I attended the first networking event of the UK’s most popular online business support community (UK Business Forums), held just outside the dynamic new city of Milton Keynes. Organised and hosted by Richard Osborne, it gave this “virtual” community a chance to meet up for the first time and to generally “network”. The day before the event we received the list of attendees, an interesting mix, from accountants to web designers, from business support organisations, consultants, charities, toy and joke shops to an eclectic range of professional services including supercar hire, and what I think must reflect the international nature of online communities, someone from “Bulgaria Next Big Thing”.
On attending (well signposted organisers!) we had corridor interaction, messing around with badges and trying to find people to talk to. Then ushered into the dining area we sat down at tables and Richard did a brief introduction. Surprisingly there were far more people from outside of the online community, so I’m not sure what that says about the UKBF community, maybe just that being online, distances don’t matter, whereas for actual meetings it does. A nice touch was that we were asked to move around the tables during the meal changeovers, which did provide us the opportunity to really network – as it was not co-ordinated we sometimes ended up with people we had just met with, but generally that worked well. Even better at each table there was a facilitator to move things along, this was a good approach, although some facilitators clearly had more experience and were more adept at this activity than others.
We had a good guide to “networking for novices” by Michael Markham, from Stanair, I found it really entertaining and useful. Michael made it interactive and gave some time for the “elevator pitch” from selected participants, and he did it all without running overheads or powerpoints. The man just stood, and talked (well, he moved around quite a lot as well), great show, thanks Michael. He provided time for us to rush around collecting as many business cards as possible (the winner got one of the elevator pitches) and lots of brilliant tips on how to network. A really thought provoking one for me was to ask “how can I know if someone I’m talking to would be a good prospect for you?” . Learn to ask that, learn how to answer that, and I think your networking performance will increase wonderfully. For that alone it was worth attending. And as we left people were buzzing and swapping business cards and chatting so all in all a good event, thanks Richard and Michael. And thanks to the UKBF, more @ http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/f