Speed Networking

I attended the Woman Entrepreneurs Festival yesterday. It was a great event. The video archives are here if you want to see what it was all about.

I had to leave after lunch to meet some folks at my office, so I missed the “speed networking event”. The Gotham Gal said this in her opening talk – “last year we heard from the attendees that they wished they had met more people. so this year we are going to force you to meet more people. we will be doing a speed networking event this afternoon”. I wondered what that would be like.

Well this is what it was like.

I gather every five or ten minutes, they would instruct everyone to switch and a similar scene would unfold. Seems like a great way to get people to network.


Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    awesome. sounds like my family room.

  2. Richard

    Networking Neutrality

    1. fredwilson

      well played

    2. JamesHRH

      The highest of compliment follows – I wish that was my line!

      1. fredwilson

        Do what I did with freemium. Take it and run with it!

        1. Richard

          Great Artists Steal. A truism. What I think they really mean by this is Great Artists (know what to) Steal (and bring it in to what they are doing).

      2. Richard

        Be shameless about adopting it.

  3. awaldstein

    Anyone use a tool that let’s you aggregates new contacts around events in a coherent fashion?A way to create new groups on the fly events or not, mix and reconfigure them with a tap?[I advise one looking for seed that I think just may nail this. Email me if interested.]

    1. JamesHRH

      Outfit called MetaLab built an app for TED conferences…

      1. awaldstein

        Thanks….Conference specific apps were in vogue for awhile and basically all either sucked or were too collared to be really useful.The win I think is to start with a mobile reality, the acknowledgment that we live cross a bunch of always growing networks, with each of us in the center.Events are a network accelerator but the true value to to integrate new people from these events cross group by context.

        1. pointsnfigures

          There was an app for conferences out of Excelerate Labs, now TechStars called getshortlist.com. Helped you network before you were at the event.

    2. Anne Libby

      Yes, much needed. I do not want business cards. (And rarely carry them.)What would be great is something that aggregates Twitter or other preferred social presence for everyone at the event, and lets people “bump” when they meet, to connect there.

      1. awaldstein

        @annelibby:disqus @pointsnfigures:disqusMy personal interest is less about input (but pre event that is easy to solve) and more about use.Collecting people is not that useful. Aggregating people of interest and knowledge and incorporating them into your network is the spice of life.Groups in FB and LI, are not great. Spamming your networks, a non starter though we all do it.I want molecular group control. I think the market may as well.

        1. Anne Libby

          Agree, personally. Connect, don’t collect.And, on the occasion that you do actually connect with someone at an event and follow up, a business card does not generate interaction or engagement. And they’re easily lost or destroyed.

          1. pointsnfigures

            I have a collection in a ziploc bag, unentered into my contacts, and some with no concept of how I acquired, but can’t bear to throw it out.

          2. Anne Libby

            I’ve done that before — and it felt liberating to feed them through the shredder.If the connection is there, you’ve already made contact, or they have!

        2. LE

          “Groups in FB and LI”I started 2 groups on LI and joined a few on LI.I was actually pretty amazed with it as far as the potential for networking. I don’t have a specific use case for it so I didn’t do more than a test. But given the test that I did my napkin says there is something there.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            It works if you work it. 🙂

        3. leapy

          Agree. Context is paramount. Where (event, location) and why (mission) is fundamental to contacts but never seen tool that can do this.

      2. LE

        ” I do not want business cards. (And rarely carry them.)”Why not?

        1. Anne Libby

          People generally leave a conference with a tote, swag, notebooks, and random pieces of paper. In the very old days, I had a rolodex and an assistant to file the cards. After I no longer had an assistant, I filed them myself for a while…Today, when someone requests my card at a conference, I’d rather jot down their info in a notebook and offer to take the action item to follow up with them. They can respond to my email or tweet now or never, depending on how much they really wanted to connect.My card doesn’t get thrown out weeks later when the tote resurfaces, by someone who thinks, who the heck was that? (See elsewhere in comments, where @pointsandfigures mentions his ziploc bag of cards…)I use my cards more in one-on-one situations.How do you use business cards?

