Last Wednesday the Pitstop Marketing team attended a speed networking event with 1200 other people – Icebreaker 16. Run by the New Venture Institute, it was an attempt to break the Guinness World record for speed networking – the record was missed by a mere 6 people! Each person met with 22 people for 3.5 minutes.

It was an electric room, with so many unfamiliar faces. In a city like Adelaide where everyone knows everyone and faces become very familiar at networking events – it was refreshing to engage with new people and new ideas.

Networking forms a critical part of most marketing strategies. Developing relationships with both new and existing stakeholders is an underlying strategy for business growth and yet so many people fail to approach it with due consideration.

There is a merit in identifying key areas or groups to network with regularly and really immerse yourself in, to build deeper and connected relationships. However every now and then an opportunity arises to meet a bunch of new people we have no connection to – such as Icebreaker 16.

It was an exhausting night, but the energy in the room really got the adrenalin pumping. You needed to think fast, have your pitch honed and move quickly. It was the ultimate networking boot-camp for anyone nervous about networking.

 After meeting 22 people some key networking lessons presented themselves:

  • Your first impression, how you say hello, sets the scene for how engaged your conversation will be – don’t underestimate body language and tone.
  •  Be clear on what your key message is about you as a person and the business you are introducing.
  • Don’t hog the conversation, people want to converse, not be spoken at.
  • Look beyond your own agenda. Try to understand what the person is looking for or how you can help them. It’s not about selling directly to them, but helping each other through your extended networks.

Once the event is over, what next?

  • Sort through the business cards – who do you want to remain in contact with? Decide how you will do this, for example:
    •  Link In with them
    •  Send them an email
    •  Follow up the conversation with a call
    •  Pop them on your database
  • Touch base with interesting people within the week – timeliness is key
  • Make the communication as personal and relevant as possible. Is there a person you want to introduce them to, an article you can send them that they would be interested in etc.
  • If you really clicked – set up a meeting to take the conversation further – longer than 3.5 minutes!

Your homework? Identify an event where you will mix with people of interest to you and your business, bring your business cards and some positive energy. You just don’t know who you might meet.