Speed networking: boost your participants’ efficiency and demonstrate ROI

Speed networking: boost your participants’ efficiency and demonstrate ROI
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Speed networking is a fast and efficient way to expand your business contacts. By offering it to your participants, you can enable them to efficiently meet a host of people who might be valuable, helping you demonstrate ROI.

During these types of rapid fire events, participants have only minutes to introduce themselves, exchange business cards, share their products or services and see if they are a good fit for an ongoing partnership or collaboration.

What is speed networking?

Speed networking is a powerful networking tool that is revolutionizing the way people make business contacts.

By bringing together individuals from all industries in a speed-dating style format, speed networking bridges the gap between traditional face-to-face networking events and more modern methods of making contacts such as email or social media.

It began spreading in the early 2000s as a way to help employees of large companies meet like-minded professionals in their industry for collaborations, partnerships or just exchanging information.

Since then speed networking has become hugely popular among business professionals who recognize the speed and efficiency of it compared with more conventional forms of professional mingling. It’s an incredibly effective way to quickly create strong business contacts and forge alliances that cannot be achieved through any other method.

Speed networking models

There are three types of speed networking models:

  1. Round-robin networking events
  2. Station based meeting events
  3. Group based networking events

1. Round-robin networking events

Round-robin networking events involve participants moving around the room, engaging in fast, short conversations with everyone else at the event. This gives them an opportunity to make a number of connections in a single evening.

A simple format to set up, you should consider giving your participants an idea of speed of which to move around the room before starting.

These types of events are a very effective way to meet lots of people in one meeting.

2. Station-based meeting events

Station-based meeting events offer an opportunity for more extended conversations as participants move from station to station talking with different people at each stop. Each one might be a better match for them and their business than other participants.

These meetings are typically pre-scheduled time slots, so participants are likely to have some element of information about each other before they meet.

3. Group based speed networking events

Group based networking events are a more relaxed way of speed networking, allowing all participants to engage in conversations simultaneously.

This type of event is better suited to larger groups and can be extremely effective for meeting potential business partners or customers. Typically, you would have an area for groups of about 4 - 10, who are brought together, according to their areas of interest.

This setting encourages relevant conversations that could lead to establishing potential business alliances or generating leads. Gathering in clusters of 4 - 10 makes it ideal for comfortable and meaningful dialogue that can be beneficial for all parties involved.

How to host a speed networking event?

Organizing speed networking is not as complex as you might think. With prior planning, you can deliver meaningful events to bolster business relationships. You can also read our Article on 7 Secrets of game changing event networking for more tips.

Here are some of our top tips on how to organize a speed networking event.

1. Set an objective for your speed networking event

What is the purpose of your speed networking activity? How long will each session take? Are you looking for participants to make connections with potential customers or partners or is it a hosted buyer program where attendees pitch their start-up idea for example?

Establishing an objective will help guide all of your planning efforts and ensure that everyone involved knows what to expect going into the event.

2. Plan how your speed networking event will be funded

Funding for speed networking events can come from a variety of sources, such as sponsorships and ticket sales. It's essential to research the market and find suitable partners that can support your event idea financially or to understand whether or not a ticketed event is a viable option for your audience.

If it's a hosted buyer format for example, you'll need to cover travel expenses for the invited guests and accommodation, if the event is far from their location.

Are you sourcing your funds from sponsorship? What visibility will your sponsors have at the event? Pay attention to the details such as branded table tops, to ensure their ROI is fulfilled and they want to come back for more.

3. Promote your speed networking event

Marketing your event is an essential part of the planning process. Create a website for your event so people can easily access all the information, including talking points that participants may want to prepare in advance.

4. Choose a venue

When considering a venue for your event, you'll want to ensure it's suitable for the speed networking format.

For example, if you have station-based meetings, you'll need to ensure there are enough stations or tables for all participants, as well as a suitably sized room to accommodate all attendees.

You may also need equipment such as projectors and microphones, depending on the size of your event.

If you're planning a round-robin-style event, poseur tables are the ideal solution for your guests. Their versatility allows participants to sit or stand and easily transition between different meetings. With these unique pieces of furniture, you can ensure there is plenty of space in which everyone can circulate freely, without any impediments.

5. Carefully plan the event process

It's important to have a planned process for your speed networking event.

What is the format? Who will be hosting the event and how will they introduce everyone? Make sure your master of ceremonies also has notes about your sponsors and they can describe their involvement.

It's also a good idea to have some icebreakers, such as fun questions to ask that can help kick-start your networking activity. Ultimately, you want to make it as easy as possible for participants to make business contacts.

In addition, consider any potential problems that may arise such as participants running out of time or not coming prepared with their business cards. Have contingency plans in place so you can avoid any potential issues and ensure the event runs smoothly.

6. Choose the right catering service for your speed networking event

Have you asked your participants if they have any specific dietary requirements?

Whilst it's a good idea to ensure you have enough options to cater to all, you must ensure there is enough food or drink for someone with a special requirement.

Whilst networking events are traditionally associated with booze, you should also consider offering non-alcoholic options beyond fizzy drinks, to ensure everyone is catered for.

Remember that refreshments are a great way to create an atmosphere at your event and provide an opportunity for people to mix and mingle, so you should choose catering that is suitable for your speed networking event. For example, no sit down meals if there is nowhere to sit!

7. Manage speed networking event sign-ups

Capture only the contact information you need to ensure you can deliver on your event requirements. This includes contact information and areas of interest so you can match business contacts more effectively.

If you're using matchmaking software to facilitate your event, ensure it's easy to use and works in harmony with the registration process.

On the day of your event, have someone on hand to greet new arrivals and help them get settled quickly before they begin networking. This is an opportunity to showcase your hospitality and make a great first impression.

8. Actively promote the event

Advertising your event is key to ensuring its success. Reach out to local industry contacts and encourage them to attend, as it may be a great opportunity for them to build their network or make new business connections.

Social media is also a way to promote your event. Post updates regularly and spread the word using relevant hashtags and entice people in with exciting content and visuals.

It doesn't stop at promotion of your event either. Actively follow up with those registered to ensure they have all of the reasons they need to show up.

Speed networking tips for attendees

If you're attending a speed networking event, there are certain steps you can take to ensure you make the most of your time.

1. How to prepare for speed networking?

Research who else is attending and have your pitch ready. Ensure you have plenty of business cards for all of the connections you're going to make and book your time slots ahead of time if using a networking app.

2. How to dress for a networking event?

Dress for the occasion. Smart casual is usually the best way to go, as it shows you respect the event and those in your company you keep.

3. How to speak at speed networking sessions?

When introducing yourself to someone new, keep it short and to the point. People usually remember information if it's presented in an easily digestible format.

Remember to listen too. “To be interesting, first you must be interested,” said Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends And Influence People. The conversation should be going both ways and you'll come across better if you're engaging with the other person.

4. How to end the session?

At the end of each session, thank the other person for their time and recap on action points, if relevant.

If the conversation has been productive, it may be worth exchanging contact details so that you can continue to build a relationship.

5. Follow up after the speed networking event  

It's a common mistake from many event-goers that they forget to follow up. Whilst you may have made some great connections at the event, it's important to follow up afterwards without delay before you get stuck back into your "day job."

If you do this quickly after the event, it will show the other people that you valued their time and are truly interested in building a professional relationship.

Speed networking events can be hugely beneficial for both sides of the table, so use these tips to get the most out of your time.

If you want a speed-networking platform for your next event, consider using a professional networking platform, like Grip, to help you manage the whole process. This will ensure your event runs smoothly, your participants get an enjoyable experience and you can demonstrate ROI to them.