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Speed Networking with a Spin! - November 2016

Our final event of 2016 was a spin on networking. We invited 5 other networks, aiming to be eclectic in our choices to reflect our own growing network.

Engie, our event sponsor, generously hosted the event and provided catering for the guests. Without the help of companies like Engie, and all of our sponsors this year, we would not be where we are today. Big thank you to them!

Engie's Keith Murphy, Operations and Engineering Manager, opened our event. Mr Murphy is an advocate supporter of a balanced workforce, and proudly waved Engie's flag of such. Engie's CEO is female, one of the few women holding the top position in many companies. Their board is also made up of a majority women - 60% in fact. Diversity of Thought is perhaps in the DNA of Engie's business model...

Following Keith’s intro, the networks were offered an opportunity to introduce themselves, leading with AXIS. SPE, ICAS, EYIPN and WISE introduced their network, what they do, who can be a part of your group and how do you sign up.  

Before we started the networking session we brought in a specialist. This might sound extreme, but when we started organising this group someone piped up with "do we all know how to network appropriately?" Even though we have all attended networking events in the past and organised a number of events at AXIS, we decided to give Gavin Brown, Speaking with Impact, a shout! Gavin came armed with extensive experience in training, coaching and specifically networking, as well as practical exercises to take the delegates through.

Gavin started us off by explaining the 3 important things of a networking event - the key being this is not an event. It's a process. There's a beginning, a middle and an end.

The Beginning Many of us aren't very good at this, but Gavin's tips are easy. Study the guest list, make an A List of the people you want to meet, make a B list too just in case any of your "must meets" don't attend the event.

Then do some homework: research about the event and organisers and people you want to meet, make sure you have your pitch on point and make mental notes of ice breakers you could use for your conversations – be that major events in sport, politics, entertainment, etc.

The During Everyone is always a little bit nervous when they turn up to an event. Especially if it's an event you're going to on your own! However, you almost ALWAYS turn up at the same time as someone else - who is just as nervous and as uncertain as you. So get chatting to them!

Next, speak with the organisers. They likely know most of the attendees, so scope out whether your key people, or ask the organisers to help with introductions if you're really nervous.

Remember to work the room. Don't butt in to conversations, wait for an opening and introduce yourself and ask a question about the individual! Usually they'll ask you back, which kicks off the conversation flow. It's not ideal to go straight in talking about yourself or presenting your card.

Ideally, you'll move on after 5-10 minutes. Any longer you're no longer networking, and shorter is too short. Gavin's advice however was not to be awkward! Sometimes saying you need a drink when you've got a full glass or you need to go to the restrooms and walk in the opposite direction implies you're desperate to get away. Be honest, everyone is in that room to network, politely excuse yourself.

At the point Gavin stopped us to play a game. We had 30 seconds to shake as many hands as we possibly could. When Gavin rang the bell there was an eruption of sounds, people quickly saying hello, hello, giggling, feet shuffling, tables moving as everyone tried to meet as many people as humanly possible in such a short space of time. Gavin stopped us. What did we get from that? Well, other than a giggle and a bit of a break from listening not a lot. We didn't actually speak to anyone! Networking boils down to one simple phrase; you get in what you get out.

For our next exercise, Gavin had us speak to someone they had never met before the event, and talk for 60 seconds each. The room erupted in noise again.

When we finished our exercise, Gavin had another one in store.. With the same person we had two minutes to talk to each other about something we had just discussed! Noise explosion was more - with a lot more mmmmm and ummmms this time round. What this exercise was teaching us was the importance of listening, actually truly listening to what the other person is saying - to allow for an engaging two way conversation.

The After This is the bit most of us will fail on.

During the event Gavin suggested we scribble notes, either on business cards or on our smart phones to revert back to the following day. You will forget within 24 hrs, so writing it down is important.

The day after email the people you met and would like to develop that relationship. Though don't exaggerate of how well (or awful) the conversation was and mention some key points from the conversation.

Suggest meeting up for a coffee if the business relationship is potential, and it might take some nurturing.

Networking - Be in it to win it After receiving such fantastic advice we opened for our official networking session for 20 minutes - and people didn't leave!

Close-Out To close-out our session Deirdre Michie, OGUK CEO and now the official AXIS Networking group sponsor had some inspirational words for the room.

She spoke of a time where diversity was once considered the mix of tie colours in a room! Whilst we have moved away from that, we still have to remind people why gender balance is good for the bottom line. Ms Michie spoke of the challenges our industry currently faces, and hence the importance of relying on our networks to get through this time, increase collaboration and make our future a sustainable one.

She also commented on how senior women have become better at supporting younger women in their careers, like groups like AXIS growing in numbers, but how good are we at supporting our peers? Regardless of gender? Using the tools we learned during the evening, to connect, to think big, to think differently will encourage people to act differently.

Lastly, Ms Michie challenged us, upon reflection of the US elections, "If the biggest names can't break through the glass ceiling, who will? We have to. We have to do it for ourselves." And we will make that break-through, and it will come sooner rather than later.

And with that we closed our event. It was one of our most successful networking events, with many people continuing to network until 9 pm and we had to kindly escort them off the premises! Joking aside, we are all very proud of the events we host at AXIS for our members, hopefully if you didn't make it along to this event but you like what you've read we'll see you at future events!

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