To keep up with the times, the only solution is to train and run. How? Refining a way of introducing one’s self that is brief, interesting and stimulating and then trying to use it on every possible occasion:a business dinner, a wedding luncheon, or… a Speed date.
1. Run, run!
“Quick, quick, it’s late!” the White Rabbit kept repeating, while running up and down without even knowing where he was going. That’s how we may sometimes feel in this economy, immense and rapid. Even the meetings are getting quicker, and from the American parlours – where the fashion clock is pushed forward – we learn a new way to organize an event that is different, trendy and dynamic and that we can use as cue to optimize (in our favor) a traditional business dinner: the Speed date
Wikipedia, the most clicked encyclopedia in the world, defines Speed Dating as a formalized matchmaking process, aimed at marriage or at a sports competition. This definition is then clarified: Speed Dating is a system of “round robin” events that allow the participants to meet many new people. They sit at a table and introduce themselves. After a few minutes a bell rings and the participants change table and interlocutor. During these few minutes of introduction, the participants may exchange their addresses and phone numbers.
It is then advisable to bring to business-oriented speed meetings a number of business cards, in order to exchange them before changing table.
2. From heart affairs to business affairs
The speed dates were created as events for single people looking for a partner, but they are getting more and more used as a mean to widen one’s professional contacts, with the name of Speed Networking or Business Speed Date.
As the original Speed Dates have a target audience, related to age or sexual orientation, the Speed Networking is mostly thematic. Since their purpose it’s purely to meet new people, the only “limit” is the common interest for the suggested topic. To participate you should be a professional of a certain field, a supplier, a client or even an amateur.
The organization prior to the even is very important and it may be complicated, that is why there are now societies specialized in the organization of speed meetings. One of the main characteristics of the Speed Networking events is an extreme use of the social network (of which they are a sort “live” extension) during the convocation. To a Speed Networking lunch usually there are three to five moderators, each of them an expert of a topic of interest.
Each of them will preside a table, focused on their field of expertise, and the guests will rotate at every course: starter, first, second, dessert.
It is necessary to know how many people will intervene and which tables they would prefer joining. On the day of the event, with a lot of patience, the moderators will arrange the participants, a special attention is to be given in avoiding that two people meet twice.
3. An experience of mine
I was recently invited to a networking dinner organized as a speed date by ToscanaIN, an association that favors face-to-face meetings among people already connected through LinkedIN. A few weeks before the event, I received on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIN the remainder of the event with the indication of the five thematic tables: marketing 2.0, startup, etc. each with a moderator expert in the field, whose profile was available online.
Registering on eventbrite, I had to choose the three topics I preferred. The day of the dinner I ate my starter talking about startup, the first course while conversing about marketing 2.0 and the dessert chatting about the third topic I selected. At every course I changed table and companions and every time the moderator would give me one minute to introduce myself and to start the conversation. I got back home with many business cards in my pocket, a big smile on my face and some new ideas (among the others, this article!).
A themed event with round robin tables is a really effective solution to favor every kind of synergy connected with the business, from the training among peers to the development of a professional network, from the staff selection to the strengthening of the relations between business units and big companies.
4. Oh, that Rabbi!
Since we are on topic: do you know how the idea was born? The first professional Speed Date was held in the U.S.A., at the Pete’s Café in Beverley Hills at the end of 1998.
The original idea is ascribed to Rabbi Yacoov Deyo from Aish HaTorah in Los Angeles, that used this technique to help young Jews to meet with the purpose of getting married. “SpeedDating” as a single word is a registered trademark owned by the Aish HaTorah, an Orthodox Hebrew organization, while “Speed Dating” written in two words is the general name for these events.
Some smart companies ask their members, when they participate to mundane events, to sit always at different tables, even if it’s not a Speed dating. Sitting by themselves, especially if they don’t know anyone, will highly increase their chance of widening their circle of acquaintances. A bit more difficult, but surely effective.