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Long Island Business News - April 8, 2005


Fast face time: Get ready, set ... and network!

 Here's a new way to meet prospects - speed networking.

Like speed dating, speed networking provides several minutes of face time to exchange information with other professionals.

On Wednesday, March 30, 23 business types gathered at tables for two in a private area at Jillian's in Westbury. Half the group donned red nametags; half wore blue. And everyone was armed with a clipboard, pen and scorecard that listed the contact information and industries of the other participants.

Most were new to the concept, though some had previously speed-dated. Still, everyone seemed curious about the possibilities, especially when Jay Rosensweig, the evening's host, announced over a microphone, "You're not just talking to the person at the other end of the table. You're talking to everyone they know."

A stopwatch around his neck, Rosensweig, owner of Bayside, Queens-based, instructed those with red tags to sit across from those with blue. Each duo had four minutes to chat. At the 30-second mark, Rosensweig told them to wrap things up and jot down notes for future follow-ups. Then he prompted the reds to stay put and the blues to rotate to the next table.

In four minutes, participants gauged the potential for a foreseeable match or referral. That short window allowed little time for awkwardness. Thanks to Rosensweig's careful orchestration, participants met every individual in the room. The environment forced everyone to mix, rendering it impossible for people to stick with only the people they knew. And unlike other events, there was no pressure to search for a friendly face in a sea of people.

This was Rosensweig's second business networking event, though each month he runs between six to eight speed-dating shindigs, which he started in 2003.

Like many fledgling entrepreneurs, Rosensweig hasn't quit his day job, where he conducts investigative research for a Manhattan-based firm. But evenings and weekends he devotes to nurturing his own venture.

"This is my love," he said. "Long Island has been my bread and butter. I focus on places where others don't. They look at Long Island as an afterthought. I look at it as my core market."

How did the participants hear about the event? "I got this e-mail!" nearly everyone said. Rosensweig is quick to note that he avoids spamming. On his speed-dating mailing list, he has nearly 4,000 names, many of which are professionals, he noted. "People forward things to friends," he said. He also posts events online, including Ryze's business calendar. "I pick up people that way," he said.

Jillian's, which also hosts Rosensweig's speed dating, doesn't charge for space but views the event as an opportunity to educate professionals about its venue, said Jame Cohen, Jillian's promotions manager. Cohen, who's participated in both business-networking nights, hears attendees say, "I'm here for the first time. I didn't know it was for adults." That's when she tells them about Jillian's corporate parties and regular Thursday poker nights. Rosensweig, she said, "does a good job. People stay longer and enjoy themselves."

"It was a good format," said Adam Waldman, a regular at the networking events and a salesperson at Coldwell Banker in Commack. "It was a good way of meeting people. At other events, you're sometimes wandering. Sometimes you meet people; sometimes you meet almost nobody. With speed networking, you know you'll meet at least 20 people."

By evening's end, Rosensweig had seen to it that those with blue tags circulated with the blues and the reds mixed with the reds. In the final round, the groups sat in clusters of four.

That sped up the evening, something for which Waldman was grateful. "I was always rotating," he said. "I was a little tired by the end of it."

Still, Waldman said he'd give speed-networking another go, in hopes of meeting new people. "I suggested [to Rosen-sweig] that he do some [networking] in Suffolk," he said.

That's the kind of feedback the networking guru seeks. Similarly, he helps registrants gear up to maximize their results by sending them networking tips and e-mail confirmations. He keeps tabs on the flow by participating in the event himself.

Some registrants may need more prompting than others. One, for instance, gave a mini-lecture about his services, which didn't go unnoticed by Rosensweig, who said, "I'll educate him if he wants to sign up again."

Rosensweig hopes to increase the frequency of his networking events to two each month - even more if there's an interest.

Ultimately, "I'll need to hire event planners," he said. "I'll need to train them on my approach."

And he'll hire "mystery guests," similar to mystery shoppers, to make sure events are run properly. "Organization is key," Rosensweig said. "If people are wandering around, it gives a bad perception of me as an organizer."

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