June 17, 2008 |
I had the chance to test drive BlitzTime yesterday with CEO Jeff D'Urso, President Mick Sachleben and Virtual Assistant guru Jennifer Goodwin (from Internet Girl Friday ). I have to say that while there are definitely some kinks to be worked out, this application has potential as a social meeting, speed networking tool.
My main problem with BlitzTime was the overall design of the site. For something that is so interesting and useful (not to mention social), you'd never know it from the site's front door. An initial glance at the site a few months ago failed to pull me in, and it wasn't until I met Mike Sachleben in person that he convinced me to go back and give the application a try.
In spite of the overly business-like and dry entrance to the site, the application itself is unique. It takes what is normally a boring conference call and makes it a social event. If all meetings were conducted this way a lot more might get done, frankly. By forcing you to talk one on one with each person in the meeting it brings a personal touch that most meetings just don't have.
The way BlitzTime works is similar to speed dating for the business set. In fact, I'd call it speed dating meets LinkedIn if I were pressed to over simplify how it works. Users log in to BlitzTime and create a profile that showcases thier photo, relevant links and a brief bio. This simple social profile is what while appear while they are talking in each Blitz conversation.
Once they have signed up and created their profile, they can then create a Blitz event and invite people to it. There is a demo on the front page where you can make a mock Blitz event call to see how it works if you want to test drive it before signing up. Signing up is free.
You notice as you create your first Blitz event to invite people to that there are several features to choose from on the site. You can create Groups for people who work in the same place, participate in the same organization or who share a common interest. You can create Events, create a Profile, or find people to network with under People.
The beauty of Blitztime is that you never run the risk of getting stuck talking to that one long winded guy in the hall, or listening to that one person who never knows when to stop talking in a meeting. That, in my opinion, is the best part about Blitz time. The enforced time limit for each conversation really does save you time and forces you to hone your points to a razor sharp edge.
I set my demo call to what sounded like ample time for each one on one session at 3 minutes each (users control how long each Blitz interval lasts, so that you know precisely how long each meeting will take over all – no more running overtime). I then set the group portions at 3 minutes each as well. It turns out 3 minutes is not as long as it sounds and I'd probably go with 5 or even 6 minutes in future, but it provided a stellar example of knowing how to make your point in the least amount of time possible – not a second was wasted in each conversation.
How does the actual event work? Users call in to a predetermined Blitz number and enter a passcode. This is similar to GoToMeeting and other applications, but the similarity stops there. While Blitz does offer a number of presentation tools like file uploading and video intros if needed, this tool is not only about presenting, it is about focusing the conversation.
Once the users are logged in and participating in the call there is a brief group session, the Blitz count down clock starts flashing your time, and you are randomized into your first "break out" session one on one with one of the people in your event. That's right, Blitz rotates you through each person in your event, one at a time, and you get to talk to each of them in turn – no fighting to hear each other over a group conference call.
As your time nears an end with each person, the clock begins to flash red. This adds a surprisingly fun element to what is normally a dry meeting or straight networking as well as serves a useful purpose of keeping you on point. Between break out conversations, you are given an interval to jot any notes before being tossed randomly into your next break out, only seeing who you are about to talk to when their profile pops up on your screen.
At the end of the sessions you are given another note taking interval, although I personally found it unnecessary as Blitz also offers a way to record the event as it happens. You are then tossed back into a group and given a few last minutes to wrap up any points. The interesting thing to me was that after having been forced to make points so clearly and so fast, no one had any loose ends to wrap up, really.
Overall, this is a tool I plan to implement in future with various groups, including a few boards I participate in that have extensive, unfocused conference call meetings. It is fun, it forces focus, it's useful and its a creative way to make networking and meetings more social and more useful. I hope that the people behind Blitz take the suggestion to make the site itself a bit more intuitive so that it draws more people in – I think this is an overlooked gem that social media types especially will find creative and handy.