Speed Networking

The New Ideas Show was not what Bobby had expected. He’d imagined a wild bunch of inventors with lab coats and wild hair, making robots bleep and crystals glow. The village’s glassy community centre – known as the Transparent Temple – was instead filled with slick suited and booted individuals constantly tapping screens and talking – to you or someone else, you couldn’t always say – promoting their internet hosting and search optimisation services, and generally giving you a headache.

He’d found respite in the audience of Devils’ Den, a show where amateur entrepreneurs sought to impress expert investors, but now that was over, he was back in the melee.

Bobby noticed a new group forming in an offset area; maybe another event offering haven. He strolled towards it but was stopped by a bald man in a blue blazer and red cravat, who said, “Have you booked?”

“Booked what?” said Bobby. “Isn’t this a free event?”

“Yes, it is. I meant have you booked your spot for Speed Networking?”

“Erm, no… I haven’t.”

“Well, I’m sorry, all the spots are taken. Business people’s time is precious; it must be used profitably. They booked their spots online. Since the economic downturn, these events are very popular.”

“I’m sorry, I’ve heard of Speed Dating but…”

“Speed Networking is a way to accelerate your business contacts; for business people to share their backgrounds and goals, and gain exposure to new markets and vendors. It’s a structured environment where pairs of people each speak for one minute, and then change partner.”

“Oh, so you meet here, and if you like each other, then you make a date – I mean a meeting.”

“Yes, but there’s an important difference between the two. Speed Daters try to narrow their choices; Speed Networkers wish to broaden their connections.”

More people approached. “Excuse me,” said the bald man and welcomed them in. The Speed Networkers began open mingling, and made small talk, while being served bright canapés, cheeses and wines. Were these the kind of people he wished to mix with, thought Danny. Such serious people.

He decided that you never know. Any one of them could give him a break. He may as well give it a go. “When is the next one?” he asked the bald man.

He said, “Actually we’ve had a no-show. The group is unbalanced now.  Do you want to join now?”

As the chairs were arranged in two circles of thirty chairs each, Danny wondered what he should talk about. The only ideas he had right now were for a “spice cream” van and an African sandwich shop. Who would be interested in those? But then he saw that a few people ahead there was a man with a beard and turban, and beyond him a woman in a bigger, multicoloured turban, and matching kaftan. Today may be his day.

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