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Speed Networking for Business Success

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/20/2006 | Entrepreneur
You may have heard the term 'speed networking' bandied about a lot recently. It's become a very popular and fast growing form of networking and growing your business. So how does speed networking work?

Well, you may have heard of speed dating - Its exactly the same principle just adapted for business. Attendees are seated in pairs and each one has between 2 and 5 minutes (this varies depending on the event) to introduce themselves and what they do. At the end of the 2 minutes a whistle blows and one of the parties moves to the next person on the right until everyone has had a chance to meet. Its an excellent way for people who find networking difficult, to meet others. It also breaks the ice for any general networking which might follow afterwards and gets around the age old problem of only talking to people you already know.

So you've booked your place in a networking meeting, but what can you do to get the most out of the session? As with all marketing for your business, preparation is vital.

Bear in mind that you've only got a few precious minutes to get across what you do and more importantly the benefits of your product or service, so you really should practice what you are going to say before you go. What do you want to get out of the event? What is it about your company that you really need people to know?

Below are some useful questions which might help you figure out what you want to say:

1. Who is your ideal client?
2. Which companies are you trying to get into?
3. What services do you offer?
4. What is your Unique Selling Point (USP)?
5. Why should someone choose your company?

You could also practise your 60 second or "elevator" pitch - a very quick way to get across exactly what you do in sixty seconds or less. If you get that right you'll actually have time to spare on being specific about who you would like to meet and which companies you want to work with.

Further Tips:

- If you are seated opposite to someone you already know, tell them something they don't know about your business - have you set up something new recently, a new service or product? What do you currently need?

- If you're opposite someone new, help them out. If they're struggling to think what to say, ask them questions. What kind of questions? The ones above are a good start.

- Speak clearly - you can say more in 2 minutes than you think.

- When the other person is speaking, don't keep talking about you - it's your turn to listen.

- Be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say - as with general networking it's all about building long term relationships. Take time to see if you can help with any connections or advice your partner might need.

- If the organizers have allowed time after the speed networking for general networking then think about who you want to talk to again and how you can further the new relationship.

Speed networking, just like any networking isn't rocket science - it's thinking about what you want to say, being clear and to the point, listening carefully to the other person and seeing what you can both get out of it.

And it really is great fun, so don't be afraid to get out there and give it a go.
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