MONCTON – Greater Moncton didn’t end up breaking the world record for the most people attending a business speed-networking event in a single venue., held by JCI Limburg in Belgium with 1,068 participants. But with 890 people at final count, the region won with its community spirit, said Guinness World Records Adjudicator Michael Empric.
“What I love about this record attempt is this community – everyone is really coming out to support the community and making those connections. And in a community like this, that’s what it’s all about,” said Empric, who flew from New York City to judge the attempt with the help of community volunteers.
It was a tense morning at the Moncton Coliseum. Half an hour past the scheduled attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the Largest Networking Event, organizer Hub City Young Professionals Network (HCYP) was still short on people. The organizers called on participants to invite their friends and family, and the attempt eventually started at 10.14 a.m.
The sound of a horn marked the beginning of the first three minutes for each person to speak to the person sitting across from them. The room suddenly lit up with chatter, as if somebody turned up the volume. At the end of each three-minute conversation, participants had one minute to move down one seat and meet the next person. Each person needed to fill out a form with the names of the 20 people they met.
HCYP had aimed to have 3,000 people attend the event and to prove that Greater Moncton is the “most connected city in the world,” president Patrick Richard said in August. On the morning of the event, nearly 1,300 people had registered but just a little more than 920 showed up.
Some were disqualified on final count because they might have taken out their phones, gone to the restroom, or left the room.
Jennifer Henry, a board member of HCYP, said the event still proved that the area is highly connected and provided the atmosphere she and her team had sought, regardless of the result.
“I think it did prove that we are an extremely connected area, even seeing people rally at the last minute [this morning], that was huge,” she said. “But it also shows that we are a little bit last minute. I think our kind of laid-back attitude made it so people didn’t chime into this event early enough to really commit to it.”
Still, it gave HCYP more credibility as an organization, she said.
“It really showed what networking can do, because this was a product of networking,” she said. “We’re not event planners. We all have full-time jobs. This is completely voluntary, mostly on our own time. And look at what we can accomplish just based on that.”
Henry said the event required a lot of logistics work to ensure everything is in line with Guinness World Record rules, as well as time and financial support from the community. Businesses like TD Bank, organizations like Opportunities NB, and the three municipalities of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview were among sponsors of the event.
Participants thought the event was beneficial. Ashley Gallant and Nana Iwamoto, both graphic design students at McKenzie College, said it was an opportunity to get their name out in the community. Both from P.E.I., Gallant and Iwamoto came with eight of their classmates and met people from various professional backgrounds.
“I didn’t realize there’s this many people in Moncton … it was quite an experience,” Iwamoto said.
“I think it’s definitely inspirational seeing all these successful people in their business, in their careers, it really kind of pushes you,” Gallant said. “And they’re all encouraging you to keep going and giving you names of people that you can get in contact with. It’s very helpful.”
NBCC human resources management student Melody MacDonald didn’t meet potential employers but says meeting new people is still useful.
“You might not think it’s a useful connection at the moment but it could become one,” she said.
MacDonald’s friend, Kathleen Morrison, an account associate at Medavie Blue Cross, said her employer encouraged young professionals in the company to attend.
“I know that it would put me out of my comfort zone so that’s kind of why I agreed to sign up with my team to come here. I met many people from different walks of life with different jobs that I never knew existed, so it’s definitely very eye-opening.”
Meanwhile, Joice Egbo from Nigeria and Florence Gouton from France said making new connections will help them with their business. The entrepreneurs have only lived in Moncton for seven months and one year, respectively.
“I’m trying to put together my business idea, which I would like to share with the community,” she said. “I’m going to build a Facebook community and people that I’ve met here will be part of the beginning of a new thing.”
“It’s a way to understand the market here and to understand what is interesting for people,” said Gouton, a freelance social media manager who hopes to get local clients.