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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Something Novel for Busy Networkers

By Danielle Lum

Hawaii Bureau Chief

We are busy people. We work. We raise families. We participate in hobbies. We coach teams. We run businesses. We volunteer. We go to church. We make a difference. We cram so much into a day that were nearly exhausted as we collapse into bed to prepare our bodies for the next day.

It’s no wonder that businesses and activities that save us time are so successful. Things like fast food restaurants, 30-minute fitness, instant printing, 1 hour picture developing, and 60-minute dry cleaning. We even have speed dating for the single person who wants to find a mate but can’t take he time to go on actual dates.

Tammy Chang, an officer of the Hawaii Chapter American Marketing Association, was brainstorming ideas for chapter gatherings one day and did what great marketers tend to do: she put a fresh spin on an existing idea.

So move over speed dating. There is something new for networkers. Are you ready for Speed Networking?

Setting Up

In speed dating, one gender sits in the inside of tables arranged in a circle. The other gender sits in chairs on the outside of the circle. They sit in pairs as they talk for a specified time, with the goal of exchanging enough information to determine whether there is potential for a love connection.

At the end of the allotted time, a bell rings and the gender on the outside of the circle rotates clockwise to meet another potential love connection.

Speed Networking

The AMA Speed Networking event was similarly set up, with a small modification. Those who sat in the “inner circle” were selected by random drawing of business cards from a hat as opposed to gender.

Pairs sat for three minutes (a bell ringing at the halfway point to remind participants to let the other person talk, too), then rotated.

There was only one glitch: The people on the outside were never paired with each other, ditto for those on the inside. It was a minor problem that will, no doubt, be corrected next time.

After a full rotation through the circle, those on the inside chose a business card from those remaining in the hat. They then introduced the person whose card they selected. And here is where there was definite room for improvement.

Most couldn’t introduce the person they selected. Not well anyway. They stumbled and fumbled and eventually the person being introduced was allowed to assist by introducing himself or herself to the group. The whole process was a bit clumsy and could mean a couple of things:

1.) They weren’t listening during the other person’s 90 seconds

2.) The 90 second introductions weren’t memorable enough

3.) They have poor memory and recall skills

4.) They didn’t know they would be tested and froze up!

Lessons Learned

Speed Networking is a novel approach to the (yawn) standard network mixer. Attendees will certainly remember it as an exciting new method of connecting with others and learning their businesses.

At the end of the event it was a great way for a networker who faces a busy day of raising a family, saving the world, and making a difference to remember two things:

1.) Our sixty-second elevator spiel must be memorable (practice, practice, practice!); and

2.) Making connections requires a healthy dose of listening. It’s often said that we have two ears and one mouth and should use them proportionately. It’s sage advice, indeed.

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