Forget Speed Dating. Try Speed Networking! Businesswomen Mingle To Form Professional Bonds

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January 23, 2014 ‐ By Kimberly Gedeon

You have three minutes to introduce yourself. You put your best face forward in hopes of scoring a connection with that special someone. But not a romantic connection, a professional one. This — ladies — is called speed networking!

Female entrepreneurs exchange business cards, share passion for leadership, and possibly create a partnership.

Speed networking kicked off, according to Agence France-Presse (via Raw Story), as an effective way to discover like-minded professional women and form business bonds — especially in a corporate world that subtly impedes women from advancing to high-ranking positions. Only 15 percent of women own a US company. For this reason, speed networking events do not allow men to attend.

“Guys who are entrepreneurs know other entrepreneurs. And I know those networks are very important… because we’re still a substantial minority,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, a writer for The Atlantic who made waves for a 2012 article explaining why women can’t have it all.

The Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) — an organization at New York University — recently launched a speed networking event that welcomed 280 women of all ages that were bloggers, chefs, engineers and more. There was a multimedia artist, O Zhang, who helped companies magnify their popularity by creating engaging and fun online videos. And Denise Courter, a former Wall Street employee, who launched a site to help parents find activities for their kids in Manhattan. It’s a meet-and-greet that exudes an aura inspiration and motivation, and all of the women have accomplishments under their belts.

“So many times, I went to conferences that were men-centric, and this is focusing on women and that is very exciting because we are all able to help each other up the ladder,” Courter said.

Now, you might question whether three minutes is enough to entice new clientele or partners  for your entrepreneurial project, but consider the alternative: Without a time limit, women are more likely to unintentionally “hog” another female entrepreneur if they’ve formed a connection with her.

With just three minutes, attendees have the chance to meet everyone in the room and keep their pitches short and sweet. On that note, here are five tips to help you go home satisfied from speed networking:

Professional, But Friendly

As one attendee pointed out, “You don’t want to come off as being too b**chy, you don’t want to come off as being too aggressive.” A smile always helps offset the gravity that a business pitch can exude.

Be Prepared

Bring together the most attention-grabbing elements of your company — with a bit of humor or lightheartedness — and collect your thoughts into a short, prepared spiel. You only have three minutes; you don’t want to be stammering and stuttering to get your point across. Plus, it’s completely unprofessional to seem unrehearsed.

Take it All In

During such a chaotic environment, it’s easy to lose focus on your fellow female entrepreneur and have your mind wander. Just as much as your business pitch is important, the way you receive information is crucial, too. Throw in a comment like “That’s brilliant, I wish I thought of that!” to signal that you’re all ears.

Body Language

Crossing your arms, while it may be unintentional, tells other women that you’re unwelcoming. Darting your eyes to different sides of the room shows that you’re more interested in something else. And yawning — well — that’s just rude. Just mind your body movements; they speak just as loud as your words.

Snoop on Their Site

Lastly, networking doesn’t just end at the event. Yank out the business cards that sparked your interest and snoop around on their company website. With only three minutes to spare, a business woman that caught your eye may have left out some details that will either boost or lessen your interest with her. Do a little research on your own. Are you more impressed than before? Shoot her an e-mail!

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