Masterclass, floristry and big bums at Easter

As well as presenting workshops, I do like to attend them sometimes to get a fresh perspective.  Plus it’s nice to spend the time sitting comfortably instead of trying to keep my balance for three hours on thin pointy heels.  So I recently spent an evening at the Guardian offices in Kings Cross – fantastic place, full of energy and dynamism.  The reason I ventured north of the central line, all alone on a cold Monday night, was to attend a masterclass in journalism with foodie Jay Rayner.  I was supposed to be going with a business friend who’d said he was interested in setting up a food blog, but he stood me up!  Jetted off to Barcelona for a few days instead!  I wouldn’t have minded a few days wandering around the Parc de la Cuitadella, but hey ho.

Jay (first name terms!) was a witty and entertaining presenter and I didn’t mention the run-in we had with his late mother some years ago.  Sadly, I hadn’t had dinner and the only food on offer was a small bowl of crisps, so listening to him speak for three hours on restaurant reviews didn’t help my rumbling tummy.  Red wine was flowing though, and I made friends with a very nice Australian hotel catering manager who kept me entertained during the breaks.

imaginatve training social media blog | social media trainingThere was no red wine – or any other coloured wine – at my own last session, although the selection of herbal teas was very pleasing and the platter of chocolate biscuits went down a storm.  It was my first session for Fit for Legacy at UEL’s Knowledge Dock and I have to say, it was possibly the nicest training venue I’ve worked in.  Bright, with a wall full of windows (not as normal as you might think) and a lovely long curved sofa that would have been good for some sort of interesting games, if we’d been there to play…

The flowers in the room were lovely too, and reminded meimaginatve training social media blog | social media training of the beautiful displays created by my Facebook friend Susan Steiner.  A multi-talented lady who also designs fascinators (those, teeny fancy hats that look fab at Ascot), Susan is now selling her floristry around east London and Essex.  She’s starting to use social media to help grow her business, so check out her Facebook page if you’re thinking about sending a stylish Easter bouquet.

Of course I’m mentioning Easter this week… plenty of time to polish off half a dozen chocolate eggs before the big day.  I’ve already made my way through two boxes of Guylian Belgian seashells this week!  And with a couple of days of fantastic Passover meals starting tonight (with thanks to my two lovely cousins – Susan tonight and Sharon tomorrow), this song is beginning to describe me well…

“Oh, won’t you take me home tonight?  Oh, down beside your red fire light?”  (Tenuous link here: Susan’s daughter Dalit studied at Liverpool John Moores University, where astrophysicist Brian May (did you know that?) was chancellor!  Anyway, you can’t take me home tonight – with a cupboard full of Easter chocolate I’m going nowhere!!  Happy Pesach, Happy Easter, Happy Everything!!  @WeekendWitch.

A social media buzz, life changing events and kits off for the lads

On Saturday night I danced with a soldier.  Mark is a Welsh Guard with a stream of medals proudly displayed across his lapel, who cuts some fancy shapes on the dance floor.  Eighteen months ago I’d never even met a soldier – or anyone serving in the military.  Now, my work with the amazing Soldiering On charity has introduced me to some of the most impressive people I’ve come across.

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Award winners Steve Brookes and Kizzie, with Miss England Kirstie Heslewood

The awards ceremony had many people in tears.  I’d written the winners’ citations for the brochure so I was already familiar with the tragic circumstances that led them on the path to deserving their inspirational awards.  But watching their films and listening to their heartfelt speeches takes it to another level.  Life changing events including losses of limbs, loved ones and mental health spurred these people on to make the world a better place for others. Hats off to them!!  Or glasses raised, if you’re not wearing a hat.

I raised several glasses – all red apart from the kindly donated Tattingers champagne.  I was tweeting through the night on the charity’s behalf – mostly photos, as I couldn’t completely focus on the teeny tiny letters on my new phone.  My thanks to the man who took the pic of me cuddling Biggins – now I know why my flash hasn’t worked for two years: he told me to take the phone out of its leather case…. D’oh!!

