Anyone who’s gone to a business networking event, be it a seminar, cocktail meetand greet or Business After Hours social function, can relate to this scenario:

You spot someone you really want to meet, but you’re already engaged in conversation with someone else. Not wanting to be rude, you decide to conclude your conversation before approaching the other person. But by the time you’re finished, it’s too late.

What may have been your most important business contact of the year has already left.

Maureen St. John has been there. And she feels your pain.

“I always find that, ‘Oh geez, I didn’t quite make it around the room as much as I wanted,’” said St. John, senior vice president, retail regional manager of Camden National Bank.

Fortunately, there’s a solution: Speed networking.

From 5-7 p.m. Nov. 1, the Biddeford + Saco Chamber of Commerce + Industry will host its first speed networking event at Duffy’s Tavern & Grill, 168 Saco Ave., Old Orchard Beach.

Organized by the Chamber’s ambassador committee, which St. John co-chairs, it’s intended to maximize networking potential by reducing such time-wasters as meandering about waiting for an opening to approach some-one or hoping for an introduction.

Speed networking essentially works like speed dating, but with less anxiety. Two people are placed across from each other, and they have a limited amount of time – in this case, about four minutes – to make introductions, trade business cards and have a conservation. Then they’re paired off with other people for four minutes, and so on.

Hopefully, the brief exchanges will lead to follow-up meetings and mutually beneficial business relationships.

“In a very short amount of time, you can get a lot of one-on-one time with a lot of people … there is a much greater chance that you will get to meet with every person in that room,” St. John said.

The Chamber decided to host a speed networking session after some members of the ambassador committee attended one at Duffy’s Tavern in Kennebunk in spring 2015.

The committee held a trial run with a small group of 10 people during the Chamber’s annual barbecue in August, and it was such a success, it decided to hold another session on a larger scale. With its Fireside Dining Room and on-site drinks and food, Duffy’s OOB was an ideal location.

Victor L. Dubé, a marketing representative for SERVPRO of Biddeford-Saco, said he got two job leads from the August speed networking.

“I feel it is a great way to get in front of multiple people in a very compressed time period,” Dube said. “In today’s quick tempo, it is a great way to get the gist of each other’s businesses and how you can help each other increase business and expand your network.”

The Nov. 1 speed networking event is free, and you don’t have to be a Chamber member to participate. However, registration is requested in advance.

The ambassador committee is hoping to have an equal number of participants – about 30 total – and 18 slots had already been reserved as of Friday, St. John said.

For more information or to register, call the Chamber of Commerce at 282-1567.

— Rod Harmon is managing editor of the Journal Tribune. Send business news to [email protected]

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