Networking in Two and Twenty Minutes

Last week I attended two events focused on networking: Speed Networking and The Unraveled Network. Two completely different experiences in interaction — one allowing two minutes per conversation and the other setting the stage for a 20 minute conversation.

Speed Networking, hosted by YPOTC (The Young Professionals of the Twin Cities) on November 5th at the Copper Hen Cakery in the gorgeous newly renovated building at 2515 Nicollet near the Bad Waitress and IceHouse, was definitely an experiment in maximizing the number of people you meet. The Unraveled Network, hosted by Pollen Midwest on November 6th at the Weisman Art Museum (read the recap here), was more about how to network and discovery through audience survey feedback to find out what’s at the core of a great networker.

For Fast-Talkers and Brief Conversation

The speed-networking format in and of itself is intentionally designed to force people into conversations. At two minutes per meeting for each of the 30 people in attendance, it might be deemed as efficient, but I found it to be a whirlwind of disconnect.

By the event’s end I was tired of hearing my one-minute elevator pitch. I walked away with 20 some business cards and a follow-up list. I diligently followed up with most by LinkingIn with them, which is pretty minimal on my part. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a roomful of energy and excitement and good potential connections. It just wasn’t a format that allowed me to fully understand what the other person had to offer.

For Learning and In-depth Discussion

The research-oriented networking event, The Unraveled Network, continues to intrigue me. Keynote speaker Marcia Ballinger, author of 20 Minute Networking Meeting, had the learning component covered. Pop-up speakers brought additional context surrounding networking. And our online presence and social content and interests informed the organizer’s placement of attendees in tables of eight people, guaranteed to have some sixth-degree connection yet to be discovered.

I found this to be more aligned with what I look for in an event. Within the context initiated by the presenters, our table was able to have a more focused discussion in 20-30 minutes around the topic (networking). The conversation starters placed at our tables (two different questions per eight people), allowed us to find some common ground among our diverse careers and expertise. I followed up with the connections I made at this event by LinkingIn, connecting on other social channels and sending a few emails to new connections that I want to further explore.

Format Comparison 

An effective networker can work any crowd — whether it’s a two or 20 minute conversation. Obviously there are many more event formats to explore as they relate to networking (YPOTC has several other formats like happy hours). It’s really about researching the event format, knowing the audience, setting your expectations appropriately, expressing interest in others and finally… the follow-up. All of which fall into the broad idea of networking best practices that I plan to cover in future blog posts. In the meantime, I’d like to know, What events have you been to lately that were very worthwhile and not-so worthwhile networking-wise, for whatever reason?