Sitting beside me through dinner were three lovely ladies who happily get their kits off for the lads.  No, not that.  These gorgeous girls create an annual calendar to raise money for charity – and 2015 will be supporting Soldiering On.  We’d been chatting on twitter and retweeting each other for some time so it was great to finally meet.

Imaginative Training |Social media blog | Social media training | LondonI’d also been tweeting with Joe McElderry, the fab X Factor star who created a huge buzz for the charity on social media.  But that’s not what we chatted about…  We share some of the same business services so we were talking about what a great bunch of people support us!  Then he put on a fantastic show and kept the dance floor full until midnight.

The auction raised thousands!  One of the lots was a painting by Martyn Royce, my artist friend and creative business collaborator.  That alone raised £2500.  Ali Grant, also on my table and the recipient of a previous year’s award won a holiday in Marakesh.  I won nothing tangible – my prize was dancing with the soldier.  And that was enough.

Saturday’s ten winners prove how we can make the best from the worst.  Absolutely nothing beats a positive attitude.  So it seems appropriate to end with a few words from Joe:  ‘The struggles I’m facing, the chances I’m taking – sometimes might knock me down but, no I’m not breaking.  I may not know it, but these are the moments that I’m going to remember most yeah – just got to keep going.’  We all keep going, don’t we; after all, what else would we do?  This is where I’m going now: @WeekendWitch.

No make up selfies, an athlete and an absolute honour

Imaginative Training | Social media blog | social media training | LondonWell that was an awesome week!!  It’s a privilege to be shortlisted for any award, so to be named a finalist in the Caron Keating Foundation’s Inspirational Mother Awards was really something.  It was all the better as the category was for mother and son, so I shared the honour with Oli.  As deserving as he is, I never dreamed I could win…

Both my sons are fantastic, but the team at The Stroke Association know Oli for his tireless voluntary work.  He’s spoken on the radio, given a presentation at the national conference, helped with medical research and never once complained about the traumas of being a young stroke survivor.  I won’t bore you with the factors in my life that the judges felt made me a winner, but needless to say it was a proud moment – and a completely unbelievable one!!  Gobsmacked doesn’t even begin to cover it.  When I heard the stories of the winners preceding me, I didn’t dream for one second that my story stood up against theirs.  Heart breaking tales that truly inspire and made me feel humbled to be in their presence.

The champagne reception wasImaginative Training | Social media blog | social media training | London lovely and the Mayfair Hotel does put on an excellent cream tea.  We were seated next to Donna Fraser, without doubt the fastest woman I’ve ever met!  A four-times Olympian and double World Championship medalist, Donna is now an ambassador for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.  She told us she was presenting an award – turned out it was mine!  She was so lovely, and I’m hoping she’ll come over this summer to meet Oli.  She, too, has an inspiring story to tell.

Mica Paris was another award presenter, I love her soulful voice.  Found out on Saturday that her real name is Michelle Wallen – no relation, as far as I know.  She sings a lovely, soulful rendition of Summertime, a song which always reminds me of the year I was seventeen and learning to drive.  My instructor George sang it through every lesson, probably to keep his stress levels down as I careened all over the place.  Hearing it now still takes me back to that summer of college parties and rah-rah skirts.

Thank you for the many Facebook messages of congratulations.  Ironic, really, that the charity behind the awards is focused on Breast Cancer, and this was the week of women posting no make-up selfies to raise money for that very cause.  The last time I looked, over £8 million had been raised from this one small initiative.  Amazing what we women can achieve by hardly trying.

Imaginative Training | Social media blog | social media training | LondonCaron Keating was only 41 when she lost her battle to breast cancer, ten years ago next week.  Her mother, Gloria Hunniford, set up the foundation in her name to help Cancer patients and their families.  As a result, in a roundabout way, she’s now helped raise awareness of childhood stroke too.

 

In the words of Mica, Ella, Gershwin and George: “One of these mornings, you’re going to rise up singing.  Then you’ll spread your wings… and you’ll take to the sky.”  Inspirational people don’t always choose to fly.  Sometimes it’s not a choice that places us where we are in life, so the important thing is to make the best of it and enjoy every day.  Summertime’s coming – I’m heading towards it!  Follow me there? @WeekendWitch.

