Ooooh, I love walking into a room full of strangers and talking about myself.
Said no person ever.
Yet this is exactly what 50 Maidenhead Business folk did last week at a pub in Pinkneys Green. Members of the Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce, Business Biscotti and Maidenhead Business Girls (MBG) groups got together for a unique all-in-one Christmas catch up. Maidenhead Mingling at its finest!
I went along as official ‘Paparazzi’ and to chat to other local businesses about blogging while my 4 month old baby enjoyed some one-to-one time with his Nan.
The meet up was held at The Golden Ball which is fast becoming a firm favourite of mine with great food and a great cocktail list…although it wasn’t really an occasion for Cocktails, just a rather amazing selection of Canapes. I swiftly learned that it’s quite hard to chat to someone, casually nibble on an amazing mini Yorkshire Pudding with beef AND check in on Facebook at the same time. You have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to multi-tasking (so I took the Yorkie home for ‘afters’ #truestory!)
Network like a Ninja
The networking session itself was a bit of an eye opener, but in a good way.
Over the last 12 months I’ve been to quite a few Maidenhead Business Girls meet ups and I’m an active member of the Facebook group. But I hadn’t really realized how great a combination the meet ups and the Facebook group are. When you put the two together it makes networking much, much easier as you tend to feel that you’re bumping into familiar faces, even if you’ve only ever chatted on a Facebook post! It felt a little strange walking up to members of the other groups and asking them what they did…if they came here often..(joking about the last one!)
But despite having to adapt a little, it was a really great experience. I met ‘guys and girls’ from all sorts of businesses, some that I could see a direct link with how we could work together…others less so. But that’s the beauty of networking. Just because someone’s business isn’t relevant right now, you never know quite when they might come in handy. Whether it’s being able to recommend them on to someone else, or to learn from their experiences in how they go about their business, there’s always value in finding out about people.
MGB and proud
Each of the networking groups has a slightly different personality and to be fair, I can only talk about my experiences with MBG.
At a recent meet up, Amanda (MBG founder) talked about the reasons that people join the group, and you might find it interesting to know that it’s not just to sell yourself to others:
I’m looking for inspiration and need some help sometimes
I have an idea and need some help
I’m here to socialise and shop
I’m established in my business/career/motherhood
I want to tell you about my story
I want to promote my business
Personally I’ve found the group hugely inspirational. I love to hear how other women have juggled the family and worklife balance and the trigger factors that made them ‘take the plunge’ and work for themselves. The group is also incredibly useful when you need to find someone to help you with something, whether its web design, recruitment advice or even a great beautician, someone always knows someone they can recommend. And
Since joining the group last year I’ve been able to evaluate my skills and have gone from being someone that does marketing for a living, photography in my spare time, and blogging for fun…to a rather unique combination of them all. I mention this not to brag, but to make you realise that perhaps waiting until you’ve completely honed and perfected your business isn’t always the right thing, a networking group can be a huge help along your business development journey, not just at the ‘stand up and shout about it’ stage.
Adapt and learn
As an example, at my first meet up I thought that I might work with local companies by offering paid features or advertising on my Maidenhead Mum blog, but I was also wary of just turning my blog into a big advertorial space. Instead, by contributing to the Maidenhead Business Girls Facebook group and chatting to people at the training and meet up sessions I realized that by sharing my Blogging, Marketing and Photography experience, I could help a lot of local businesses with their online and social media content. And that they would value and want to pay for this support. It’s been a year of revelations.
There have been some amazing opportunities that have come my way by being adaptive in this way: I’ve taught ‘Business Blogging Basics’ to a group of Maidenhead Business Girl Members and held a ‘Mobile Masterclass’ for bloggers to take better photos on their smartphones. I’ve even helped a local business tailor their own bespoke blogging and photography strategy by offering in-house training for their whole team. Who knows what else might have come about if it hadn’t been for the small matter of still having a full time job AND being pregnant for most of the year) Although these may just be the first steps on my Maidenhead Business Girl journey, it’s worth remembering that all of this came about from chatting to a room full of ‘strangers’. So now when I put a networking meet up in the diary I get a little tingle of anticipation because you never quite know what opportunity might come from the next conversation.
To find out more about any of the groups mentioned here you can click on the links below.
Maidenhead Business Girls (or if you’re not on Facebook you can email Amanda: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maidenhead Chamber of Commerce
If I’ve whetted your appetite to find out more about blogging and creating photos for your website and social media then you might like to come along to a ‘Visual Marketing’ hands-on training session in the new year.
And if you’d like to find out more about how a blog could help increase the online visibility of your business then I’ve written some business blogging tips here which you might find a useful starting point. There will be another training session for business blogging in 2016, drop me a line if you would be interested and I can update you when the dates go live.
I write this ‘Maidenhead Mum’ blog to share my experiences of life here in Berkshire. I also like to share tips and tricks with other Maidenhead Businesses when I can. To read my posts you might like to follow me on Twitter or to join my Facebook page. Or, if you subscribe using the box below you’ll get my posts went straight to your inbox. You can see more of my photography and details of the photography training sessions I offer on my photography website: PhotoJodie.com
…And one last thing!
A little shout out to the Golden Ball pub for being great hosts for the event, and the upcoming Maidenhead Business Girls events in 2016….but also for creating The Best Mince Pie in Maidenhead. #fact!