Speed Networking (© vege / Fotolia.com)
Speed Networking (© vege / Fotolia.com)

Speed networking and speed business meetings address two big issues in business: communication overhead and the need for forming new alliances and contacts. These formats allow you to maximize the number of meaningful connections you make and the amount of useful discussion you have – all within a minimal timeframe. This post will explain the concepts, discuss communication overhead and share more ways to spend less time flapping gums and more time earning revenue!

Speed Networking / Speed Business Meeting

Running a business is not just about who you know. It’s also about how well you know them. Who owes you. And what they know about you… In other words, it’s about the quality of those relationships and not the quantity. And that means that you need to invest in the people you are working with. You need to make sure that you have taken the time to get to know them and that you regularly communicate with them.

And this is even more important if those contacts happen to be business partners involved in joint partnerships or marketing campaigns. But this introduces a new problem: communication overhead.

What is Communication Overhead and Why Does it Matter?

Communication overhead refers to the amount of time – and thus money – that you spend on communication. In any office, there will exist some amount of communication overhead. Often this will take the form of writing internal e-mails and responding to clients, or it might mean speaking on the phone with business partners.

Any of the following, in fact, could be considered examples of communication overhead:

  • Attending meetings
  • Answering calls
  • Sending emails
  • Communicating on Slack
  • Using collaboration tools
  • Sending texts
  • Negotiating
  • Briefing/debriefing
  • Voting
  • Disputes with staff

Either way, this is time spent communicating that could be spent working on projects and generating profit. The more time you spend answering e-mails, the less you earn.

And the unfortunate reality is that the average business meeting is a huge time drain. You will very often spend significantly more time in a meeting than you have to and in fact, many businesses will call meetings that aren’t strictly necessary. How many times have you attended a meeting where there is really only one item on the agenda, but the entire thing has taken over an hour? Maybe it started out with a nice greeting, then a catch-up, then some tea and biscuits…

Before you know it, hours have been lost. If there are 10 people in a meeting that lasts one hour, then your business just lost 10 hours of productivity. For networking, you might attend a conference or a networking event and spend hours talking and eating even more biscuits but only really get time to spend with one or two contacts. I have attended events where I’ve only been able to talk to one or two clingy people and everyone else seems constantly in a conversation.

One contact for a 5 hour event is not a great hit rate. The solution is the speed business meeting. And likewise, for networking, we have speed networking.

What is Speed Networking?

Speed networking is a format of meeting that is used by many businesses. The central idea is to more quickly form new business contacts or to develop them, usually in a timed setting suing a bell. That means that multiple contacts will be formed in a short space of time, giving you many more business opportunities going forward.

In a typical interaction, attendees will share:

  • Professional backgrounds
  • Business goals
  • Contact details

The concept is very similar to speed dating, except of course with a different objective.

The organizers will very often set the ‘objective’ of the event and there are lots of different applications for this format. For instance:

  • Speed mentoring can be used to quickly gain lots of skills and information
  • Speed networking can be used for individuals looking for new employment opportunities/clients
  • Speed networking can be used for companies looking to find new business partners

The format can also vary and be based on one of the following:

  • Round robin
  • Station-based
  • Group-based

All these methods and applications consider the cost of taking time out of your day for communication and aim to maximize the ROI.

Speed Meetings

The above examples show how speed networking can be used to gain quick introductions to possible business partners, employers, clients, investors and more.

A similar format will often be used for speed meetings. Speed meetings can be used to quickly cover multiple topics in a meeting with multiple parties – these often use an ‘assembly-based’ model where individuals will speak to a large preselected group. You might give each member a time to speak and you might use a bell in order to ensure that no single point on an agenda takes too long.

In truth, the format itself is not what is important. Rather, it is the aim of keeping meetings within a set time. Many offices now embrace the practice of ‘standing meetings’, which is another clever strategy to achieve the same end.

Consider how you can introduce measures to shorten meetings and reduce communication overhead in your own organization!

Expert Tips for Cutting Down Communication Overhead in Your Business

Keeping communication overhead low then is very important for the margins of any business. When you are engaging in a joint venture, this becomes even more of a challenge as you're going to have to constant relay information and make decisions with another company. Likewise, it can also be an issue in your every day communications within your organization.

So how do you keep it to a minimum? Here are some useful pointers:

  • Choose the right form of communication – In some cases it makes more sense to send an e-mail, this way you can keep all the information on one page and everyone involved will have a record of the details. Meetings make more sense meanwhile when you're hashing out ideas.
  • Use online tools – Things like Google Drive can be incredibly helpful when you're trying to minimize the number of e-mails you send and streamline your communications.
  • Discuss the issue – Before you begin working together, addressing the need to keep exchanges to a minimum can be a good way to avoid future problems.
  • Learn the art of keeping calls short – There is an art to keeping calls short and this often involves saying right from the start that you can only speak briefly. If they offer to call back, politely say ‘no it’s fine, but let’s keep this brief’.
  • Do away with niceties – Make sure that both parties understand that there's no need to be polite and exchange small-talk.
  • Have contingency plans – If something needs to be done, then you don't want to have to check how to respond with your partners first. Outline numerous contingency plans from the start and that way you will each be able to work independently.

While speed meetings, speed networking and cutting down communication overhead can be fantastic for increasing profits and wasting less time in your organization, it can also be a useful tool for getting more spare time to yourself – especially if you are self-employed. I highly recommend the book The Four Hour Workweek for more tips on this subject.


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