Incidentally, Tim Vincent read out my citation on Saturday… but I didn’t get a Blue Peter badge!!

Being quizzical, a specialist subject and Club 18-30 – not for the faint-hearted

I’ve finally found my specialist subject in case I’m ever a contestant on Mastermind – and you would never guess what it is!  You’re probably thinking it’s going to be social media or, more specifically perhaps, LinkedIn or Twitter.  Or maybe plain English copywriting, which has been my business focus for almost 19 years.  Stephen is sniggering in Vegas thinking it’s wine, and David’s going for West Wing, the early seasons.  You’re all wrong.

Attending a quiz at the MS Therapy centre, my team, captained by Gill’s sister-in-law Alison, strolled home with the silver medal.  We did put in a good effort, if not quite the winning streak.  However, I’m proud to say that I scored 20/20 single-handedly on my new specialist topic: funeral songs!!  Yes, that’s right: I knew them all.  The morbid Top 20 list had been compiled by the Co-op and we had to name the song and artist from the musical intro.  It was very funny!  And it was definitely my night, as something happened that’s never happened before: I won the raffle!  A lovely crystal fruit bowl; sounds boring, I know, but I’m happy with it.

This may sound a far cry from the days when Gill and I knew how to rock a Saturday night, but we’re no strangers to quizzes.  We ran them for several years to raise money for a local charity.  We also attended them – the most memorable being around the pool on a Club 18-30’s holiday to San Antonio in 1984.  I can’t go into detail here about what we were guessing, as my mum reads this blog – but needless to say, 18-30 in the 80’s was all it was cracked up to be.

Before the trip, a TV documentary showing skimpily clad people (for ‘skimpily,’ read ‘non’) freaked out our families. So we told them it was ok, we would just be eating ice cream round the pool.  I vividly recall waking up one lunchtime with (what seemed like) a rugby team charging into our hotel room.  They dragged us out of bed and down to the pool to be photographed for the 1985 brochure – where we sat, eating ice cream!  What further proof do you need, m’lord?

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Club 18-30
1985 brochure
See… ice cream and clothes!

They were the days when I knew less about funeral songs and more about Yogi Bear’s adventures with Booboo.  Obviously those lyrics are inappropriate for a business blog.  So… rolling in at number 10, it’s NKC.  ‘Like a song of love that clings to me, how the thought of you does things to me.  Never before has someone been more… Unforgettable.’  Hopefully you won’t forget me… @WeekendWitch.

PS –  just Googled the Yogi Bear lyrics and they are way ruder than I remember!!!

Business introductions, social networking and becoming a tree

Someone posted an article on Facebook recently that says when you die, you can become a tree!  A biodegradable urn contains a tree seed that absorbs the nutrients in your ashes.  Well, fancy that!  She wants to be a Christmas tree.  While I love all things Christmas, I wouldn’t want to risk being dug up, strung with fairly lights and adorned with baubles.  Although on second thoughts…

For 50 weeks of the year my favourite tree is a weeping birch. Not a very happy sounding tree, but an absolutely beautiful one.  For the other two, it’s the creamy pink camellia, in bloom now and making me smile every time I pass one.  So, feeling at one with nature this week, I ventured out to spend an afternoon in deepest darkest Essex.  Well, deep, if not dark.  Finchingfield has been voted the prettiest village in England – and rightly so.  Its winding lanes lead to a picturesque village green and traditional duck pond surrounded by lovely cottages, pubs and tearooms.

Imaginative Training | Social  media blog | Finchingfield

Couldn’t quite capture the beauty on my phone, but you get the idea…

I had lunch in the sunshine with someone I’d been introduced to at a networking event.  He needed help with LinkedIn and I provide help with LinkedIn, so that worked out perfectly.  Many people fail to understand the benefits of networking and see it simply as an opportunity to talk at people who have no interest or no need for their services.  Sometimes those people speak without drawing breath, oblivious to the glazed expressions before them.

