What's speed networking, and how can it help your career? Speed networking is like speed dating for professionals. It evolved from the speed dating model of meeting a lot of people in a short amount of time.
Here's what you need to know about speed networking, a list of questions to ask, and advice on successfully participating in speed networking events.
What is Speed Networking?
Speed networking is a structured process for facilitating introductions and conversations between people who don't know each other.
The speed networking model is often employed at events for college alumni groups, chamber of commerce groups, professional organizations, and at business events and college or corporate orientations, to foster relationship development among participants.
How Speed Networking Works
A variety of methods can be used to structure interaction, with a common thread being the rotation of participants so that each person gets the opportunity to interact with every other person attending the event.
Each participant is allotted a period of time to introduce themself, varying from 30 seconds to 5 minutes depending on the size of the group.
When you respond to a speed networking event invitation, you'll be advised how it will work, how to prepare, what to bring, and what the dress code is for the program.
Have an Elevator Speech Ready
Prepare a short elevator speech summarizing the key elements of your work and educational history, as well as your thinking on your future career path. Practice articulating this information smoothly and succinctly within the timeframe of the event.
Since speed networking is a two-way process, it is essential to listen carefully to each of your partners before you respond to their questions.
This is important to make sure that you understand their situation, so you can better empathize with them, and offer advice (if requested) or help (whenever possible).
Bring Business Cards
Business cards are often exchanged during speed networking events, and participants who hit it off can seek further opportunities for a one-on-one exchange. This might take place at a reception after the speed networking component of an event or on another day over coffee.
In addition to your contact information, make sure your business card includes a reference to your LinkedIn profile or another website containing a detailed summary of your professional background.
Sample Speed Networking Questions to Ask
Showing a genuine interest in your partners during speed networking programs will help you to develop a solid rapport with other participants. Listening carefully to their introductions and sending nonverbal cues that show you understand what they are saying will be important steps in this process.
Another key will be asking questions that draw out your partners and show that you are tuned into them and engaged.
Here are examples of questions to ask during a speed networking event:
- What skills are most critical to success in the work you're currently doing?
- What is the most challenging aspect of your current job?
- You mentioned that your first job after college was as a financial analyst: how did you land that position?
- I'm intrigued by the work you did as an editorial assistant. What did it take to be successful at that initial job?
- You mentioned that you are ready to change careers. Which of your current skills would you like to draw upon most in the next phase of your career?
- What do you love most about your job?
- Is there anything you dislike about your job?
- What advice would you give to someone who is interested in your field?
- What areas of your industry will offer the greatest opportunity in the coming years?
- What would you suggest that I do now to facilitate a transition into your industry?
- After hearing about my background, how can I help you move forward with your career?
- Based on what I've told you about my interests and skills, can you think of any roles in your industry to which I might be suited?
- Would it be possible for us to meet for an informational interview at a later date, since I am so curious about your work?
More Career Networking Opportunities
Speed networking is just one of many different types of career networking events you can participate in. Whether you're actively job seeking or building your career, participate in as many events as possible. Other options for networking include:
- Career Fairs
- Chamber of Commerce Events
- College Alumni Programs
- College Networking Events
- Community Service Groups
- Diversity Groups
- Professional Development Programs
- Professional Meetings
- Recruiting Events
The more opportunities you take advantage of, the more people you'll meet who can help you move up your career ladder.