Lest this sound like a paid advertisement (it is not), for the record, let me state I’m not typically fan of the practice of “speed networking.” That’s where several [hundred] people gather in a room with lots of tables or desks. They visit about who they are for about 5-10 minutes and then move on to another person with whom they repeat the same task. It’s just like speed dating, but with a professional – rather than a social or romantic – bent. For me, it just feels too impersonal, too fast, too inauthentic.
HOWEVER, my mind was partially changed after yesterday’s American City Business Journals BizWomen Mentoring Monday event. I participated in the Kansas City market – it was one of 43 taking place simultaneously across the country, comprised of 10,000 professional women serving as either mentors or mentees. It was a wonderful morning!
In each location, the event was called for 8:30am for registration and networking over coffee and pastries. In a room full of women, suffice it to say, few people struggled to strike up a conversation!
At 9am, a few welcome remarks were shared by the organizing city’s publisher, followed by comments from Mary Johnson, Editor of BizWomen.com.
Then, promptly at 9:15am, an hour of organized chaos ensued!
Divided into four cohorts of about 60 women each, participants rotated among four 15-minute mentoring opportunities:
- 1:1 Mentoring Discussions. Participants could select to engage in two 7½ minute one-on-one mentoring discussions with high profile professional women in the community, most of whom have been recognized for their business success by their local Business Journal;
- Table Discussion A. High energy table discussions took place on topics ranging from, “How to overcome challenges and create momentum in your career,” to “How to create your personal brand,” to “How to create your legacy at home and at work.” No surprise, I had the privilege to lead a table discussion during each segment on, “How to use networking to build your career.” Each participant selected one topic to focus on for this segment by sitting at the appropriate table.
- Table Discussion B. See Table Discussion A.
- Networking. Coffee, tea and treats were served during free form networking with other participants.
It was, indeed, speedy! By the time the hour was done, I, for one felt a bit like a victim of whiplash! That said, it was also invigorating, humbling, impressive and educational for all – mentors and mentees alike. And, though my experience with such “speed” events in the past has been less than satisfying, this one had an “up classed” air about it. The participants were serious… serious about their careers, serious about connecting with others, serious about being helpful and of service to other women in the room. Even in a short period of time, they were able to leverage this touch point as a true moment of connection. In fact, as of this writing fewer than 24 hours after the fact, I have already heard from three women I met yesterday… we’ve already scheduled times to get together!
Note, this is the second consecutive year for this event. I remember when my friend, Ellen Sherberg, publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal, first told me about this concept several months before its initial launch in 2014, I was skeptical. It was hard to imagine true impact taking place in 7½-15 minute interactions. I was wrong. It has been so refreshing to witness its growth and continued success! Special congratulations to Ellen in St. Louis, to Stacie Prosser in Kansas City and to all participating Business Journal associates across the country! WOW! Such a powerful hour across the nation!
By the way… you can host a similar event in your own city. Perhaps not at the same scale – it doesn’t have to be large organization driven. All it takes is the kernel of an idea, a desire to connect professionals in your area and the drive to bring it to fruition. For more details on how the Business Journals brought Mentoring Monday to life, visit BizWomen.com.