That’s not what networking’s about at all.  It’s about developing relationships.  It’s learning what other people have to offer and whether you’d feel comfortable introducing them to your own contacts. If you have a rapport with someone, they’ll introduce you when someone in their own circle has a need that you can fulfil.  This week, for example, I had a need for an enormous cream cake in the spring sunshine and – voila! – I was introduced to someone who provided it!

How’s this for a weird Twitter introduction coincidence, proving it’s a small world, and shrinking… I recently had coffee with a graphic designer named Angie, someone I was introduced to by Joel, who was one of the first flesh and blood people I met through Twitter.  Joel and I have met several times in real life, shared cakes and smoked salmon sandwiches and sat together in his mastermind group to help a struggling business owner overcome some marketing issues.

He introduced me to Angie, we hooked up on Twitter, we met, we chatted, we laughed, we drank peppermint tea.  She later tweeted about me and it turns out, her boyfriend is someone I’ve tweeted with – both as myself and on behalf of one of my social media clients.  The conversation was funny, centred around the Dalek with someone throwing in a famous Star Trek quote, and it went from there.

Social networking on sites like Twitter works in much the same way as physical networking.  Talk to people, learn about them, understand what they do and make friends.  Olivia Newton John summed it up reasonably well.  “I’m saying all the things that I know you’ll like, making good conversation.  I gotta handle you just right; you know what I mean.”

Maybe more of the conversation and less of the handling… I guess that’s up to you!  We can always make conversation here: @WeekendWitch

Childhood Stroke Day, many thanks and you’ve got a friend

One of the silver linings following my son’s stroke was that I made two very lovely friends whose children had also suffered strokes.  And on Saturday, Liz, Nancy and I hosted a support day for more than 50 parents of other child stroke survivors.  The planning, organisation and execution was hard work, tiring and emotional, but the feedback was fantastic and everyone seemed to go home feeling positive, more knowledgeable and very happy to have had the opportunity to make friends with other parents who understand what they’re going through.

We had a tremendous amount of support from The Stroke Association, especially a dedicated and exceptionally lovely lady named Anna Panton, who runs the new Childhood Stroke Project in the London and the South East.  Liz chose a gorgeous venue right in the heart of the city.  Bright, eclectically designed rooms with trendy pink furnishings (right up my street!), a courtyard garden and a fab café.  I’ve taken details with a view to booking my next social media training session there – the chocolate brownies were to die for!!

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Not exactly Nancy, Liz and me… but we did have a lot of bags between us…

We were privileged to have the support of three amazing experts who gave presentations to the whole group then joined in with the afternoon’s facilitated workshops.  Dr Vijeya Ganesan was actually Oli’s consultant, overseeing his care for almost five years.  She’s one the world’s foremost authorities on childhood stroke and vascular problems, so it was an honour to have her there.  Dr Anne Gordon is a senior consultant occupational therapist who specialises in working with young stroke survivors worldwide, and offered some innovative therapies that people weren’t aware of – including visualisation, which is something I often talk about in business, but never equated to health issues.

We were also joined by Dr Andrew Mallick, who so kindly travelled up from Bristol for the day.  Andrew’s a neurologist who recently completed a study on the outcomes of childhood stroke.  As part of that, a few years ago he survived an afternoon at my home studying Oli and eating my home made muffins.  Everyone benefited from the knowledgeable team from The Stroke Association who gave up their Saturday for us and spread purple love all around the room. This included Joe Korner, the director of communications (who gave a very entertaining talk on the inspirational Life After Stroke awards), Chris Randell, the parliamentary officer, PR guru Lizzie and a lovely lady who registered everyone, but I don’t know her name!  Huge thanks to the Stroke Association for funding the day!

Also sharing the love was a holistic therapist called Pippa, who I met a couple of months ago at an art exhibition, then bumped into again in a cake shop.  The universe clearly intended to put us together… Pippa spent the afternoon giving free massages and therapies to some of the stressed mums and dads.

On behalf of Liz, Nancy and myself, we’d like to thank everyone who helped make the day such as success. Thank you all for so generously taking time out of your weekend.  And special thanks too, of course, to all the parents who travelled to London for the day. So pleased you found it worthwhile!

