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.
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.