Chamber networking event aims for record

Sep. 26, 2013 @ 08:06 PM

Some in suit jackets and others wearing heels, they shook hands, handed out business cards, and tried to beat a world record.

The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce brought business owners, job seekers and others together at the Durham Centre building downtown on Thursday evening to try to earn the Guinness World Records title for largest networking event.

“We have a world-class chamber with world-class recognition, why not have a world record while we’re at it?” said Sheena Johnson Cooper, a spokeswoman for the chamber. Chamber officials had counted 415 people in attendance at the event, which Cooper said was verified by independent witnesses.

The total, if confirmed, would surpass the current world record of 406 people, set in Hong Kong at a speed networking event on Sept. 18.

Sara Wilcox, a spokeswoman for Guinness World Records North America, said in an email that the verification process of the documentation for a world record attempt can take up to three months.

As part of the documentation requirements, chamber officials took video footage and photographs at the event. IAlso, they put a wrist band on all attendees and counted them as they entered. Volunteers were enlisted to serve as witnesses.

But chamber officials weren’t just in it for the fame and glory.

“The reason why we’re doing it – the No. 1 (reason) is to maximize connections,” Cooper said, explaining that the chamber small business members voiced a desire to meet more people to spread the word about their services.

And the majority of the chamber’s approximately 1,000 members are small businesses, she said.

Representatives from staffing firms, salespeople looking to get leads, as well as job seekers attended the event, which was held outside of the downtown skyscraper. A disc jockey played music from the stage, and free food and drinks were served.

Theresa Symons said she was at the event to try to find out about job opportunities. She is a job placement coordinator for Durham Exchange Club Industries, a company that places people with developmental and physical disabilities, mental illnesses or substance abuse issues in jobs.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” she said of the record attempt.

Fredy Pedroza, lead coordinator for Durham Exchange Club Industries, said he felt that the event was more about business coming together and helping each other out.

Cary resident Chris White said he’s retired from IBM Corp., and is looking for new opportunities in business operations, budget management and financial forecasting.

“I only know what the statistics say: Networking is what gets you your next job,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing. I’m looking to network.”

Anne Showalter of Raleigh is the director of marketing and community relations for a company called Reversible Renovations that handles renovations of people who are aging or have disabilities to allow them to stay in their homes.

“I thrive on networking; that’s how I get my business,” she said.

Ted Conner, vice president for economic development and community sustainability for the Durham chamber, said he felt that the event signified what Durham was about.

“Durham’s got a lot of energy, we do some funky things. I think this is something a little bit different,” he said. “There’s also food and alcohol – that also helps.”