We may have good friends in our lives – and I’m lucky to have some fantastic ones who’ve really clomped with me through the thickest forests and spun me round when I’m skating across thin ice.  But sometimes the only people who understand are the ones who’ve been there.  Carole King certainly knew what she what she was talking about.

“When you’re down and troubled, and you need a helping hand – and nothing, oh nothing is going right.  Close your eyes and think of me and soon I will be there; to brighten up even your darkest night.”  Without question, I’m there for my friends.  (Actually, right now I’m in the garden – first day this year in the sun, on the lawn with my laptop!)  But yes, I’m always there. And here: @WeekendWitch.

Social media sell out, a wrong decision and being exterminated

My friends Stef and Lee recently welcomed an unusual new member into their family.  Derek the Dalek made his appearance shortly before Christmas, and has been busy earning his keep.  Lee gave Derek some TLC to get his sound system fired up, flash his neon lights and activate his flamethrower before sharing him with world.

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Derek and Lee being interviewed for TV

One of Derek’s first jobs was to attend a mass Dr Who wedding in London. In a strange reality (but who am I to judge…) scores of people married, renewed vows or were blessed in the shadow of the Tardis, with Derek trying hard not to exterminate any ex-spouses who may have turned up to give reasons why anyone in the room ‘should not be lawfully wed.’

He was later interviewed in front of a theatre audience by Keith Allen – one of my Comic Strip heroes!  I think Derek would have liked to manoeuvre Lily Allen into a mass wedding of sorts, but he made do with the evening of fun on stage with her dad.  His next adventure was helping publisher DK Books to win an award for innovative entertainment at the Royal Festival Hall – so it’s been all go for Derek!

I ran a social media workshop last week at City Business Library.  It’s a great place for small businesses and start-ups to gain knowledge and skills at knock-down prices.  The session was sold-out!  It’s fantastic to attract a full house, but I always feel guilty if people have to be turned away because there’s no space left for them.  I understand that the librarians running the booking system have to be strict due to H&S policies, but when people arrive smiling and leave two minutes later looking miserable it makes me sad.  So I’m thinking of hiring Derek for my next social media workshop – he can keep those latecomers entertained.

Buying Derek and setting up in business as Dalek-for-Hire was a good call by Lee.  But we all make the occasional bad decision in life.  Stef was once invited out on a date by a good looking young guy who told her he would be singing on Top of the Pops the following week.  It was 1982 and Stef had better things to do than spend an evening with a wannabe in a leather waistcoat who had lots of chat and was clearly overflowing with dreams, but probably had little substance of character.

She laughingly refused. Watching Top of the Pops on Thursday night, as we all did back then, you can imagine how surprised she was to see her almost-new-friend (boyfriend?) George, fronting a brand new band: Wham!!! (That definitely calls for some extra exclamation marks, don’t you think?)

As Mr Michael said (not to Stef), ‘Well I hadn’t seen your face around town awhile, so I greeted you with a knowing smile.’  I may not have seen you for a while but I’m making the time to network more from next week. I’ll be at Biscotti in Gloucester Road on the 12th – maybe see you there?  If not, see you here: @WeekendWitch.

Introducing networking contacts, Portuguese charm and red, red wine

On a Facebook group for people who grew up in our area, a photo appeared of the Ilford Palais. The traditional 1950’s dance hall dazzled its way into the early part of this century before my auntie’s property company turned it into a stunning block of flats with fantastic views spanning Essex and London.

Gill and I would be there every Wednesday night in 1981, tap water with a slice of lemon, red dancing shoes and no coats, as we couldn’t afford the 20 pence cloakroom ticket.  We’d walk the two miles home barefoot and shivering, before finishing our homework and collapsing into bed at 2am, rising bright and alert, ready for school.

