If You Want More Leads, You Need to Try Speed Networking

I recently attended a virtual conference for entrepreneurs, and participated in “speed networking.”

Six months ago, I never would have imagined myself doing this… and to be honest with you, I wasn’t sure anything would come of it. I’m writing this article because I’m happy to have been proven wrong.

By the end of the conference, I’d met between 10–15 other attendees, and “connected” with all of them on LinkedIn. Of the 10–15 people I’d connected with, I had phone calls with 3 the following week. That’s certainly more progress than I’ve made with professional job boards or cold emails.

In a time when we have limited opportunities to meet people organically (the local coffee shop, a conference, or a meet-up), “speed networking” is an interesting and rewarding alternative.

Sure, it’s a different experience, but the purpose — and the results — are the same.

Here’s How It Worked

“Get your webcam and microphone ready because you’ll be automatically matched up with 1 professional networker. You’ll have 3 minutes to introduce yourself. Once the timer gets to zero, the session will end and you’ll have a chance to do it again! With this format, you’ll get to meet 8–10 professionals… all from the comfort of your desk.”

In each session, there was a button at the top of the screen to “Connect.” Both parties had to select “Connect” in order to swap info. On this particular platform, my “connections” (or “matches”) were listed on my dashboard, with each person’s email address or LinkedIn account.

You might think it would be awkward, but the 3 minutes went by really quickly. It was just enough time for a friendly “hello,” and for each of us to explain what we do. I chose to “Connect” with every single one of the people I spoke to (and I’m pretty sure everyone else did the same).

Yes, You Can Establish a Relationship in 3 Minutes

You’re strangers until you’re not.

It may not be the same as connecting in-person. But don’t underestimate the power of a video call; it’s enough to hear someone’s voice, and put a face to the name.

Not to mention, this is only the beginning of an extended conversation. It’s “speed” networking for a reason, after all. You make the most of your 3 minutes by swapping intros and exchanging contact information. If you’re interested in speaking with this person again, you can — and should — follow up.

Ask, “how can I help?” This is the kind of question to help you get your foot in the door. If there’s something you can do for this person, you have a reason to reach out again and continue the conversation. The objective is to build a relationship, not necessarily to snag a client (although that would be a bonus!).

We’re more willing to work with people we know; that’s why it’s critical to grow your network. It’s all about trust and credibility. If you’re looking to hire someone, you’ll likely turn to your personal network first. It takes time and effort to find new talent (resources that are often in short supply).

Even a 3-minute virtual conversation is enough to elevate your status from “total stranger” to “professional acquaintance.” You’re not another name on their screen; in a sea of LinkedIn connections, they’ll remember you (neither one of you is likely to forget “speed networking,” am I right?).

There’s Nothing to Be Afraid Of

As an introvert, networking is not always my thing. I’ve never been very good at “selling myself,” or being forward with others.

If you feel the same, trust me when I say that “speed networking” is on your side, for two reasons:

  1. You do it in a fraction of the time…
  2. …from the comfort of your own home.

There’s not a lot of small talk happening in a 3-minute window. The time constraint forces you to hone your “elevator pitch,” and get good at it quickly. The rapid-fire practice is just what we introverts need.

And if you “mess up,” there are plenty of other potential connections. No need to worry about one awkward convo. Everyone is very forgiving — it’s an unusual platform, and there’s a learning curve for all.

Unlike “speed dating,” there’s no reason to fear rejection. The common goal, after all, is to connect with as many people as possible. You’re not trying to disqualify anyone, and nobody else is looking for reasons to disqualify you, either.

Takeaway

Virtual “speed networking” is a creative way to meet new people and make connections in today’s environment. If you’re curious, I’d encourage you to give it a shot! You have nothing to lose.

Here are a few places for you to start:

  • Promote Her Business; monthly virtual speed networking for “purpose-driven women entrepreneurs” (free!)
  • Networknite; select your city for virtual speed networking events in your area ($19 “summer special” in the month of August; $21 thereafter)
  • Meetaway; virtual speed networking + targeted matching (free & paid sessions)
  • Eventbrite; a whole slew of virtual speed networking events

Virtual networking is bridging the geographical gap. You have the potential to make connections with people in other cities, other states, even other countries. That’s just really cool.

With “speed” networking, you’ll maximize your time to meet as many new people as possible… and potentially walk away with new leads.