A crystal bell rings persistently, so John Conners pauses for a breath, then moves one chair to his right. "I've never done this before,"...

Share story

A crystal bell rings persistently, so John Conners pauses for a breath, then moves one chair to his right.

“I’ve never done this before,” he said with a smile.

Now that’s saying something. Conners, a networking pro, is at a restaurant in Santa Ana, Calif., for 5 Minute Networking, the business version of speed dating. Instead of looking for love matches, the participants are looking for customers, vendors and strategic alliances.

Conners is the creator of the Web site www.networkingplace.com, which lists hundreds of business meetings in Orange County, Calif. He attends many of them every month.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

5 Minute Networking is the brainchild of Newport Beach, Calif., sisters Sonia and Melissa English, who launched their venture in September after getting more business than dates from speed-dating events, where singles rotate from table to table, spending a few minutes talking one-on-one in hopes of finding someone with whom they want to spend an entire evening.

In this time-deprived society, 5 Minute Networking is “efficient, cost-effective and enjoyable,” Sonia English said.

A participant spends five minutes in a one-to-one conversation with another participant before moving on to another five-minute meeting each time Melissa English walks from one end of the room to the other shaking a crystal bell.

Instead of dates, participants are seeking customers, suppliers and strategic alliances.

Event planner Kelly Trang, owner of KDT Design in Fullerton, Calif., and a frequent 5 Minute Networking participant, said the system works well for shy people such as herself.

“What I like is I will have at least 20 contacts [at each event]. At mixers it’s harder for me to make contacts because I’m shy.”

This night, about 75 percent of the participants are business owners. The rest are executives at their companies. They are divided into two groups.

The A group is assigned to a permanent seat. The B group rotates every five minutes prompted by the crystal bell.

Occasionally, a straggler remains engrossed in conversation when Melissa English rings the bell. So she stands at his shoulder and continues waving the bell until he moves one chair to his right.

She jokes about electrifying the chairs to keep people moving.

With two dozen conversations going on, the room’s decibel level remains just below the intensity of a jackhammer all night. As the evening wears on, participants wear down.

Conners of networkingplace.com rates 5 Minute Networking effective and fun.

“Usually at a networking event of 150 people I may go home with seven or eight business cards,” he said. This night, he said, he had the opportunity to explain his Web site to 40 individuals.