Marco Island’s Chamber of Commerce thought enough of Smith’s idea to partner three working sessions using the Smith concept. The third session was held at the Hilton on May 25, and had 24 Marco Islanders from diverse business backgrounds: real estate, banking, counseling, tax accounting, engineering, communications and funeral services.
Smith relies on the pay-it-forward approach to avoid the problem of “normal networking, which is dull and no good.” He arranged 24 chairs in two lines of twelve, facing each other, with comfortable space in-between. Eager participants were told that they would have 90 seconds with their facing partners to interview each other, and then move on to the next person and begin the process over again. Smith emphasized several times that the key to the interview was leading with “What can I do for you?” He believes this approach immediately puts the parties at ease and opens the way for better understanding of working relationships.
The second piece to the process is the follow-up in which participants are urged to continue and expand the new working relationships. In his view, the speed session paves the way for comfortable development of business interrelationships that will benefit everything from recruiting to fund raising.
As the session went along it was evident that the participants grew more and more comfortable with the process. Body language entered the relaxed phase, and conversation, though brief, became more animated.
Following the session the participants gave their feedback. Unanimously they believed the session was very useful, and the approach worked well in opening the door for future contacts. One participant thought that each interview might have profited by more time. However, Smith pointed out that one purpose of the short time frame was to have the participants develop their appetites for more contacts. In the old show biz mantra: “Always leave them wanting more.”