The Power of Face-to-Face Networking: Lessons Learned from a Speed Networking Event

Active International Mikkeli’s Speed Networking 2023 event brought together local businesses and international talents to promote collaboration and inclusivity in Mikkeli.

Organized by Talent Hub South Savo, in partnership with Aalto University, Xamk University of Applied Sciences, Esedu, Ely Keskus, and supported by the City of Mikkeli, the event aimed to facilitate valuable connections and networking opportunities.

The event started with a keynote speech by Teppo Leinonen from the South Savo Chamber of Commerce, who emphasised the need and significance of having international talents in Mikkeli.

He highlighted that having international residents expands opportunities for both the local and international communities, attracts more business, and future-proofs the city.

Following the keynote speech, Topiantti Äikäs, representing the City of Mikkeli, gave welcoming words. Äikäs, an experienced community builder, also emphasised that diversity is at the core of resilience and highlighted that international talents bring opportunities to the city.

Held on a Friday afternoon at Mikkeli City Hall, the event attracted 30 attendees from various sectors, including representatives from private and public organizations, entrepreneurs, and businesses. Here’s a list of collaborators that graced the event (pro tip: these people showed interest in getting in contact with international talent, so do reach out on the matter to them):

  • South Savo Chamber of Commerce: Teppo Leinonen
  • City of Mikkeli: Topiantti Äikäs and Heidi Hänninen
  • Xamk Talent Boost: Henna Hirvonen and Valeria Pinto
  • Mediaali Ltd: Päivi Kapiainen Heiskanen
  • Music Fairy Tales: Teemu Laasanen
  • Business Mentor Finland: Jorma Pirinen
  • South-Savo ELY Center: Anitta Sihvonen
  • Miksei Ltd and Pohjolan Mustikka Ltd: Karoliina Tilaeus
  • Ruralia Institute: Inna Kopoteva
  • Landhaus Kekkola Oy & Rock Solid Oy: Janne Muikkunen
  • Xamk and Talent Hub South Savo: Niko Arola and Daria Chekalskaia
  • Talent Hub South Savo & City of Mikkeli: Riitta Lappi

”The event was a very important meeting. A lot of important information has been shared here that I could have never accessed if it were not for this event.” – event participant.

The conversations were described as exciting and revealing, with participants seeking opportunities for socializing, work and internships, and understanding how the city works and where they could find help in the future.

Overall, the event successfully brought together diverse individuals and organizations to create meaningful connections and foster a more inclusive environment in Mikkeli.

Here are some lessons learned generated by the event:

  • Format: The event format included 5-minute discussions and rotations around 11 tables, each with different representatives. That was intense, but allowed people to avoid unnecessary chatter and move directly to the value they can provide to each other. One participant did notice, however, that extending the time for the event would allow for more meaningful dialogue to appear, so maybe consider adding 20 min for a free walking after all the rounds are done.
  • Set up: Participants were encouraged to reflect on their motivations and current needs to prepare beforehand. It is an important step to help participants to formulate what they want to ask others and prepare them for a followed intense discussion.
  • Socializing the event: I know, attracting people is difficult. Personalized invites and word of mouth marketing were found to be the most effective strategies to reach and engage with the target audience. Therefore, it is recommended to invest in targeted marketing efforts and personalized communication to attract the right participants.
  • Logistics: it is important to ensure that the table placement is organized well and that there is enough time for all participants to meet each other. One possible solution could be to increase the length of the networking session or to reduce the number of tables.
  • Profiles of representatives: Participants appreciated the opportunity to learn more about each other’s businesses and organizations, so it is recommended to include more details about the participants and their work in the introductions. It could also be helpful to provide links and content from the company representatives in advance to help participants prepare for the event.
  • Do organize networking events: many people shared they would definitely attend events of a similar nature and expressed a desire for more opportunities to network and create connections.

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