4 Minutes and a Cafeteria

Earlier this week, I was one of 32 participants in the 5th Speed Networking Event at Communispace. The event took place in our Fenway-themed cafeteria, with two long rows of tables set up, with interns on one side and senior staff members on the other. The idea was to give us (the interns) an opportunity to talk one-on-one with those higher up in the company, and pick their brains for a few minutes each. After a continental breakfast, we received a “Conversation Starter” sheet with suggestions, and were given our seat designations. We were to rotate every 4 minutes at the sound of a buzzer, and start a new conversation from scratch.

Not being the most adept at making small talk, I was somewhat apprehensive. Networking had always felt slightly artificial to me, like those involved were just trying to get something from the other person. Once the event began, however, I was floored. Even though it was my first time really talking with the majority of the staff members there, there wasn’t a single awkward moment. They were so friendly, and were genuinely interested in what we had been doing this summer. I got to know each one of them better, whether we chatted about our roles at Communispace, our college experiences, or something silly. It gave me a better understanding of how the organization functions as a whole, and how each individual helps us reach our collective goals.

In those short 4 minute increments, I was able to make meaningful connections with my colleagues. But of course, I was left wanting more – with the conversation cut off, both of us not finishing talking or listening. For our purposes, that was okay, but what about in the business world? My colleagues and I can reach out to one another with ease whenever we want, but when you are trying to engage your customers, a brief, stunted conversation isn’t enough to reach the core of the topic being explored. During a true, reciprocal conversation, infinite amounts of knowledge can be obtained. And if the conversation is continuous, social glue – what holds us together – has a chance to form. The more effort you put in to get to know a person, the more likely it is that you’ll actually connect with them. For our employees, speed networking is just one of the many great ways we maintain our own social glue (along with other fun things, like Beers with Engineers and Take Your Dog to Work Day). Perhaps for organizations, it’s a bit different and more complex, but in a way, very similar to what we do here at Communispace.

Check out the video of the Speed Networking Madness below (thank you, James Singleton!):