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Speed networking is a form of events in which the participants can network in a very short time. They meet as part of a network event, exchange their contact data and possibly benefit from these contacts. The term speed networking is derived from speed dating. The difference lies in the purpose of the meeting. Speed networking focuses on the exchange of business contacts and the presentation of one’s portfolio. If the company profiles fit, the participants can enter into a business relationship. Alternative terms are business speed dating, high speed networking or business speed networking.
While speed dating was invented in the nineties, the first networking events were held around the year 2000 in the United States and the UK. Speed networking quickly gained popularity and was used in a variety of industries. Conferences, trade shows, and leading trade fairs were supplemented by speed networking rounds before it developed into an independent event format. In some industries and areas of activity, speed networking is one of the most popular network formats. An incomplete selection of industries where the format is in use:
- Information technology and programming
- Trade and B2B communication in various economic sectors
- Alumni associations, universities, and non-governmental organizations
- Online marketing and affiliate marketing
The idea of speed networking is based on the assumption that personal contact is particularly important for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as self-employed persons and agencies to establish business relationships. Networks of participants who are personally acquainted with one another and can thus enter into business relations are relevant. In contrast to meet and greet events, the majority of communications are based on a one-to-one pattern and not according to one-to-many communication. This means that conversations are conducted at the same level and each participant can participate directly, which is not necessarily the case at meet and greet events.
How it works
What is special about speed networking is how these events are structured. Usually the participants have only a few minutes to make contact. A moderator directs the participants and signals that the time is up and that they should go to the next event participant. The fast-paced format makes an effective self-presentation necessary. The participants have to describe their activity profile and their unique features in a few sentences after they have presented themselves. The conversations are focused accordingly on specific questions and facts. For example:
- Name and profession
- Industry and portfolio
- Target group and customers
- Motivation and interests
When the business segments and other facts fit, there will be time after the actual network event to expand the business relationship.
The structure of speed networking can be defined differently, both with regard to the format as well as with regard to the time slots of the meeting or the specific questions:
- Round Robin: The round robin format is characterized by short meetings of up to five minutes, which take place one after the other and are accompanied by the moderator. A bell rings or a buzzer sounds and the participants go to the next table, where the other participant is already waiting. On average, the participants meet 10 to 12 potential business contacts within an hour. The extent to which these are relevant to one’s own business area is up to chance because the round robin pairings are not predetermined as no pre-selection takes place.
- Stations: Stations can be used to increase the relevance of the business contacts. All participants must answer brief questions beforehand in order to simplify the formation of pairings. Based on this data, the meetings are then automatically selected and arranged. This has the advantage that participants can meet stakeholders working in compatible industries. In some cases, undesirable contacts between market participants and direct competitors are also prevented. Up to 10 business contacts are possible in one hour, if the structure is oriented around stations.
- Groups: If small groups are formed, the communication is no longer done according to the one-to-one pattern, but the relevance of the possible business contacts is similar to the above-mentioned pairings with stations. Usually three to four conversation partners sit at a table. The selection can take place using questionnaires, which are completed by the participants beforehand. Here too, the seating arrangement can be calculated computer-assisted, so that only participants are sitting at a table whose profiles complement each other.
In addition to the use of speed networking at conferences, trade fairs, meet-ups or camps, there are also some providers that specialize in different formats of networking or offer it in the context of digital products. These include:
Social networks such as Xing, Facebook, and Google Plus are also organizing speed networking events.
Relevance to online marketing
In digital industries, speed networking is indispensable for B2B communications such as affiliate marketing, online marketing or round tables from the area of search engine optimization. Speed networking is used to structure such events and to facilitate the first contacts of the participants. In particular, automatic generation of pairings is interesting. A preselection is used to bring together providers with stakeholders from a demand group.
However, the short periods and the structure of the networking events should not hide the fact that long-term customer relationships represent the goal. A lot more effort is required for cooperation, business deals, and sustainable customer loyalty. Speed networking is intended to simplify the first contact and quantitatively promote it through its special framework. High-quality customer contacts come after that and require more engagement.
- Speed Networking macmillandictionary.com. Accessed on 05/12/2016
- Speed Networking: A Quick Way to Expand Your Professional Contacts careervision.org. Accessed on 05/12/2016
- Speed Networking and Beyond entrepreneur.com. Accessed on 05/12/2016