On Wednesday I participated in something I’ve never done before: speed networking. Before this event co-hosted by UPA-DC, IxDA-DC, and Web Mavens, my only exposure to speed meeting (for lack of a better term) was through a speed dating scene in an episode of House, so I was pretty interested to see what it was like.
Basically, the system is the same in both speed networking and speed dating. Attendees are given numbers and seats, and rotate every so many minutes (two, in our case). Thanks to the structure, you meet a good portion of the attendees in a relatively short period of time. The result is a whirlwind evening that is a long string of tiny conversations, but sometimes feels like a single, blurry conversation where you repeat yourself and the face of the other conversant changes (relatively) regularly—we had some problems with people actually rotating after each two minute section. Despite its ability to discombobulate participants, speed meeting is a pretty ingenious system.
Through the rotation, I met quite a few new folks, got to know some folks better, and rested the couple times when someone I knew sat at my table. (I was lucky enough to be assigned the outside circle, which got to remain seated for the activity.) The organizers did a great job of choosing a relaxed venue and supplementing the speed meeting by sandwiching it between two hours of unstructured time.
Overall, it was an energizing yet exhausting night. I am looking forward to the encore speed networking event they are planning for 2011, though I am glad there will be some buffer time for all of us to recover!