SALES AND MARKETING
By Victoria Kyriakopoulos
Friday, 2 June 2006
Anyone who's ever been stuck at a corporate do and run out of conversation before entree, or been exposed to the networking shark whose eyes glaze over once they realise you're of no use, will appreciate the etiquette advantages of speed networking. There's no need to worry about being socially mercenary. In the speed world, it's OK to make instant assumptions about the other person's value or profitability and move on - no hard feelings. In fact, it's expected. Even if you hit it off, you must hit the road when the bell sounds. A fundamental premise of speed dating is that you can be ruthless because you make up your mind about a potential partner in the first seconds anyway.
The power of first impressions can be equally potent in business, whether it's about appearance, body language or voice.
"People are looking for effective ways to maximise the number of connections," says Amanda Nissman, whose company, Networking for Professionals, holds monthly speed networking events in New York. "This allows them to meet a lot of contacts, then follow up later and build relationships."
... recruitment experts suggest impressions are formed in as little as 30 seconds. In Blink: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking, author Malcolm Gladwell narrows those snap, often unconscious judgements down to two seconds; what he dubs the "blink" response. Gladwell asserts that these blink-of-an-eye decisions can be as precise as months of analysis. It's what psychologists call "thin- slicing", where people make intuitive decisions based on slivers of information or considering a few key variables, while discarding other details.
"When it comes to something like dating, we all readily admit to the importance of what happens in the first instant when two people meet," writes Gladwell. "But we don't admit to the importance of what happens in the first two seconds when someone encounters a new idea or we interview someone for a job or when a military general has to make a decision in the heat of the battle."
While Gladwell advocates paying more attention to those fleeting moments, he also warns there is good and bad cognition; racial, sexual and physical characteristics may trigger deep-seated biases.
Amanda Nissman points out that while speed networking gives participants 30 seconds to discern a connection, it also offers people a chance to talk to someone they may have otherwise dismissed.
"A lot of us have preconceived ideas and prejudice," she says. "You end up talking to people you might not naturally gravitate to and it may surprise you."
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"Networking really works! Since becoming a member of Networking for Professionals and tapping into their carefully screened members, I have seen a marked increase in my business thanks to the caliber of the contacts I have made. I truly believe business is not just about meeting people, but about meeting the right people, and NFP embodies that principle."
Alex Twersky, Resume Deli
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