Oh networking, the lovely world of networking. Some people’s passion many people’s nightmare. For me, it is most definitely, the latter.But, as every entrepreneur, coach and mentor tells me it is a necessity when trying to build a business. Especially when you’re a start-up like me. I went all out there and attended four events in two weeks!
So, I made EventBrite my friend and as a result discovered a moo.com Networking Start-up event held at at the aptly named Cotton's Rhum Shack within Box Park (no coincidence that they have a shop there). Perfect, as it’s on my cycle home from my consultancy day job that currently pays the bills, and therefore, I really had no excuse not to drop by. My feet tried very hard to pedal past but no, the will to show my face stopped them in their tracks. It was a nice atmosphere, and since I arrived early, I managed to avoid the ‘it looks like everyone has known themselves for years’ scenario. I left having had real conversations with four people, which if it doesn’t sound like a lot to you, it sounds like loads me! (me who sometimes likes to make friends with the sofa in the corner at parties). The whole experience was made easier by it being Moo’s first event so everyone was in the same boat – i.e. a little nervous, but with a passion.
Note to self, get there early.
My second event was hosted by S. E. Alley, and I’m very glad this wasn’t my first event as it may well have been my last! I have no doubt that there were copious, interesting and inspiring people at this event, however I certainly wasn’t able to verify this assumption. The venue was very small, cramped and hot, I had no idea who was who, and despite going with a friend who was familiar with such events we left as quickly as we arrived - we looked around to see if we could see an organiser but without much success. Yes of course I could have introduced myself to all the many groups in deep conversation….but I didn’t….
I also came to a realization that different rules apply to parties than to networking. Parties = arrive late, Networking = arrive early (if a shy person wants to stand a chance of making connections, that is). That is one strange concept to get your head around!
Note to self, get there early.
And to event number three. This was a paid event (£9) called ‘How to Become A Social Entrepreneur’ which provided three inspiring presenters: Oli Barratt who invented Make Your Mark With A Tenner, Ben Ramsden who developed the Pantrepreneurship Challenge and Lily Lapenna who developed Enterprise in a Box, and the evening was chaired by Alistair Wilson who runs the School for Social Entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a huge turnout for this event which is a shame as the speakers were excellent. It was held at Lime Wharf in Hackney, which describes itself as a ‘cultural innovation hub and artistic laboratory’ and holds a number of events which, from what I can gather are normally well received so it must just have been an off night, and I certainly plan to go back if something catches my eye.
And the final event which was perhaps the most nerve racking of the lot. ECHO (Economy of Hours, a skills swap organisation), were having a little get together at a bar called Curio Cabal on Kingsland Road. Im no stranger to ECHO, having been a member since when it was originally called Hackney Shares and have benefitted from a couple of members' skills. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet like minded people. The trouble was, when I arrived (which was a little late – yes know!), the bar was almost full, and most probably 80% male so I felt a little out of sorts already. Anyway, I was keen to run a mile, but stayed strong and headed to drop my bag off in the corner. Just by luck there were a couple of approachable looking women so we had a chat, and I found out that they work in one of the studios above the bar and are trend forecasters which sounds like a pretty awesome job. Also, one of the women, Jane writes the successful blog called The Women’s Room. It turns out that many of the people were from the studios above and did actually already know each other so getting there early on this occasion wouldn’t actually have made a difference! I spoke to Sarah Henderson, one of the organizers who inspired me to offer my Marketing Procurement Consultancy skills which are now added to ECHO, and I left feeling like I had achieved something (I hadn’t really considered that I have something to offer creative people . However, now it seems obvious that they may wish to benefit from understanding the pitch process and fee structures from a client perspective!)
Onwards and upward to events in 2014. I already have three booked: Clearly so - Teatime (sold out), Publicity Shy – An evening of creative inspiration from ad man Mark Denton and Cybersalon Digital Futures - The Cyborg’s New Clothes.