This week Emma and I have been speed networking – phew it is quite exhausting – frantically circling the room meeting a new person every two minutes with the pressure on to encapsulate everything that is great about your business in just 60 seconds! But does it work – can we possibly build any kind of relationship, even just the glimmerings of the start of one in such a short time under such conditions? Well I guess only time will tell as I begin to contact the people I met who I think I could build a working relationship with based on the start we made in our two minutes!

I find that I have clear views about those I DON’T want to contact further – the guy who spent the whole time looking over my shoulder to see what else was happening, the person who was only interested in their product to the point where I finished my 60 seconds with them asking me “so do you think you might buy our software?”, and the man with cigarette breath (so unnecessary when you know you are going to be talking in close proximity to twenty or more people!) Those are the very subjective views I formed in a short space of time and they could of course be incredibly flawed and I’ll miss out on three great contacts….but I think I’m gonna trust my judgement for the time being.

But what of those I will follow up on? I’ll do that for many reasons – because they interested me as a person or as a business and I felt that they were interested in talking with me too…and only then because I can see how I could utilise their services or products, or think I know other contacts that might be interested, and because I hope that they might want to use our services, or know others who would. Again – my judgements are based on very little information but I’m willing to make the effort to build those working relationships based on what I know (or think I know) so far.

So where does this rambling lead me? Its reminded me how important it is to make a great first impression and that a lot of that comes from showing that you are genuinely interested in the people you are talking to. I also find myself pondering how often we make judgements about people based on very little information or contact and how fair that is to the other person. In my work on equality and diversity I ask people to challenge their perceptions, attitudes, stereotypes of others and I try to remind myself frequently to do the same. I will carry on doing that but what I have been reminded of in my speed networking experience is how each of us also need to take at least some responsibility for the impression that others form of us.

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