When Marco Island Realtor Starr Mier entered the conference room at the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort, Mier thought she was in for an afternoon of social networking.
“It was so funny, I thought I was taking a computer class,” she said.
It became clear when she saw the oval of chairs spanning the length of the room that she wasn’t going to get schooled on the ins and outs of Twitter.
With more than 20 people in attendance and more than 20 companies represented, the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce held a speed networking event on Thursday, bringing together a variety of companies for two hours of quick getting-to-know-yous.
“Speed networking works because you see the most amount of people in a short amount of time,” said David Longfield-Smith, a marketing representative with Costco and ambassador with the chamber of commerce.
With a boisterous voice and humor thrown in, Longfield-Smith would command when a person should stop speaking and let their partner speak — every 60 seconds — and when the group should get up and change partners — every two minutes.
“It’s not as easy as you think it would be,” said Danielle Dodder from the non-profit Marco Townhall Speaker Series. “The concept of trying to ask another business questions about how to integrate both your businesses and models is different. It really makes you think.”
Before starting their quick-fire questioning, participants were told to remember that the focus isn’t all about them.
“It’s not about you, it’s about everyone else,” Longfield-Smith said. “The goal is to understand what (the other business) needs. The more people you can help out will invariably lead to more people being able to help you.”
When speaking to another business representative, participants had to follow a few simple rules: cell phones off, pay attention to the person they’re speaking to, and focus on the person speaking to them.
After nearly an hour of networking, the crowd became chattier, their conversation growing louder as business cards were exchanged and relationships built. For some, it opened the door to new companies in the area.
Jessi Dawson, of Scuba Marco, admitted there were some people she already knew at the event, but it was the ones she didn’t know that made speed networking fun.
“It’s a great way to meet and exchange services and ideas,” she said.
After taking a break, Longfield-Smith asked the group how they were doing. He was met with a loud ‘woo-hoo’ in response.
With a successful speed networking event this past July, Longfield-Smith is optimistic that the second event will lead to another speed networking event in the future.
“You have to try and make it about them,” he said. “They’re here for each other, for the potential contacts and the relationships that can be built.”