          1. LE

            “I’d rather jot down their info in a notebook and offer to take the action item to follow up with them.”Giving someone your business card doesn’t prevent you from taking their information down and doing the follow up.While most people might not do anything with a business card (that you give them) there is no friction, cost or other impact to handing someone your business card. Only an upside (save my reason below for not doing this which may or may not apply to you). I would do both.”How do you use business cards?”I don’t give out business cards. I don’t even have one (despite having been in the graphics business).The reason is not only do I not do business locally but I don’t even want to do business locally in my community.It ends up being a big time waste for me (given that I make money on things that are either a) not sold for high dollar amounts locally or b) are sold locally but for small dollar amounts. The things that I make a lot of money on is a worldwide item so the chance of me making a local sale (vs. the time impact of the local contact asking me questions) is a tradeoff I am willing to accept. And I don’t travel to do business because I don’t have to. I have enough activity by email and the internet. Only so many hours in a day. I don’t sit in conferences I can generally learn what I want by my own reading and research. (And this dates to pre internet). Obviously I have gone to trade shows (mainly for exhibits so I can see things physically).I know my Dad is always bothered by no business cards “why don’t you have a business car” but that would result in me getting activity for the wrong things not the right things. Some guy he meets who has “internet” questions. And wastes my time.I do collect business cards (even from bulletin boards) and have called people to get prices for things I need. I have even shot pictures of trucks (always put your web address on your truck) and contacted service people or vendors that way.

          2. Anne Libby

            There’s a lot of similarity (and some difference) in our reasoning…

  4. JamesHRH

    Ambient noise there is crazy. V high energy in that room.

    1. Anne Libby

      I met some other INTJs in the ladies room…It was a great day!

  5. Jan Renner

    Should be included in every conference and meet up.

  6. Allen Lau

    We do this once in a while within our company (we call it speed dating). As the company grows it is getting harder for everyone to know each other well. Speed dating is strongly encouraged for companies > 50 people.

    1. fredwilson

      that is a great idea, particularly as the size of the company grows

    2. Obi Offorjindu

      How long do your speed dating sessions last? I’ve always worked for big corporates and these have been crammed into 30 mins at internal conferences. I would get more value from spending all day getting to know my colleagues than sitting through all of the usual presentations

      1. Allen Lau

        About 10 minutes. We “speed date” 3-4 times. Each one is about 2 minutes. Because we kinda know each other already, this “super short” format works.

  7. fendien

    Such a powerful way to break the ice in a room and get people connecting. Despite the fact that most people go to conferences specifically to network, often they let shyness prevent them from approaching strangers. So speed networking sessions like this are a great way to remove that barrier.

    1. LE

      often they let shyness prevent them from approaching strangers.I think there is also fear of getting sucked into a boring or otherwise unimportant conversation. One that ties you up and prevents you from meeting or talking to the right people.Many years ago right out of school I attended some local networking event. One of those things where there are no buyers just sellers (people trying to sell what they have). Insurance, real estate, attorneys etc. Anyway one guy comes with his wife and my observation was that it was her job to pull him away after x minutes so that he could meet as many people as possible.I’ve never done this but if I wanted to work a room I would attend with one pretty girl and one handsome guy whose sole purpose was to either pull me from the wrong conversation (hand signals?) or to allow me to get the attention of someone that I wanted to meet and be the ice breaker (what guy is going to shoe away a pretty girl who arrives first and says “hey my boss wants to meet you”). The entourage in other words.I will stress that although I’ve never done this I’ve done similar things that would leave others scratching their heads thinking “how ridiculous”.