There was no age ID back then and we could easily pass for 18 at 15.  (Now I prefer to knock a few years off…)  But we rarely drank alcohol, maybe the odd Malibu and pineapple.  As you may know, I now tend to accept the odd glass of rosé at networking events; or, more recently, a nice full-bodied red wine.  So it was very exciting to be invited to a wine tasting event this week!  I didn’t mix them.  Not even sure if different colours count as mixing?  I stuck to a decent selection of 38 deep red wines without a sniff of anything sparkly.
Imaginative Training | Social media blog | London | social media trainingThe organiser, Ricardo, was the epitome of Portuguese charm and introduced me to some lovely tasting beverages.  Rather than a vintner, he considers himself a story-teller, on a mission to give a Portuguese narrative to the world and change people’s perceptions of it, bringing out its diversity and uniqueness.  Turns out I was supposed to sip each glass, swirl it around then spit it out.  How unladylike. So I just drank…

I’ve since introduced Ricardo to Bill, who organises wine tours around Europe and the UK.  I’m sure they can do lovely business together, in some capacity.  I met Bill in Covent garden to explain about social media marketing.  I’d been recommended by a Twitter friend that I’d met at a networking event in a garden, a couple of years ago.  I had rosé that night, and – in another unladylike performance, fell of the decking.  But that’s another story.  Not a Portuguese one.

Incidentally, I also introduced Bill to Jo Harrison, the very talented lady who formatted my ebook for Amazon and Smashwords.  She’s based in France, so this is a very European blog!  We met on Twitter too – it’s a fantastic place to build business relationships!! Jo’s recently helped Bill to publish his cookery book.  He’s very excited about it, so here it is!

The wine tasting event was paired with an art show in a church crypt, deep below Holborn Circus.  The circus, described by Charles Dickens as ‘the finest piece of street architecture in the city,’ is a notorious accident blackspot. You can see why.  Six roads converge and none of the pedestrian lights were working, so people were marching about all over the place, dodging the rush hour traffic.  I barely managed to make it across the street to the tiny 16th century pub where Elizabeth I danced around the cherry tree and my friend and I drank orange juice.  Sometimes, enough is enough.

Back in the Ilford Palais days we also made an annual pilgrimage to Hammersmith to see UB40.   So this seemed an obvious choice for today’s song lyrics.  (Apologies to those of you who like a weekly challenge!)  “I’d have thought that with time, thoughts of you would leave my head.  I was wrong, and I find, just one thing makes me forget.”

I’m pleased to say I’ve never had so much wine that I’ve forgotten anything!  Don’t forget to book your place at my Social Media for Start-ups session at the City Business Library, if you haven’t already.  Or follow me for info on the next one: @WeekendWitch.

Eight voices, Billy Joel and inspiration from a triple amputee

‘Eight voices, one story’ is an upcoming audio visual exhibition that celebrates the achievements of eight military superheroes who have overcome adversity to inspire others.  It focuses on their positive and uplifting attitudes to life.   Last Sunday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Anne Diamond as she interviewed three of the ‘voices.’

In a cream, compact flat overlooking Waterloo, watching the London Eye slowing turning through the kitchen window, Anne performed her job with a degree of professionalism that was inspiring in itself.  These three fantastic people spoke of the traumas they’ve battled and how they now make the world a better place.  I listened, glassy-eyed, from behind the video man’s black screen.  Tony, a broadcast marketing and media impresario, very kindly shared his family pack of fruit pastels with me as we sat together in wondrous silence.

Imaginative Training | social media blogListening to these stories makes you sit back and take stock.  Mark Ormrod was the first surviving triple amputee to be flown home from Afghanistan.  His list of achievements is remarkable, including a 3000 mile hand cycle ride up and down the UK and skiing in the Rocky Mountains.  This year, he’s booked two 15,000ft sky dives, a 300 ft bungee jump and a terrifying wing walk!!   Can anyone match that?

Mark’s become a successful inspirational speaker, having shared his experiences with the world-wide business community as well as other multiple amputees.  His lovely wife Becky, another interviewee, has recently set up her own business selling juice and wholefood based nutrition products.  Mark helps her promote the venture via social media marketing – so, naturally, we chatted about this over lunch.

The people I worked with on Sunday are all heroes in their own right.  Yet the term hero relates to anyone we admire for whatever reason.  My brother in law David’s hero is Billy Joel – singer, songwriter, pianist, composer.  All the things David would love to be.  (And could, if he set his mind to it!)  David’s followed BJ’s career and personal life with a microscope, so he was whooping all over Facebook when Alexa Ray, Billy Joel’s daughter with Christie Brinkley, began a poetry thread with him on Instagram.

