#STEMSaturdays: Speed Networking


Networking is one of the most productive things a person can do to help out their career (besides, you know, putting lots of work and studying into your craft). Building a diverse, yet cohesive, group of relationships is vital to tap into for information, advice, opportunities and more while giving the same in return. #STEMSaturdays discusses what networking is at large in a previous post (May 20), how networking is not always done in a conference setting (June 3) and what’s the ONE THING you should ALWAYS bring with you when networking (May 6). Today, we’ll be covering another type of networking that is starting to become popular: speed networking.


While you might not have heard of speed networking, you may have hear of speed dating. Speed networking operates on a similar idea: a structured and fast paced event that allows people to interact one at a time for a short amount of time (usually a minute or two) and then leaves it up to participants who they want to provide their contact information to. In speed dating, when sparks fly it usually leads to a date while in speed networking, it usually leads to some networking opportunities. 


Many see pros and cons to this type of networking. While you will get to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time, you don’t get to delve into much of a deep conversation given the time constraints. Typically, these events have a “round robin” format, which is where the leader of the event will alert that you time has begun/ended by some sort of noise (think buzzer, whistle, bell, gong, etc.). To begin, one of you (or both) will introduce yourself, why you’ve come, and perhaps exchange business cards right off the bat. From there, you start to ask questions of each other to see if you really want to get to know this person more after that buzzer goes off. Once the time is up, you move on to the next person and so on and so forth until the event is over.


These types of events can last anywhere from one hour to two (usually no longer as one’s voice can go quickly after talking so much), and usually ends with some time to openly network (i.e. without a buzzer) so you can either reconnect with interesting people or talk to individuals you weren’t paired up with. 




Remember that science pitch! You’ll want to have that statement polished for events just like this. Make sure it includes your name, your occupation (or degree), your field of interest, and why you are here (are you looking for exchange of information, jobs, internships, etc?). For example, my quick introduction would go something along the lines of: 


“Hi, my name is Melissa Marquez, a marine biologist based out of Wellington, New Zealand who focuses on sharks and their relatives. My interests include studying habitat use further in these animals, and I’m looking for PhD or job opportunities that allow such research. I’m also open to marine biology jobs that focus on science communication, outreach and education.”


Done in sixty seconds and is straight to the point. 


Remember those business cards! Bring them. A lot of them. You won’t have an idea of how many people you’ll meet, so I usually bring 50 just in case. How do I carry so many? I have a small purse dedicated to just business cards, so I don’t forget! Some event coordinators will suggest a number depending RSVP count, so keep an eye on that!


Bring a few copies of your resume. Some people will ask you if you have a resume or CV with you. I bring 10 copies and keep them in a folder that I keep in my purse for just these occasions. It’ll be impressive to see how prepared you are!


Be prepared. That means you’ll want to bring a writing utensil (pen is best as it doesn’t smudge as easily), notepad, and a small planner so you can pencil in a meet-up date if necessary. Dress to impress by checking the dress code; these events are usually business or business casual, but if no guidelines are given ask the organisers! 


Don’t forget to follow up with those you want to connect with within a day or two; this can be either via e-mail or a phone call, whatever you feel more comfortable with!  


These types of events are starting to crop up at conferences, universities, clubs and more. See where your nearest event is and show up—after all, practice makes perfect! Good luck!


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here