Admittedly the business tactic called ‘Networking’ has acquired a bit of a mucky name. Some of the reasons for this are its misuse in its early beginnings. Many would use the activity from purely selfish perspectives, as a means to collect as many cherry-picked contacts and following up with few courtesy calls if any. Sounds a bit like a ‘playa’ at a nightclub! Some of ‘networking’s’ rehabilitation has to be in its name, but a suitable one hasn’t surfaced yet. Being in the business of business and entrepreneurialism for some time –  it’s safe to say ‘networking’ events have often cropped up. And yes, to continue the use of the romancing parlance, a few frogs have been kissed.

Pressing-the-flesh so to speak is still important even in these technologically driven times. We humans are still very tactile, needing to consistently use our senses. So for example even though online shopping is growing with popularity (with headlines screaming percentage increases after each December), physically visiting a store for clothes shopping isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Social media communication is important, but much of this should be underpinned by real-time meetings which helps to iron-out any ambiguities in exchanging and communicating ideas and to cement trust.

So, what’s frogs and kissing got to do with this? Oh yes. Every now and again a productive event which includes ‘networking’ comes up. This occasion came in the form of Inspireurbiz, the brainchild of entrepreneur Vee Roberts. Held in the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Bishopsgate offices, the event was a mixture of workshops, testimonials, guest speakers and ‘networking’, speed-networking to be precise. This was formidably supervised by Jackie Groundsell of 1230 The Women’s Company (pink frog-horn and-all). In this group participants were paired in two concentric circles and given 30 seconds each to tell the other about their business. The outer circle started first. At 60 second intervals the outer circle would move anticlockwise to the next person where the pattern would repeat.

Here’s what made the Inspireurbiz event pertinent; the re-learning of two things:

1)    How to explain (pitch) the business model in a short space of time (on this occasion, 30 seconds to be exact).

2)    How to listen to (potential) clients.

Listening, a skill many of us have to learn.

The “So, what do you do?” question comes up often in business and it’s still surprising how many are still unable to answer this question briefly, yet concisely. It takes practise admittedly. We often want to ‘get everything in’ by lengthy explanation when we meet this question in the belief that we’ll miss something out and our client won’t ‘get it’. Honestly if you drone on, they won’t anyway! Learn how to pare down your model description – and most importantly, feel confident in your delivery’s content. Don’t let niggling anxiety bring doubt to a short pitch. An example of how you can allow your clients to ‘get it’ comes in a second revision lesson; listening.

Whether we like it or not, people are mostly interested in themselves and how events, others and the world relates to them. From a business position to engage clients, one should relay business models from clients’ perspectives. What does it mean to a client to engage you and your services, how can your services help them?

Could you pitch your business by the time you reach your floor?

After the circle rotated a few times I realised my luck in being in the inner circle and being able to listen first to my fellow participants on the outside. I was able to listen to their needs and on my turn to speak I was able to place each person in the business model and explain to them how the business could assist them in their own endeavours, thus explaining the “So what do you do?” question concisely yet personally.

Perhaps it’s time to get back together again and re-start an affair with ‘networking’ after all.