Speed dating, during which prospective couples have a minute or two to figure out if he or she just might be the one, has become a popular way to meet a match.
Apply the general concept to networking among women and men talking business, and there just might be a much more effective reason for its purpose.
And so South Hills Chamber of Commerce executive director Sydnee Bagovich set up a “speed networking” event to help members ring in 2020.
“I didn’t expect the great turnout we got,” she said. “But it created a little bit of a challenge. How do you rotate that number of people? We’d be there all afternoon.”
Her solution, as she announced decisively to the crowd:
“Everybody comes up here. You have a minute and a half. Don’t gripe about that. You guys are professionals. You know how to give your speech in a minute and a half.”
Bagovich’s quick thinking worked.
“Everybody was so cool with it. In fact, some of them finished before the minute and a half was up, ’cause they’re professionals,” she said. “And because we finished up sooner, guess what? They had already targeted the people they wanted to have conversations with. So it makes me want to do another one of those really soon.”
The event served as an encouraging launch to her taking over as the chamber’s executive director following several months of serving alongside Tanya Bashor, who now is with BankWork$, a training program that prepares individuals from low-income and minority communities for positions in the banking field
Bagovich looks to continue Bashor’s work in growing the chamber and helping members reach their objectives.
“We polled our members a while back, and they told us pretty much: You know what? We want to network. Yeah, we like speakers. Yeah, we like events. But we want to network,” Bagovich said.
As such, the chamber hosts breakfasts every other month purely for that purpose, and she plans to alternate guest speakers and networking-focused activities for monthly luncheons.
“I’m trying to focus on having more events that are either free to members or for members only, because there should be exclusive things about membership,” she said.
The South Hills Chamber of Commerce, which has its office in Upper St. Clair and traces its roots to the 1940s, supports about 30 communities, and Bagovich would like to expand the reach.
“Some of those are underrepresented, like Crafton, Carnegie, Green Tree and others,” she explained. “I live in Crafton. Why are we not represented? I want to do something about it.”
A native of Sheraden and graduate of Montour High School, Bagovich earned a master’s degree in marketing from Robert Morris University and master of business administration from University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.
Along with her chamber duties, she is a Jazzercise instructor, leading sessions three times a week.
“It’s not even an effort,” she said. “It’s just who I am. It’s fun. I pick people out. I pick on them, in a good way. And we laugh a lot.”
Plus she works with Vitalant, formerly Central Blood Bank in Pittsburgh, in organizing blood drives and recruiting donors. And she’s an active member of the Crafton-Ingram Rotary Club.
“All three of them are nonprofit organizations that are community service, and all three of them allow me to lead from the heart,” she said. “I don’t believe in coincidence, because I think everything happens for a reason. The reason all three of those things are going on in my life at the same time: That’s what I’m meant to do.”
For more information about the South Hills Chamber of Commerce, visit www.shchamber.org.