Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Speed dating and airBaltic

According to Wikipedia, speed dating is a formalized matchmaking process or dating system whose purpose is to encourage people to meet a large number of new people. Today I have attended an event (organised by NCH and COETC) with exactly the same purpose – encourage people to meet a large amount of new people. They call it networking event. For me it had some very unexpected results.

It’s a room full of people, today – 70% male, with a stack of business cards in their hand (or their pocket). The aim is to exchange as many of your own business cards for the business cards of other people. Exchange rate – one to one. You tell your own story as many times as many people you talk to. Approaching complete strangers feels a little awkward at first, but you get used to it very quickly.

Networking at such events is a little like hunting, see it as a sport. The group consisted of people (interested in) doing business in Russia, Baltic states, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. My challenge was to identify people dealing with Ukraine. “How am I going to do it?” – I thought after scanning the list of more than hundred participants. “Hi, I am from the Chamber of Commerce BeNeLux-Ukraine...” - I talked to two people and just started a conversation with a third person when we all were requested to pay attention to an announcement. AirBaltic was collecting business cards to draw a prize – two roundtrip tickets Amsterdam-Riga-Amsterdam. “Please, if you haven’t put in your business card yet, do it now, it’s your last chance!” I took out my business card and put it in a box. “It’s very Dutch.” – said the man I was talking to. Well, I don’t look Dutch and I talk with an accent, but at least I act Dutch!

Two minutes later our conversation was interrupted again – the winner was about to be announced. The woman from airBaltic put her hand in the box and took a card out. I couldn’t believe it, but she was reading my name!!! I am the lucky owner of two tickets to Riga!!! Applause, photo, receiving the certificate and discussing sponsoring possibilities with airBaltic. After that networking was really easy. Relevant people have approached me: “Shall we go together?” “Are you married?” “Yes, I am.” “No, you are not going with me.” “And if I weren’t married?” “Then you would have had a good chance.” “Oh, but that’s very flattering!” More serious conversations followed as well.

At the end of the event I was talking to a colleague and someone with whom we work already. My colleague: “Shall we make another prize draw? Let people submit their cards for a chance to join you on your trip to Riga? That will be excellent promotion for our Chamber!”
Our contact: “Oh, I’m sure she has a man up her sleeve already!”
Me: “???”
Our contact: “Oh, come on! I read your blog every once in a while!”
Oh my God, I have a name! Maybe I should be less openhearted on this blog...

Anyway, I am still thinking of an original way to fill that chair next to me on my way to Riga. Suggestions are welcome!

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