Last week I delivered a live webinar talking about best practices for Speed Networking events (yes, I call them Speed Dating) between economic developers and consultants or prospects. Over the years I’ve had hundreds of these experiences, some one-on-one, some with me at a round table full of economic developers, and some where I have been in an audience of other consultants listening to one or more quick presentations.
My approach is to encourage economic developers to assess the familiarity of each member of the audience with them personally and with the place they represent, and to identify a specific intention for each interaction. The phrase I use is that “relationship building is an objective, but not a plan”.
It was actually a very busy week, with lots of conferences happening even as we were delivering the webinar, and it promises to be a very busy year full of speed dating opportunities. The webinar was recorded, but it is an hour long, and that’s a lot to sit for, so I also recorded the content in a series of shorter video modules and added some downloadable tip sheets and worksheets. All of that content has been gathered into an on-demand mini-course that you can purchase here for $59. The content is available on-demand and you can access it whenever you like for as long as you like, so that’s a pretty good deal.
There were some questions raised during the live session that I thought I’d address here:
Q: What do you do if you are in a roundtable situation and one of your peers hijacks or dominates the conversation?
A: Ideally, the consultant or table host will manage that situation and try to be fair to everyone, but we know that doesn’t always happen. When I have found myself in that situation what I usually do is pick up on a phrase they have just said and interject something like: “so what you are saying is ….., and I have found that . . . ” or even “that’s interesting, I wonder if that is the same experience/opinion of the other people around the table” (which means you aren’t fighting for just yourself, you are engaging everyone else that has the same frustration)
Q: How do you mitigate a situation like a natural disaster that is all over the news?
A: My best advice in these situations is to get very granular with your feedback. By that I mean that you need to come to the table with specific examples of things that are or have returned to normal, because the news will focus primarily on things that are still disrupted, and will project the idea that everywhere in a broad region is similarly impacted.
Q; What do you do when a consultant asks “What do you want to talk about?”, especially if your objective is basically to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know?
A; I often start a session with that question, because it is my way of trying to see if people are looking for feedback from me or whether they have a specific message planned to deliver. When I talk about assessing your audience, one of the things I mean is to assess how well they know you and know your place. Find out in advance if they know something about your place (ask peers, colleagues at home) so that you don’t deliver community profile 101 to someone who knows the place better than you do. If you need to introduce yourself but not your place, do just that – state that is your purpose, explain your role and where you fit in, and maybe ask them what they think would be how you could best add value.