Speed Networking: The new speed dating

FullSizeRenderby Jasmine Wright

On September 24 at the Ozark House Restaurant in Bloomington, IL, the MCLP Class of 2016 hosted their Speed Networking and Education in Leadership Event. Yes, it is called Speed Networking, and not Speed Dating. The former is much more professional than the latter and involves making business connections with people who one sees him/herself working with in the future.

The event started with warm “hello’s” and “how have you been’s” between the participants, the guests, and the mentors. They were delighted to meet one another and intrigued by the set up of the event, which looked exactly like a Speed Dating session. Long tables with chairs on either side and a pitcher of water in the middle set the tone for that evening: business professional. After a few minutes of catching up and meeting one another, the event began with an introduction by Lacey McLeod, the Event Chair. Linda Bollivar, the executive director of MCLP, then gave background information of Speed Networking including the rules and what each conversation should try to achieve. Essentially, participants had less than 5 minutes to present themselves in the best way possible, mostly with introductions, their goals, and finally their careers.

The participants of the class of 2016, the guests who represented their perspective companies, and the mentors all seemed genuinely happy and interested in the conversations. There was never a dull or silent moment, but rather a plethora of laughs and smiles exchanged between each attendee. With attentive ears, each attendee presented their best listening skills and even provided some constructive criticism and feedback. During these moments, the evening truly got interesting. After the 5 minute intervals, there would be 2 or 3 minutes in between each session in which the attendees were asked to say what part of the conversation stood out the most or what their thoughts were about the event so far. One of the community leader guests stated that she was intrigued by her partner’s introduction; she did not merely state her career or even her achievements, but rather what her personal values and morals were. Later, a participant stated that her partner kindly, yet firmly got her back on the topic of the conversation when she unintentionally went on a tangent. Such feedback and constructive criticism was taken seriously and applied to the next round of speed networking. During the intervals, business cards and emails were exchanged so partners could stay in touch with one another and offer future opportunities for community service and career connections.

After watching the interactions between the attendees who knew one another and those that had just meet for the first time that evening, I realized the goal of the event: to provide service opportunities throughout the community. Whether the attendees were from a major insurance company or a call center, the participants and the guests put those work differences aside and helped one another in promoting better and diverse future leaders of the community.