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Networking & Business Growth

I celebrated my second 18th birthday this month….and looking back, how different it was to the first one all those years ago. In 1995 it involved opening numerous presents & cards, whilst the evening’s priority was of course to drink as many alcoholic drinks as possible to ensure that I remembered nothing much about the night. I think I succeeded. Eighteen years on, and now tee-total, my second 18th birthday birthday celebration was somewhat different. It involved rising at 5:30am, getting ready for a days business networking an hour away from home, followed by a quiet night in with a DVD and a pizza. How times change!

The networking event I attended was The Business Growth Show in Northampton. The clue’s in the title. Surely I was going to meet like minded people looking to network, to grow their business, and more importantly make possibly valuable new business acquaintances. Unfortunately, my birthday wish to meet these people did not come true.

The event, which is free to attend, is sponsored by exhibitors who have paid for the privilege of having a 4ft table exhibition space. It also arranged speed networking sessions for you to grab 2 mins of time with up to 15 other attendees, to see if there was a potential to do business with each other.

So how would you turn up and more importantly prepare your mind for the day ahead? Well I set myself a goal. To make contact with at least three new people that could help me or my business, or even my clients. I presented myself in a professional business-like fashion, and went in with a positive open mind. Did others do the same – I’m kind of thinking not.

It amazes me – I walked around the exhibition hall as the show opened, looking at the 25-30 stalls, their banners, their business message – and how many came out to approach me in the aisles? Only two. Others remained behind their barrier, sorry I mean table, perhaps on their phone, iPad, or just casually gazing into space. I approached one stall that I wanted to find out more about the services offered, and the lady remained seated, behind her desk, and was not going to move for anyone. Isn’t it common courtesy to stand when someone approaches your stand? Obviously not. It displayed an attitude of ‘I can’t be bothered’ – and this was at the start of the day!

I was hoping the networking element of the day would improve on what had been a poor start to the day. I made another birthday wish – ‘Give me positive minded business people, looking for new customers, with drive & energy to succeed, who genuinely want to be here’…… Not a lot to ask surely?

Well let me introduce you to the ‘networkers’ that were there. They were the ones who had come to the event without business cards; without a pen to take notes on discussions;the ones who thought that coffee & cigarette breath was better than a fresh mint smelling breath; had dressed as if they were off out walking for the day with body warmer and walking shoes; they were also the ones who had not left enough time to shave or even do their hair (which as you know takes me ages in the morning!). So just what were these here for? It all became clear when I chatted to one of the attendees…..

I attended one of the seminars on the day, and arrived 5 minutes earlier than needed. People were already in the room. About 50 seats were set up, and in true British style, everyone spread around the room, not sitting next to each other, not making eye contact, and certainly not networking – that was until I got in the room. I was there to network – and that was what I was going to do. I sat next to someone (much to their surprise), introduced myself, and began to find out about them. Before long I realised I had chosen to sit next to Mr Positivity himself…..not.

How’s business? – “Terrible, got nothing on at the moment” Have you been to these before? – “Yes, never get anything out them though” I explained my opinion of events & networking – it’s all about keeping your name out there and trying to make new contacts for later down the line. Of course, for me more than ever, it’s important to have a steady constant flow of business – after all I have a mortgage to pay! Something I thought the gentleman might concur with – wrong again. “I don’t have a mortgage so I guess that’s why it’s not really that important to me. I don’t have the same pressure”. He then followed up with the killer blow – “To be honest I heard there was a free lunch, so that’s why I’m staying around”.

After a couple of hours at the show, I lost complete confidence in the event, and the attendees, and decided that my time, my passion and determination could be better spent back in the office.

Do these people annoy me? In a way yes – on the other hand, I’m happy for them to carry on the way they operate and I’ll happily pick up the business contacts that don’t wish to do business with them.

It is frustrating though – basic business skills – it’s not rocket science is it? We all know ‘People buy People’. Business is about being in the Right PLACE, the Right TIME, but more importantly the Right FRAME OF MIND. For those who know me, you will know I am a positive guy, and refuse to get dragged down to the levels of others. It’s important to associate yourself with like minded individuals to ensure you get the best results.

Perhaps next year I’ll get my boss to give me my birthday off instead of working!

Thanks for reading everyone. Keep positive!


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