Sounds very Fisher Price that title, but maybe every parent should think about getting their son/daughter signed upto one as they grow older. What better skill is there to encourage and nuture than face-to-face communication? Last Wednesday (6th October) I went to my first business networking event namely called Southampton Link-up hosted by Only Marketing Jobs. The venue was Chambers bar on London Road, not too far from the station, and of course served the substance which would enable speech to flow freely once consumed in a reasonable enough quantity…alcohol!
To say this was my first networking event is a bit of a white lie (in my eyes). Some time ago I was part of a group of people involved with the daily use of a well known website and I organised a get together on a number of occasions to enable local people using the website to get to know each other. The only difference is last Wednesday I wore a shirt, trousers and my shoes so I wouldn’t feel like a fish out of water.
As human beings we are forever networking in our own sweet way. You have a network of family, some of these you speak to often, some not so often. The same goes for friends, work colleagues, your local bakery or butchers…the list is endless. By nature we create networks around us.
So there I was standing outside of Chambers at 6pm, the time had come for me to make a good impression on any potential employer/client who would be looking for anyone with the skills I have, and I had some handwritten business cards to hand out (I was not keen on spending money on something that I did not know what I wanted printed on quite yet).
Upon entering I received a name badge which had a little bit of info that I had entered in when applying for my ticket online, which made me wish I had put something more witty about myself (noted for the future). Mark Lennox was one of the people there who I recognised from interacting with on Twitter leading upto the event. Upon introducing myself and thanking him for his #followfriday (aka #ff) recommendation on Twitter he asked where my sunglasses were that is part of my profile picture and thanked me for retweeting the event details.
So, good start so far, I had met one of the event organisers and had dropped my business card into a bucket to be in with the chance of winning a pocket size HD camcorder and a bottle of champagne that was to be drawn later on.
Balls of Steel
Leading up to the event I had been quite nervous. Currently I have had success with SEO for two websites and used social media to drive traffic to one of the websites that has a keyword with over 87 million related pages. So my thoughts being new to internet marketing (as that is where my interest away from my current job lie) were a bit like this:
- Who else is going to be at this event?
- If they are an employer or a possible client, what would they be looking for?
- Am I a bit silly turning up with no employment history in this market?
- And a whole host of little voices asking “What are you doing Stu?”
Thankfully all of the nerves soon disappeared when I spotted a familiar face. James Good was there representing his web and graphic design company ZeroDotNine (they do a whole host of other work too). As time went by the guest speaker Lloyd Dalton Brown got us all to join up in pairs and offered advice on making people remember who YOU are (name tag on the right-hand side so people see it clearly when you shake hands) and also how to quickly remember the name of the person you are speaking to (use their name in conversation 3 times in 30 seconds if I remember correctly).
From the conversations that came from the organised networking time (3 mins speaking time each), it soon became apparent that there was a lot of people there in the same position as I was; limited knowledge, keen to learn more in their chosen skill and looking for employers/clients. I soon met many people who had skills in all sorts of areas in marketing; marketing analysts, web designers, one guy marketing a web-browser tool, and many people involved with social media.
The time was very well organised and I came away from the event feeling quite pleased with myself at having been there and done it. Next time I’ll be well prepared and focused on who I am and what I do, as it is still early days yet.
I’d like to tip the hat to all the people involved at Only Marketing Jobs for organising the event and also Emma Millichamp at Solutions 4 Recruitment who gave me some brilliant advice on laying out my CV.
On the train home I happened to see Mark Cann of Climb Digital, who was one of the people I spoke to as part of the organised networking session. What followed for the next hour or so on our train journey home from Southampton to Portsmouth was me brain dumping on him what I was what I had learnt and was considering to move forwards with. Mark generously spent the time listening, asking questions and gave some sound advice. I knew one of his suggestions made perfect sense with regards to what I want to learn. So I say, watch this space as I will be implementing it all here in the very near future!
I went there not knowing what to expect and I came away nicely surprised at the hospitality of everyone I met. To some degree I felt I possibly hadn’t met all the people I could of done, maybe that is because I was new and a little stand off at times. I also felt that if we had been asked who we each want to meet and why we were there, we could of been paired off easier and maybe had better results. For example, I currently have no need for a marketing analyst and they had no need to meet someone who is particularly looking for an employer to hone and develop their skills in SEO, etc.
To conclude; I met someone who changed my outlook and has made me think a lot for the past week. So it was worth signing up and attending just for that one chance meeting.
Did you attend the Southampton Link-up? Have you attended your first networking event yet? Leave a comment below!
And thank you for reading.