Aroostook tries ‘speed networking’ to connect businesses

Posted Dec. 07, 2012, at 4:32 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Many are familiar with speed dating, where singles meet and chat for a few minutes at a time before switching to the next partner, all in an effort to meet a lot of new people and potentially find someone to date.

Now, “speed networking” has emerged in Aroostook County as a means for employees of local businesses to meet, mingle and discuss possible business collaborations.

On Thursday at the Northeastland Hotel, employees from State Farm, Townsquare Media, Defensive Finance and Accounting Services and the University of Maine at Presque Isle met for the first speed networking event in the area sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants. Employees were given five minutes with a partner to talk to each other, exchange business cards, discuss what their business was involved in and then told to switch to the next person.

According to Jennifer Waltman, an employee at DFAS, member of AGA and moderator of the event, County businesses are always looking for new ways to network and this method seemed like an excellent option.

“I think it forces you to sit in front of somebody and to talk,” she said. “With mingling you kind of still stay in your comfort zone, talk to whoever you know, and that’s it. It’s more like a social.”

Waltman also said that the more opportunities that surround the County’s businesses, the more likely employees are to stay in the area.

She said she also organized the event partly in an effort to recruit more members for the Association of Government Accountants. The association also was hoping to promote its cheap continuing education programs, which offer members the opportunity to earn scholarships for both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The AGA has 44 members locally, and 15,000 members nationwide.

Shawn Berube, an employee at State Farm, thought that speed networking was a worthwhile experience. When asked by Waltman how the timed discussions went, Berube offered some constructive feedback.

“I think it’s great. Especially for networking, but I think people need to see the networking value in it,” said Berube. “I mean if you’re just promoting AGA, that might interest a certain group of people, but if you bring in different business leaders and things like that or young people or whatever, you make people feel like they’re going to meet people and gain something from it.”

Berube made the suggestion that perhaps a barbecue in the spring would attract more people, and Welsie Mayne from DFAS agreed, suggesting that ideas to help make an area with mostly introverts become more extroverted would be in AGA’s best interest. Service projects conducted by the present participants’ employers also were discussed, and so was the possibility of collaboration between UMPI business students and AGA led by Professor Carolyn Dorsey.

Another speed networking event is being planned for the spring.

“It’s being planned for April or May, and we’ll be sure to personally invite more local businesses this time,” said Waltman.

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