Tips to beat the buzzer at Smart Meeting speed dates

Not every speed-dating scenario is about finding a true-love connection. The same concept works for forging business relationships. At November’s Smart Meeting South Central National in New Orleans, Gary Hernbroth, chief motivating officer, Training for Winners, delivered a keynote full of useful tools you can apply during one-on-one appointments at Smart Meeting events in 2019. His presentation was titled “S.P.E.E.D. D.A.T.I.N.G.: Your 10 Minutes to Glory.”

Reel ‘Em In

Ten minutes can go by in a flash or drag on for eternity. Skeptical? Ten minutes left in a spa treatment is but a blur. Yet if a dentist says there’s 10 minutes to go in oral surgery…In other words, it’s all about perspective, says Hernbroth. In real speed dating, you don’t want your date making up a fake excuse to leave early. If the other party seems promising, the goal is a second date. One-on-ones are the perfect time to tell your story, ask pointed questions and make an impression that sets the tone for a mutually beneficial relationship. This is your chance to learn more than the square footage of the ballroom and number of guest rooms listed on the web site.

Be a Storyteller

“Be a painter of words,” Hernbroth advises. Planners should clearly articulate what their groups are about at their core, as well as the objectives of the meeting. Get behind the steering wheel and drive the conversation.

If you are looking for a site that can offer a better experience than last year’s location, tell the salesperson what you’re looking to improve on. Hernbroth emphasizes that planners need to provide suppliers with answers even to questions that weren’t asked.

Stories resonate with people. Sometimes, telling a personal story and finding commonality will sweeten the deal. Do you have the same alma mater? Do you enjoy the same hobby? If you walk away leaving the supplier with one lasting impression, what will make you memorable? They’re meeting a lot of people in a short period of time. So, stand out from the crowd and they will respond to your RFP first with creative solutions.

Engagement Matters

Hernbroth suggests planners and suppliers treat conferences as “LinkedIn Live.” Once you have received your matches upon checking in at a Smart Meeting event, do some internet snooping. Maybe you’ll find a commonality or icebreaker. When seated across from one another, make sure to be engaging and maintain eye contact. Don’t look at your smartphone. Disconnect with technology to connect with people.

Use Your Time Wisely

Bring a sense of urgency to one-on-one sessions. Don’t wait until the one-minute warning bell rings, when you’ll find yourself cramming. Hernbroth encourages planners to start a dialogue by stating their top three priorities. This gives suppliers a frame of reference on how to use their time wisely to sell you on relevant details about how their property or destination is the perfect fit.

Name deal-makers and deal-breakers. Do you have attendees with ADA needs? Do you need to be able to drive a car into the ballroom? Do you only need a boardroom? If you don’t specify what you need, suppliers are likely to spew facts and “data dump.”

One-on-ones should be like a tennis match. Both parties take turns serving and receiving. Everyone needs time to ask, answer and listen. Use these brief 10 minutes to pave the way for a productive follow-up phone call.

Appropriate Follow-Up is Crucial

During one-on-ones, Hernbroth recommends taking notes. That way, follow-up emails and calls can pick up where you left off. “Who is going to do what with whom by when?” At the appointment, agree on the best time to follow-up. Should it be right away or in a specific future month? Should you follow up via phone, text or email? Take it one step further, and schedule the next step on the spot.

Never think the ball is in the other party’s court. “Neither side gets a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” says Hernbroth. Take the initiative to pick up the phone or write an email. The best way to close a one-on-one isn’t only with a handshake, but with a crystal-clear understanding of what a future together entails.

Speed Dating Spelled Out

Painter of Words
Decide Together

Ask Good Questions
Time Management
Go-Forward Steps