We’ve all been to networking events to better our ability to meet and greet new people, build new business relationships and learn a little about who’s out there and what they’re doing that could affect or benefit our own businesses. Large rooms of people, a tidy price tag to get your foot in the door and those industry ‘clicks’ that we never talk about but that present a shield of impenetrable armour at said events thus leaving you on the outskirts, clutching a drink and looking around for a familiar face. Uncomfortable? I get it….
My idea of networking is a more relaxed one. Great food, a glass of wine, partners welcome and swapping stories. AND for the record, enough tables and chairs for people to sit at (just saying…). So when a catering company I’ve worked alongside for a while wanted to show off their live cooking and homemade Spanish style treats to other industry professionals, I couldn’t resist throwing a laid back fiesta and inviting the creme de la creme in my little white book to enjoy the festivities. No pressure, no clicks, no problem!
My day job is managing two teams of wedding and events coordinators based in two different venues in Surrey, so this provided the perfect opportunity for us all to be under the same roof too and for both teams to bring their favourite suppliers together to meet, great and eat! Business doesn’t have to be competitive when we work in an industry worth an annual £10,000,000,000 (that’s billion by the way) but rather a friendly and supportive network of ideas to swap amongst each other and better our approaches in business and in life.
The evening was a great success and we had professionals from all backgrounds and walks of life with different stories, different skills but all with the same passion for their work. Everything from photography and campervans to florists and make-up artists turned out for the event, some with their significant others and some flying solo. The atmosphere was a little different to what most were expecting as there was no need to be anywhere or do anything at any particular time other than catch up with old friends, make new acquaintances and strengthen existing relationships.
My advice for a great networking event is to take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of the attendee. What would make them feel comfortable? What makes your networking event different? What will benefit both you and them in terms of hosting a successful B2B event? For my next event I’m considering a ‘speed dating’ style format to kick things off! Everyone meets everyone, says hello to everyone and the awkwardness is limited because you know you already share a common interest and ground with the person your ‘grilling’ – although it’s still very much about getting their number at the end of the evening!
A special thanks goes out to The Wedding Caterers for the incredible spread they provided complimentary as part of their networking and also to Sam Dorrington from Everlasting Moments Photography who took a gallery of beautiful and informal images for this blog post. (See below Supporting Cast).
The Wedding Caterers (Wedding & Event catering)
Everlasting Moments (Wedding & Commercial Photographer)
Jeannette’s Great Cakes (Cake Maker)
Hayley Bray Photography (Wedding & Commercial photographer)
Iced Innovations (Cake Maker)
Magic Paul (Close-up magic)
Little Nick Stationery (Wedding stationery)
Quintessential Cookies (Cookies, cake pops, novelty favours)
Harpers (Venue dressing, chair covers, light-up letters, Tadworth)
Victoria Chainey Make-Up (Wedding & Fashion Make-up, Kingswood)
Buttercup Bus (Campervans & VW beetle wedding transport & hire, Croydon)
BRIDE by NJ (Wedding dress boutique, Dorking)
A & S Flower Studio (Wedding & occasion florist, Lower Kingswood)
Monaco Marquees (Marquee & event prop hire, West Molesey)
One 4 Luck (Casino hire, Guildford)
Simon Smith (Wedding & occasion florist, Epsom)
RPM Discos (Wedding & Event DJ, Cobham)