Recently, I attended a Business Buzz virtual meeting for the Flitwick and Woburn area. Business Buzz uses an extremely interesting web browser application named Remo, which offers a café-like online experience. Users join virtual 'tables'. Each virtual table has a minimum of two, and a maximum of six seats. Whether or not seated at a table, users can access anyone's contact details simply by hovering a mouse over their icon. Many of us include our LinkedIn address in our profile, making it stunningly easy to connect to others on LinkedIn and grow our networks. Not only is table hopping not frowned upon, Business Buzz hosts actively encourage it, so that users mix and meet as many other visitors as possible.
Upon being seated at a table, I practise good manners and keep quiet if someone is already speaking. I always give a friendly wave and smile so that hopefully the first impression I make is open and positive. When the person currently speaking finishes, generally someone will welcome you to the table, often addressing you by name (which is captioned at the bottom of your video). If this doesn't happen, it's important to speak up, and a cheerful "Hello!" is a good way to start.
Attending small business networking events
At this particular Buzz meeting, the first thing I learnt is that Flitwick is not pronounced 'Flit-wick', but 'Fli-ick', dropping both the 't' and 'w'! I don't mind that Flitwick's denizens play the smug card with this – I do exactly the same with 'Cogenhoe', a Northamptonshire town with a decidedly quirky pronunciation. (Visit this web page: "I, Tayo: English Language Tutor", or use a search engine to learn its pronunciation; I won't spoil it for you here.)
The other thing I learnt–and of far more importance to professional networking–is that successful networking is about more than just the folks in the room; it's about them and their personal networks.
For example, I was fortunate to run into Sally, a coach who specialises in training individuals and teams on how to give effective business presentations, which had absolutely nothing to do with my core business, virtual management. However, we got chatting, and I explained I was looking for ways to kick my TNT Talk Show podcast up a level. Straightaway she chimed in, "Ooh, I think know people who might be able to help," and she went on to introduce me to Pippa, a renowned radio presenter-and-founder of Bucks Breakfast Radio, and Mark, who offers professional advice and support to solopreneurs and businesses in the 2-10 employee bracket on how to optimise their operations (hence the name of his business, 'Enterprise Doctor'). I had an incredible session with Pippa, whose self-evident expertise in the subject area inspires confidence and trust. A few days later, I had an incredibly rewarding chat with Mark. None of this would have been possible had I either not attended the Business Buzz networking event, or doggedly remained solely focussed on my core business.
Business networking for dummies
Meeting Sally was something of a transformative moment for me, and the new me now understands that networking is primarily an opportunity to meet – and be helpful to – others. Driving my core business is always a happy possibility, but "Ooh, I think I can help with that" is the very essence of essential networking. As I try to help other folk, perhaps by doing nothing more onerous than introducing them to members of my inner circle, and others also try to help me, ultimately how can we fail to find mutual benefit in our new friendships?
In this post, I have mentioned these business networks.
Business Buzz: their virtual meetings use Remo – an amazing application which pretty faithfully replicates the experience of networking in a café. If you are looking for networking in an atmosphere of laid-back intimacy, you can't go wrong with Business Buzz. Reach: UK nationwide.
BusComm: especially suited for small businesses. There's also the not-to-be-sniffed-at opportunity to attend free networking events on Friday afternoons! Reach: East Midlands, UK.
Meeow: a dip-in-anytime networking app which will provide the ultimate flexibility when it hits its stride. There's one month's free networking currently available (June 2021) and I strongly suggest that you take advantage of the offer. Reach: International, but UK-centric from the UK.
LinkedIn: the daddy of them all, the ultimate in professional networking. LinkedIn reportedly has nearly a billion active users, so this really is the cat's whiskers for networking. However, LinkedIn is very corporate and money-hungry. For example, it is always trying to push its 'premium' service; in my opinion, an utter waste of money. Also, like other social media platforms of the age, LinkedIn is opaque–even secretive–about its algorithms, so to get the most out of it, you might need the services of a good LinkedIn professional. (There are many out there, I just wonder how many are actually good at what they claim to do?) Regardless of the cons, LinkedIn is an important network and it is best to be in it and using it well. Reach: International.
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