our own small, weekly networking meetings, but we always recommend that people join other larger groups like your local Chamber of Commerce in addition to the small ones. You’re going to get a different experience out of each. 

The same idea applies to traditional vs. speed networking. With traditional networking, you get the opportunity to give your message to more people. With speed networking, however, you get the opportunity to get more in-depth about your message. Here are some more great things about speed networking:

  • You get more one-on-one time. This gives people the opportunity to ask questions about you and your company. 
  • You get to adjust your pitch. Oftentimes, there are specific products or services we’ll promote to everyone. With speed networking, you might have a different product or service that would be more interesting to the 4 people you’re sitting at a table with! You also get the opportunity to make your message more personal.
  • More time allows you to ask for what you need. This is a built-in feature of Flourish’s small networking groups because it helps other people help you. Instead of your name and tagline, you can tell people you’re looking for a couple in their mid-20s who’s looking to buy their first home, rather than “anyone who is buying a home.” This “need” can also be an introduction to a referral partner!
  • Bring a handout. Whether it’s an invitation, brochure, or a pen with a logo, bring handouts. This is especially good with speed networking because you don’t necessarily get the opportunity to do so when you’re just saying your name, business, and tagline, but you also don’t have to bring as many things to hand out!
  • Launch something new or invite people to an event. Speed networking is a great opportunity to do this because you can make eye contact with people. This makes your message a lot more personal, rather than an open, blanket invitation.

Speed networking doesn’t have to be intimidating. More one-on-one time with people is a great thing! It gives you the time to build deeper relationships and create a referral-giving relationship with your fellow business partners. That’s what networking is all about, right? You do have to treat it differently than your regular meeting though. Here’s some advice for how to survive your upcoming speed networking event:

  • Come prepared. Think about what you’re going to say before you get to the meeting. This will help you appear more confident and hopefully be more confident when you’re sitting at that table.
  • Have something to hand out. This is a great way to have people connect that item (pen with logo, brochure, etc.) with the conversation you had with them at the meeting. They’re more likely to remember that need you had or the event you were inviting them to.
  • Be ready to talk about how people can help you. Taking a how-can-I-help-you approach while networking helps people understand you and your business. Hopefully you’ll have more people taking this approach than the people who spout their sales pitch and wait for you to give them money! If people are looking to help you, you need to be prepared to talk about how they can do just that.
  • Have more than your tagline. We’re not talking about a list of services. Nobody likes that guy. Talk about what you actually do. How do you serve your community? What do you like most about your job? Why did you choose the field you’re in?
  • Have a plan to follow up. While you have more time to give your message at a speed networking event rather than a traditional one, it’s still not enough time for someone to truly understand how they can build a relationship with you. Have a plan to follow up with everyone you meet and get to know them better!
  • Join a regular group so you can practice. Practice makes perfect, right? But practicing in front of your bathroom mirror isn’t going to give you a realistic experience. When you join our Flourish groups, we teach you how to get better at networking! Then you have the opportunity to take those notes and practice them with a group of real people.
  • Social lubricant can help! We’re mostly joking here, but doing something to help you relax will make everything easier. If that means attending an event where there will be wine (or Hard Citrus at Ruzzo’s Retreat), then there’s a built-in way to relax. Find what works for you and use it to prepare for your event.
  • Make a goal. How many people do you want to talk to? What do you want to accomplish? Having a goal gives you direction while you’re attending the event. If you want to talk to a certain number of people, for example, you’re going to be working to accomplish that goal instead of worrying about what people are thinking about you.
  • Don’t stand in the corner and wait for someone to approach you. In reality, you probably won’t get to talk with anyone if you do this. A good trick to use is to go find someone who looks just as uncomfortable as you are and make a joke about how uncomfortable these events are. It’s a quick and easy icebreaker that leads into the conversations that are meant for networking.

Bottom line: Don’t be a jerk. Don’t spew your buzzwords everywhere. Don’t skip to the end. Get to know someone before asking for their money. You’d think it would be obvious, but every seasoned networker has a plethora of stories about how many times they’ve been approached by someone and got added to that person’s email list without any semblance of relationship. Those people lose the chance to ever get to know people because of those interactions. Just relax and let things unfold how they’re going to unfold. 

If you’re looking for an opportunity to use these tips and tricks, come join us at our Speed Networking Event on Tuesday, April 18th! We’re hosting at Ruzzo’s Retreat, off of Highways 224 and 212 in Damascus, from 5:30 - 8:30pm. Ruzzo’s makes hard citrus beverages that are absolutely delicious and they’ll have food carts on property for dinner. We’d love to have you and your guests join us! Click the link below to RSVP on Facebook.

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