When most people think of networking, they imagine infinitely dull cocktail parties, piles of business cards, and maybe a rubber-chicken dinner. But the Australia New Zealand Business Community in Qatar (ANZBIQ) begs to differ.
Started just before the new year, they’ve taken a page from speed dating and turned it to the business world.
‘Speed networking is a structured but informal way to meet new business contacts. The model we have used at ANZBIQ functions is to set up two “circles” in a room. One circle of people remain in the same place. Each “pair” gets to talk to each other for two minutes. We call this an elevator speech - they introduce themselves, their business or job and a little about what they do,’ says Garry Friend, ANZBIQ Chairperson.
Every two minutes our moderator blows a whistle and the outer circle of people move around to their next contact.’
It’s something different, especially for a city where it really is all about who you know.
‘We have regular networking events but found that people tend to gravitate to those they already know,’ says Friend. ‘This gets people out of their comfort zone and forces them to meet new people. Plus it’s lots of fun.’
Which already sets it ahead of many other kinds of networking events. Speed networking isn’t a radically new idea (it’s loosely based off the popular speed dating phenomenon of the 1990s, when people would gather in similar ways for quick introductions with potential dates), but it does neatly gloss over some of the stumbling blocks of more traditional networking events. The awkward introduction is gone—everyone knows why they’re there, and so people who aren’t perhaps as comfortable approaching strangers are still able to participate. It also eliminates that awkward end-moment: a bell rings and you move on, no need to pretend to need to go to the bathroom to escape an awkward conversation that’s dragging. It’s also a way to get yourself or your company out there visibly, as well as amass a large number of new contacts quickly. This is where it differs from speed dating, which is all about narrowing down the field of potentials: speed networking is all about quantity.
‘It stemmed from our desire as an organization to reach out to new members as well as build contacts and relationships with other business groups. We also wanted to give our members a greater, more inclusive and innovative experience,’ says Friend. ‘Anyone looking for new connections, advice and ideas should attend. We have newcomers to Doha and those that have been here many years attend and all get something different out of it. You are guaranteed to have a great night, meet interesting people, walk away with a lot of new contacts and maybe some business leads.’
And it’s not just for Aussies and Kiwis either: they’ve had people from all nationalities attend the preliminary events, and they hope to encourage more at future meet-ups.
‘The feedback from the first event has been great. We had more than 70 people attend from all sectors of the business community here in Qatar,’ he says. ‘The first event was for ANZBIQ members and some guests from other business groups. It was so successful, for our March event we have invited the American Chamber of Commerce Qatar (AMCHAM) and the Qatar British Business Forum (QBBF) members as well.’
Although they have targeted business groups thus far, the popularity of the events suggests that they might expand to the community at large, or that other, copy cat groups may spring up for different sectors of the community in Qatar.
‘We are holding our next event on March 7 at Grand Hyatt Doha from 6pm to 8pm. We hope to hold three to four each year and build on its success. We really see this is something that, while hosted by ANZBIQ, belongs to the business community of Qatar as a whole and becomes self sustaining,’ says Friend.
The biggest question, though, is does this actually work? Friend says it does.
‘I heard of several new business connections being made at [the first] event alone,’ he says.
Good enough for us. Now where did we leave our business cards? We hear a bell.
The next Speed Networking event takes place March 7, Grand Hyatt Doha, 6pm-8pm. For more information or to get involved, check out www.anzbiq.org or email email@example.com.