David is a very talented poet.  Carol Vorderman once read out a poem he wrote about her on Countdown – his national TV five minutes of fame.  Anyway, he and Alexa Ray got this little thing going on Instagram and became friends…  I don’t use Instagram but I’m honestly thinking now that a quick sonnet on George Clooney’s wall could change my life forever.

‘You know that when the truth is told, that you can get what you want or you can just get old.  You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through…’  Don’t wait for a disaster to get out and do the things you’d love to do.  Follow your dreams now – business and personal ones.  I’m following mine: @WeekendWitch.

LinkedIn profiles, Homobonus and a Valentines gift for you

Imaginative Training | Social media blog | Social media training | LondonI am not a saintly person.  Apart from having attended Saint Francis’ nursery school and shopped at the altar of Saint Michael, I must confess to a limited knowledge of any of the other patrons who bestow good luck and happiness upon us.  Apart from Saint Valentine, of course; third century Roman saint of courtly love.  So with his special day bearing down on us (or creeping up behind us with red roses and a huge box of Belgian truffles) I turned to thinking of other saints that impact on us – or not.

Gordon is a constant source of amusement when it comes to seeking out humour in the most unexpected of places.  He made me laugh so much when he revealed his two favourite saints.  Now, careful pronunciation please, especially if you’re reading this aloud: Homobonus, patron saint of businessmen and Gang Bing (eunuchs)!  Yes, REALLY!!  They are Google-able!

I’ve had no time for googling anything this past week.  Thank you so much to those of you on my mailing list who took up my offer of a personalised LinkedIn profile review.  I was delighted by the number of responses, and spent most evenings providing advice on improving those profiles and creating a more marketable presence on LinkedIn.

Despite the tube strike, I took another trip to Earls Court.  It’s still not an area I’m familiar with, but I’ll certainly visit again now I know about the Jonathan Ross 286 Gallery.  An eclectic selection of artwork is currently on display in the fantastic Victorian home of the gallery’s owner.  He welcomed us in and showed us around his magnificent house, presenting the array of art in story-book, atmospheric rooms with a delightful kitten weaving between our ankles.

My absolute favourite artist on display

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A Madeleine Marsh sculpture

was Madeleine Marsh, an ex-TV presenter who turned her passion for creativity into a business.  Her jewellery is created from rubbish washed up on the shores of the Thames and vivid images of flowers cast on glass or ceramic, I wasn’t sure.  Her attractive figurines portray a sense of movement that’s hard to convey in words – they’re fashioned from some sort of wire; I’m not sure what exactly, so thought I’d google it, but her social media presence leaves much to be desired.  If you’re in west London, do pop in – not only to swoon over Madeleine Marsh’s exhibits, but to experience the ambience of a gallery that’s clearly been designed with love.

Someone else I love in business is Leigh Ashton; I’ve mentioned her a couple of times in this blog. She’s one of the inspirational women who pointed me in the right direction when I set up my business, and has been super-helpful over the years ever since.  Homobonus shines down on us!!

Last year, I attended a fabulous training day where Leigh shared her expertise in the psychology of selling.  I always recommend her, so I’m very excited to tell you that she has generously provided her full training day, completely free, as a gift!  During this comprehensive five hour DVD, you’ll learn Leigh’s strategies for getting into your customers’ individual mind-sets and closing the deal.  Leigh shared this gift with me, and I’m happy to share it with you.  Here it is – along with some other freebies that kind people have donated!!  Very highly recommended.  How’s that for a Valentine’s gift?!

If you’d like to send me anything on Friday, I’m easily pleased.  My addiction this week is for ‘Thornton’s Marvellous Mint Favourites.’  Or, of course, flowers, lingerie, or a nice piece of Madeleine Marsh jewellery, it’s a real work of art.

‘Sweet comic Valentine, you make me smile with my heart.  Your looks are laughable – unphotographable, yet you’re my favourite work of art.’  If I’m not wandering around a gallery this week, you’ll find me here: @WeekendWitch.