      1. fendien

        I think such a fear would defeat the purpose of going to a networking event then. Yes sometimes people tend to get longwinded and not notice social cues indicating it’s time to wrap up their shpiel, but for the most part people are respectful of one another’s time at most events I go to. Also, if someone doesn’t stop, then just find a gap to kindly excuse yourself to meet some other people before the event ends.

  8. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I’ve done a few speed networking events, and I think they’re fantastic. I’m one of those people that, despite my social-ness, feels like everybody knows each other except me at these events. Speed networking is such a gift!Attended WE last year and enjoyed it tremendously. Hats off to GG and everyone who organizes it.

    1. Obi Offorjindu

      I’d really like an event to dedicate a good amount of time to networking, even a whole day, if the aim is to get attendees to meet a lot of people. The real value for me is when I meet someone I feel a real rapport with or there’s that moment of serendipity I wasn’t expecting. Not sure speed networking or pre-planning who to speak to enables that.

  9. William Mougayar

    At events like these, the value of networking is more important than listening to the sessions.One variation I saw once, is they print 2 other names on your badge of people that you should meet. These are pre-selected based on some matching, so you end-up going hunting for them.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      I love that. Great idea. It would be wonderful to kick off events like this with some kind of gamified activity to get everyone mingling immediately. I think attendees would get so much more out of conferences if they could network on the front end instead of trying to fit it all in at the end or at breaks.

    2. fendien

      “At events like these, the value of networking is more important than listening to the sessions.” -> I totally agree here.I run the NY Enterprise Tech Meetup, and while I want to give lots of credit to our presenters (they rock!), a key value add of our group is bringing together various enterprise tech constituents (fortune 500 execs, enterprise tech entrepreneurs, investors, and students) to network and learn from one another.

    3. ShanaC

      except for the fact that I hate having my name on badges

      1. William Mougayar


    4. Guy Lepage

      That’s definitely a great idea.. Never seen it before. Curious to hear if it was effective?

      1. William Mougayar

        It depends on the person. I would say 50/50.

  10. Sean Black

    I wish all events did speed dating. I attended iMedia conferences in a previous life, where they do “one minute match ups”. They are 3 day events, so it was a fantastic way to break the ice and then go find the person later to talk more. One minute is too short and ten minutes is probably too long to get through a big group, but five minutes would probably do the trick.

  11. Sebastien Latapie

    The energy is palpable and intense! Looks like a great event.

  12. Lee Blaylock

    Indefensiblly shameless plug here, but my company is called Who@ and addresses this issue.Who@ makes business networking faster, simpler and more private. One of our 4 products we’ll launch soon is called the WishList. It is location aware for an enhanced experience, but not location dependent. It is a matching service that connects two people who can help each other, but pass privacy and other types filters you each set up so you’re never matched with random folks, but with people you actually want to meet who can help you and vice versa. Your ID isn’t revealed until you opt in, but you designate the types of people you want us to match you with.Imagine walking around this event and being presented with networking opportunities stack ranked by relevacvy of your personal preferences, and only reveal your ID when you want to opt in. Our enterprise search tool will be released next week and WishList is in alpha now.We’re always looking for experienced testers for TestFlight. We’re full now, but rotating so please LMK if interested.BTW, The Freeman family, who own the largest trade show logistics firm in the country (CES, Dreamforce, Sapphire, Oracle Open World, etc…are all clients) said our product they’re testing and roadmap is the most compelling they’ve seen. They (the family and not corporately!) are Who@ investors and Freeman is a channel partner of ours.I’ve never ever plugged on AVC and don’t expect to again so my sincere apologies, but the problem Fred identifies is one I’m super duper passionate about and becomes even more interesting when you remove location from the equasion. 😉

    1. LE

      Hey I don’t think there is a problem plugging.But if you do plug you should put in the web address:https://whoat.net/about(Your comment gave me an idea for something by the way..)

