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The Art and Science of Random Speed Networking

Updated: Apr 27, 2022

The Science.

  • 65% of new business opportunities and opportunities for partnership and collaboration come from referrals and recommendations.

  • 82% of small businesses cite referrals as their main source of new business and opportunity.

  • 85% of jobs are filled by referral.

But there's more ...

  • Referred opportunities are 4x more likely to close.

  • The lifetime value of a referred business partner is 16% higher.

  • Referred customers have a 37% higher retention rate.

And best of all, a referred customer tends to be less price sensitive and less likely to shop around after receiving a referral from someone whose judgment they trust.

And if you respond to a referred opportunity inside an hour, you are 60 times more likely to be successful.

So you don't have to be a genius to recognise that the bigger your network becomes and the more relationships you can start and sustain, the more likely it is that you will be referred for a contract, a job ... or even a relationship.

In medieval times, when plague was rampant, the advice to those who saw it on the horizon was ...

"Leave early, go far, stay long."

My advice for those who wish to grow their networks is,

"Start early, engage deeply, don't stop."

There is a now a dazzling array of options for those who wish to grow a referral network, from membership organisations like BNI (the biggest and most successful by far), to one-off local face-to-face events, to online networking events.

At the Arts and Culture Network, we've taken the last of these one step further. We've made it quick, online and randomised.

If you're like me, your heart sinks when you receive an invitation to a 4-hour webinar on Zoom. My instinct is that I will have other priorities when the date arrives and that it can't possibly be relevant and interesting to me for all 4 hours.

We are all Zoomed out but it remains the case that online remotely accessed events are more convenient, much more affordable and much, much more sustainable.

At the ACN, we recognise that we are all pressed for time so our events are short ... just one hour, during which we all get to meet up to 10 colleagues, at random, in a series of 5-minute 121s in break out rooms.

It's fast, fun and very effective. We provide the opportunity for multiple quick connections, at which conversations are started and opportunities for collaboration explored.

We've seen young people hired, artistic collaboration arranged and business deals closed.

But if you're new to this type of event, it can be daunting so we've written a guide on how to get the most out of our events here:

The Art

Random speed networking online is a fun, fast and effective way to make new connections, quickly without leaving your desk. Make the connection, share contact details and then carry on the conversation and explore opportunities to collaborate afterwards ... then come back to meet more people next time. You may be a seasoned random speed networker in which case you will know all this and I apologise for preaching to the choir. If not ... and if you are unfamiliar with this event format it can come as a surprise. It certainly did to me first time around, but it works.

It pays to be prepared and to follow the guidance below. Before At one of our events, you'll meet several people at random in a series of back-to-back 5-minute meetings either 1-2-1 or in small groups of 3 or 4 in Zoom breakout rooms.

At the Arts and Culture Network, we like to do as many as possible inside an hour and we don't hang around so it's wise to prepare if you wish to make the most of the event.

  • Please don't meet and drive. It doesn't work. Find a quiet, undisturbed location.

  • Take a quick comfort break before the start.

  • Start on mute with your camera on.

  • Turn off your phone and close your email and social media accounts. It's only for an hour.

  • Have a glass of water at hand, or something stronger if you're at all nervous.

  • Log in 10 minutes early to avoid local technical glitches.

  • Make sure your full name is in the corner of your video window. If someone wishes to follow up with you they'll struggle if it says "Sally's iPad"

  • Use a laptop or desktop computer with a built in camera if you can, It's fiddly as hell on a phone or tablet.

  • Reboot before the call and close all those tabs in your browser. They eat up bandwidth reloading adverts all the time.

  • Make sure you are using the latest version of Zoom.

  • Check your broadband connection ( is free)

  • Position your laptop or desktop camera at eye level. We all look far better from above than below.

  • Use a green screen and/or a virtual background if you have one, especially if it incudes your contact details. If you have neither of the above, don't worry but you can create one at Canva, free.

  • Use a selfie light if you can. If not, have the available light in front of you to avoid being in silhouette. If you can't do that, draw the blinds or curtains behind you and turn all the room lights on.

  • Test your microphone and headphones/speakers before the meeting. Zoom offers the chance to do this before you join the meeting.

  • Use headphones with a built in microphone if possible, you'll hear and be heard much clearer.

  • Zoom offers registered users the function of reducing background noise. Open audio settings and set this to high. We won't hear your dog barking or the builders then.

  • Have your contact details ready to copy and paste into the chat.

  • Have a notebook and pen handy.

  • Please remember, we have a wide range of attendees in both junior and senior roles both client and supplier side in the arts and culture sector. Meetings are arranged completely at random. Please keep this in mind if you are paired with someone with whom you appear to have little in common.. Find common ground and offer to refer.

"The true measure of a person is how they treat someone who can do nothing for them." During After a very brief welcome on the hour, you'll be sent into a breakout room with another attendee at random for your first 5-minute meeting.

You'll see a warning pop up when you have 60 seconds left and that's a great moment to swap contact details if you'd like to continue the conversation and bring your meeting to an elegant close. After those 60 seconds have elapsed, you will be returned to the main room automatically. This is not a pitch fest ... if you offer services to arts and culture professionals and organisations, that's great, we need you, but please don't try and sell them here. Sure, if you're asked what you do, "I provide freelance HR services to theatres" is a perfect answer. That's all your meeting partner needs to know now. They'll ask if they want to know more. Rather, use the opportunity to ask questions, listen, learn and start the process of developing a trusted relationship you can build on afterwards. No one ever put the phone down when they were speaking or accepted a marriage proposal on their first date.

"Be the most important person in the room by making everyone you meet feel that they are." If you find yourself in a meeting with someone you fear may not be able to help you, don't worry. Ask how you can help them. We all know an average of 250 people by name. You will meet 9 or more people at this event. That's a network of 2,250 people just one introduction away. Offer to help and your meeting partner will want to reciprocate by making introductions for you if they can. And vice versa of course. There is a very slim chance you will meet the same person twice. Lucky you. You both have 5 more minutes to make that connection stick.

  • If you find yourself alone, leave the breakout room but not the meeting. You'll be returned to the main room where I can meet you too.

  • Try not to dominate the conversation. We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason.

  • Ask questions and show interest.

  • Ask how you can help make further connections and introductions.

  • Keep it brief, friendly, general and light.

  • Clarity, brevity and some wit will make you more memorable.

  • Paste your contact details into the chat and include your full name, organisation, email address and LinkedIn profile address if you have one.

After In my experience, this is when the real benefits are realised. If you're at all like me, you may well return from real world networking events with a pile of business cards and forget to follow up.

Now, I make quick personal notes about the conversation (e.g. daughter has two piebald ponies) and follow up the same day while the meeting is still fresh in both memories.

Surveys have shown that a follow up inside the hour increases your chances of winning business, partnership or collaboration by 60 times.

So …

  • Follow up by email if you have the address.

  • Join us to find meeting partners and connect with those you didn't meet.

  • Connect on LinkedIn if not.

  • Follow your meeting partner on Twitter, Instagram etc.

  • Ask if you can add them to your mailing list.

  • Invite them to your own events.

  • Ask them who you could introduce them to in your own network.

  • Jump on our LinkedIn group and share your experiences.

Relax and enjoy the event.

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