Tuesday, 17 November 2009

week five: networking frenzy

i'm sitting in starbucks ("what is starbooks?" daughter #1 asked in the car today after chris moyles had mentioned it: i particularly enjoyed her non-understanding of the leeds accent as it mirrors my own issues. in the maternity ward after she was born adam became increasingly embarrassed by my inability to understand the scottish nurses in a "say again" little britain stylee; she's asking if you'd like a cup of tea, he'd hiss in translation after my fourth blank stare and desperate glances in his direction). the couple on the sofa in front of me will not stop snogging. it is distracting me from my own frenzy of networking, but mine is a lot less public and involves less saliva than theirs: and they're not young. probably early thirties. they carry about them that going-out-about-1-month look. i think they've come here straight from bed as they have that sort of "we've discovered that we're actually in love" haze. they've been sitting there for an hour now, sort of entwined, saying very little and my secret thought is that he's a tiny bit bored and she's in that girly love spin and keeps snuggling in. when he reached forward for his coffee her head fell off his chest onto the sofa and he had to sort of steady her, so floppy had she become. i think they might be skiving off work; when you're in those heady early days anything is justifiable! i remember falling asleep in the office after a night out with adam, suddenly opening my eyes to see someone had thrown my laptop keyboard at my head. except they hadn't, i was just nose diving towards it so deep was my stupor. and that was when i was actually paid to work, unlike now.

so this week has been an intense week of networking for me: my first two chamber events, both of which i had to pay real non-expenses money for, and a web-chat with the lovely editor of www.scotmum.com. my vision was to make sure i made the most of the paid for events: quickly establishing true networking opportunities, moving on from no-win situations in a professional and courteous way, working the crowd in a focused and revenue driven style. the first one found me, twenty five minutes in, smiling interestedly at a politician while he told me about some things going on in south america. this is partly the problem of being a woman i think: it is hard not to empathise and respond, and he was very interesting, but probably not a huge portal for cash. i think i actually bored him because he then showed me how to politely disengage from a conversation with a "well this has been very interesting, i'll let you get on" leaving me to wonder what 25% of my time had earnt me so far. however i did manage to then speak to a banker, an architect and a voice coach which was varied but allowed me to focus my developing technique of 1)chat, 2) categorise, 3) abandon or woo. a photographer then told me that my "fragile porcelain" appearance was at odds with my target role as a business trouble-shooter, and that i really needed to be big and hairy and look a bit like alan sugar. i felt that this was less helpful and thankfully the event was coming to an end so i had an exit route ready.

i was glad it had gone relatively well though, as the previous day in an attempt to be pro-active i had selected some of the attendees from the chamber-provided list and mailed them, explaining a little about my business in advance of the event. about 2 mins later i had an indignant response advising me that my approach was "unprofessional" and accusing me of "spamming": i was truly mortified (remember, it was a grey week anyway) and immediately visualised arriving at my first event to find everyone in happy cohorts muttering about the girl who wasn't quite de rigeur with the whole thing. thankfully the individual was alone in his response; he deigned to respond to my immediate apology and explanation and despite looking i couldn't find him at the event to speak to more fully. several others commented on the mail and it proved a good talking point. not sure i'd do it in the same way again though: individual rather than group mail i think.

i've just been given a free toffee-nut latte! i noticed this happened last week at this time too: must be starbucks happy hour; the little things that make my day. unfortunately only three minutes left on the car though so am going to have to gulp and go.

home and still no responses to all my networking post-event emails this morning; perhaps the touchy-feely approach of the couple in starbucks simply delivers more results. so event number two was slightly more highbrow with a very financially orientated attendee list. it was good but in retrospect i wish i'd spoken to more people; it isn't as easy to chat, disengage, chat, disengage as you'd think! i may have hovered (hoovered..) too close to the canape table. i can't resist a good canape and my thinking was that perhaps i'd get a good traffic of similar minded attendees to ensnare with vivacious and financially astute conversation. however there's only so much you can say with a large piece of cranberry topped brie in your mouth. i noted that the more able amongst the networkers dashed to the table, looked the other way while stuffing three or four down in quick succession,had a quick wipe down and rub of the teeth to remove stray bits of spinach (and goats cheese roulade; rather nice but three would have probably been enough)then grabbed a glass of wine with which to continue their schmoozing. i had learnt from event one that a clutch bag was not a viable option; it is hard to grapple with a glass & bag while attempting to extract a business card without looking like a total numpty; this sort of malco effort does not encourage feelings of "here's a great and organised accountant; i'd like to entrust my entire direct cost review to her". so this time, all the wiser, i'd gone for an over the shoulder bag and it reaped dividends. definitely a networking winner. the only new learning is to ensure that the only thing in the business card section of the bag is business cards: not jo jingles stickers attached to john lewis receipts and small pieces of a squashed humzinger bar.

i managed to talk to another banker: the way forward i'm thinking; an accountant (i know, hard to resist the natural magnetic pull of a fellow thinker, mock all you like) an engineer, a security company director and some compliance consultants. i also managed to hook up with a colleague of old, and last but not least a coach. now i happy to be proven wrong but my gut feeling is that people that who become business coaches have possibly run out of options. he was slightly sweaty and after a few minutes of conversation suggested that we meet for coffee to discuss business overlap. like a cornered animal i looked for escape and absurdly found myself drawing on the old "don't call me, i'll call you": i only just managed to actually stop myself from saying that very phrase, opting for the more acceptable (?) "well i've got your card so perhaps i'll give you a call in the next few months"...... my colleague cackled in the background and said somewhat disparagingly "he looks even more desperate than you"...

the web-chat with the scotmum website went surprisingly well and i could now be a convert to this new meejah form of communication. i'm featuring on her site as a working mum of the week: hmm, apologies to those mums actually doing some paid for work: i feel a bit of a fraud. must keep reminding myself that this is a true job; the revenue is just a bit delayed.

so this afternoon i have a meeting with an accounting firm, and tomorrow will be attending my first women-in-business event which is a lunch. i also have another banking meeting fixed for early next week so lots of opportunities to hone my silky skills and network my way to the top of the pile and the cash prize: a client!

1 comment:

  1. This a very good way to start a article and i loved reading this, As your daughter don't know what is Starbucks and even it looks like star books when we speak it so there can be misunderstanding. This is a very good networking issue.
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