  13. LE

    To me any type of networking is more about some future benefit rather than current benefit.One of the hardest parts of selling is getting someone to listen to your message.So by meeting people you are increasing the chance [1] that if you contact them later they will at least listen and consider what you have to say. Without that connection it’s much harder (but not impossible and btw it never stopped me from trying).Your brain of course has a much easier time cold calling if it feels it has the right to hot contact (and meeting someone somewhere else gives your brain the impression that it has the right to contact them). And that puts you and your message at ease. And that’s important. Lessens the fear of rejection. [3][1] That said all this can be overcome by using any truth or half truth and a personal message. [2][2] For example “Hi Fred my sister Jane met your daughter Jessica (love her photos!) at Wesleyan and…” will get Fred’s attention more than “Hi Fred my startup is doing xyz” (all else equal).[3] Another way is to use something tangential. For example if you see a single person you start out the conversation talking about their pet and after establishing rapport you go for the date.

  14. sigmaalgebra

    It looked a lot like and sounded exactly like thelong, wide, low house my father in law built when ithad 40,000 chickens!I’ll look again: Likely some of the women are cute!Teasing aside, it looks like GG had a great idea!To borrow a little from a scene in ‘The DirtyDozen’, cute, yes, but, can they code!Can they stir up a new algorithm:(1) Want to look at 100 million numbers one at atime and end up with the 20 largest efficiently –how to do that?(2) Have 50 numbers and a list of 1 billion recordsin ascending order on numbers for keys; how to getthe values corresponding to the 50 numbers used askeys efficiently.(3) From a server farm, 1000 times a second getnumerical values on each of 100 variables and want areal time, ASAP way to detect anything wrong –performance limitations, software flaws, hardwarefailures, security attacks, system administrationerrors, server farm LAN, etc. — with known andadjustable false alarm rate; how to do that? Can wedo as well as the Neyman-Pearson result?(4) In picking a programming language on Microsoft,compare and contrast C# and Visual Basic .NET.(5) When sorting positive integer n records bycomparing pairs of keys, the fastest possiblealgorithm has worst case and average case runningtime proportional to n*ln(n) — why, and name such asorting algorithm.(6) Sometimes when using regression analysis (e.g.,in ad targeting) the matrix of the normal equationsis singular and, thus, has no inverse causing somepeople to conclude that regression analysis hasfailed and that no predicted values are possible;why is this wrong and what to do about it?(7) Discuss the use of analysis of variance andexperimental design for finding the most productiveWeb page design.(8) Given two random variables and the numericalvalue of the Pearson correlation coefficient betweenthem, how to use that numerical value to predict thevalue of one of the random variables given the valueof the other one?(9) In Microsoft’s SQL Server, declaring a key to beunique means that SQL Server will create an indexfor that key. Although this point does not alwaysstand out in the documentation, why would we expectthis?

  15. Webmaster Sun

    I wish that I can be there : Dthanks for your video!

  16. laurie kalmanson

    so much energy

  17. johndefi

    I attended a “speed dating” event that was very structured. 3 minutes per conversation, standing, move around the room from table to table and strict adherence to the leader signaling rotation. I thought it was the most efficient and useful networking event I have ever attended.

  18. Donna Brewington White

    Knowing that there would be a speed networking component would probably be a positive influencer for me in attending an event.

  19. paramendra

    I RSVPd to this end with all intention to go —– ended up not going in some sort of a confusion. I should have gone! 🙂

  20. Michael Elling

    As an analyst I used to try novel ways for mgmt and investors to interact. One was a dinner for 35 institutional investors and 5 companies. I had 5 tables and a five course meal. The CEO’s would rotate tables at each course giving the investors 10-15 minutes with each CEO. Another way was 4 companies over 2 days on a weekend “ski” conference with about 10 clients. Each day we had a company present at breakfast and then ski with the investors and rotate on lift rides for discussion. Then another company would present at lunch, etc…. Both were good ways to pair quality with quantity.