The perils and the benefits of networking


This evening I was invited with two colleagues to go along to a networking event run by a Christian organisation and funded by a rich philanthropist who wanted to put something back into society. It was held in Bath in a themed room called “The Ingloo”.  There is no such thing as the perfect meeting but this came quite close to it. First, everyone had something in common in that they were engaged in good works for others and were not making any money out of their ventures. This straightaway reduces the attention seeking and competitive nature of the event.

There were about 16 of us and four tables were laid out for supper. The meeting started at around 7:30pm . The host, Joy, certainly lived up to her name and greeted everyone on entry. I cannot over emphasise the importance of being greeted immediately. There is nothing worse than looking around staring at a sea of faces and not recognising anybody. Joy was engaged in conversation and I spotted someone coming in so I immediately went to greet them.  We were offered one free drink at the bar and the rest we had to buy. As it was a Christian meeting there wasn’t a huge emphasis on drink but this did not prevent me from buying a second glass of very good white wine.

About 4 people who had booked to come did not show up. I discussed with Joy how to deal with this because the meals had to be paid anyway out of the pocket of the charity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with discipline, and telling people to please cancel within 24 hours of the event as the meal has to be paid for, or something direct like that, makes the position clear. A charity has no duty of largesse to people who do not have the good manners or thoughtfulness to announce they cannot attend a paid for meeting.

Joy assembled us together in a standing circle and asked us to introduce ourselves briefly. I have never known this to be adhered to 100% of the time. One person went on for about 3 min. When they say “two quick points” you know it’s going to be two detailed points. I wish people would not use the word quick without thinking what they’re doing. Making a quick call. What does this mean?  Do you speak faster. In my book, you either make a call or you do not. You either do something now, or you do it later.

After the introductions,  we were directed to our pre arranged seating which was a good idea because it made sure that I did not sit with my colleagues and thus could get to know a new set of people. There were a lot of people in their 20s and 30s and I felt a little bit out of it at the grand old age of 73 and my comments tended to be dismissed or ignored. I consoled myself with listening to the very interesting dialogue is going on one of which was about how to involve people  and get them to take the initiative without it being obvious.

Well cooked salmon with spinach and mashed potato – a simple main where you can converse without focusing too much on the intricacies of the food item.

A guest said that if you invite people to a meeting to give their views, no one will turn up though I’m sure it depends on the way the meeting is advertised and the previous track record of the organisers.

I made meaningful contact with about three people and spent about 15 min with each then quite frankly I was up to my limit. Two of the conversations work at the dinner table and one was  during a walkabout afterwards. One of the things I find very difficult to deal with is noise and the room was small and Echoy, about 8 foot high in the middle rather like a bunker. Whenever one is speaking at the same time it is more difficult to filter the noise so I find I have to concentrate far more to hear what is being said and abstract the points of value. I do work very hard to listen. I’m not particularly interested in promulgating my own views. I know what they are. I am more interested in listening to the views of others and maybe asking prompting type questions to stimulate thought all round.

The meeting broke up about 45 min after the last course was served and I thought the timing was about right because the meet was held on a weekday and people have to get up the next day and work often in very demanding jobs.

The success of the network meeting depends almost entirely on your attitude. I think if you go along just to sell your product or idea you will be immediately classified as a bore and as the man said, you have to sell yourself first and the product second, whatever that product or service is.

Noises in the night – how to complain about a faulty product


Monday 11 July 1664Pepys hears noises at night and fears for burglars. This is a long entry and a good read. Click on the link.

As I have said before in these bloggs, knowledge is for passing around, for circulating, for sharing. What is the point in keeping things to yourself?

Today I took delivery of a 52 cc petrol strimmer. There was a minor manufacturing fault meaning that I could not put the strimmer or bush cutter head on. in addition I could not fathom out how to put on the harness, one of the subjects where it’s easy if you know how. I called the service number to be told by a voice that my call would be recorded for health and safety, training, quality, you name it, purposes. In other words, don’t lie or abuse the staff otherwise it will be used against you.

This advice may be hard for people to take, but try not to complain and certainly do not raise your voice. The more you do this, the less corporation you will get, not more. A good basis for starting a conversation is to seek information about something you do not understand or are having difficulty with. The person you are speaking to knows far more about the product then you do and the tone of your voice should acknowledge this. Imagine that you have assembled most of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but you are lacking one or two pieces. That sort of thing.

I make a practice which I highly recommend of always asking for the name of the person you are talking to and noting the time and date of the call. I wrote my problems down. I was told by ‘the voice’  that the support team were busy serving other customers. I was invited to look at the website to solve my problems or leave a message after the tone. A fraction of a second after the tone  sounding, the phone was cut off and I had to redial. This was not the friendliest of starts. Next time I rang I got through and I told them that their mailbox was probably full or that the leaving the message facility had been turned off and it would probably be a good idea to fix it.

I try to bear in mind that staff are answering queries all day, probably interspersed with trying to do other work, and their head is full of a dozen things that need to be done,  waiting for calls back, making a mental note to do something when they have a moment, not to mention the intrusion of their own personal matters which pop up from time to time. The device I bought was about £70 which is bargain basement so they don’t have money to pay staff to lounge around doing nothing.

It is worth bearing in mind that if the relevant staff are busy, the call will be put through to a secretary or anyone who happens to be there. Before starting a conversation I’d tell them exactly why I am calling in this case to say “I have a technical question about the strimmer you just sent me”.  This avoids being asked to wait and listen to endless music while the person finds someone who can answer the question.   It should be pretty clear from the tone of voice on the phone whether a person knows what they’re talking about or not so don’t waste time with the wrong person.

When I eventually got through to the right person I did get a sensible and positive approach. I was told about a facility on the website to explain how to put on the harness. It was very good indeed and made up for the dreadful Chinese to English translated manual. I wish all those firms could have an English speaking – and thinking – person actually check this printed material, making sure the print is large enough to actually read.

The main problem I had was that I had to put an Allen Key  through a hole which in my version of the machine did not exist though it did on the diagram. I tried not to be sarcastic and say for example ‘I think I know what a hole looks like’.  After confirming this three times that there was no hole and after a discussion it was agreed that I drill a hole through the metal. I asked them to make a note of it on the file because any interference with the machine for whatever reason can invalidate the guarantee.  What came across loud and clear was that the two people, Dave and Sebastian, were dedicated to their trade. Good on you guys. Thanks for being positive and upbeat.

In considerable heat, we sweated our way through five hours of clearing a jungle. I managed to smash my mower blade into two halves  due to a sawn off metal washing line pole 2″ long cunningly concealed in the grass. The lady we were working for was not able to walk so I took pictures on my Galaxy and showed her what we achieved in the garden. I like to avoid arguments and disagreements  wherever I can and go the extra mile to show the customer that we have done a good job.

The daughter came along to inspect and we encouraged her to use the newly mown lawns for social purposes and celebrate what was actually quite a nice garden.  Interestingly, there was no smile or thanks. It’s difficult not to take this personally. Since we have cleared the garden as per the instructions it’s not that we have done our job badly. Maybe the daughter herself was so unused to being thanked for the efforts that she has made that she doesn’t know how to give compliments any more.