Top tip for networking, lovely ladies and no such thing as a free meal?

The last few weeks seem to have been a whirlwind of networking, with a bit of an emphasis on women.  It started when I gave a whiz-thru workshop on social media to 50 women in East London.  The Ladies Inspiring Business forum attracts an eclectic mix of businesses from music publishing to dog meditation (or something as intriguing as that), and the meetings are always lively and fun, with cupcakes!

Escala | Imaginative Training | Social Media blogThen my lunch at the Park Plaza accompanied the gorgeous girl group Escala – they of the flowing hair and exquisite string skills.  That particular day involved a bottle of wine and rather delicious club sandwich, and ended with a request for me to give a talk to a Westminster entrepreneurial women’s group later this year at the hotel.  Date to be agreed… I’m in danger of too much talking and not much listening at this rate and that’s never a good thing in business!

And here’s an example of why… Networking is not a hard sell.  Or at least, it shouldn’t be.  It’s an opportunity to develop relationships with like-minded business people – it’s not about pitching relentlessly to a captive audience.

I’ve recently been dive-bombed by people pitching how they can help me lose a stone and a half in twelve weeks, increase my engagement with kangaroos and find the cheapest aeronautical engine oil, none of which are of personal interest to me.  But I’m always happy to introduce people who might be able to build a working relationship together.  So a more effective tack would be to tell me briefly what they do and establish whether I have a need for their particular product or service, then find out if I know anyone else who might be interested. Instead I just smile, thinking about where I can get a doughnut. So my top networking tip is to always gauge reaction, and then ask ‘Do you know anyone else who…?’

I’m networking so much these days that I’m finding I need to be very disciplined with my time management.  I’ve been spending some time working with the team at Ilford’s Creative Business Hub where Bernie has kindly given me squatter’s rights!  The hub provides all sorts of business support and advice for local entrepreneurs, including start-ups and micro-companies, with conference rooms for hire.  Pretty handy!  I’m thinking about running some social media workshops there – better for local businesses who prefer not to travel into central London.  Let me know if you’re interested…  Or check out my next London social media training day. (Early bird ends tonight – 11/03/13!)

So by now you’re probably wondering about the free meal.  Saturday night saw us in an Italian restaurant with service so slow we thought they’d nipped over to Florence to pick up the olives.  Fifty minutes and three glasses of wine later we hadn’t eaten a crumb, and the blinkered waiters seemingly forgot we were there.  The people on the next table walked out in disgust, but we were busy chatting and laughing so the time passed as our hunger pangs increased.  We ate eventually – not marvellous but reasonably edible – although by 10 o’clock I’ll generally eat anything.  I’m not naming and shaming, because a stern word with the manager resulted in him agreeing not to charge us.  He did suggest a 50% discount but no, we weren’t having that. He was nice though, so I didn’t tweet our complaints.

I learnt my negotiating skills from my mother, who refuses to suffer rubbish service.  I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, so happy mother’s day mummy – I remember you singing this to me as a child: Moon River, wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style, some day.  Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker, wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way.  I’ll go your way, or you can come mine – here I am: @WeekendWitch.

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